May 1, 2022. Graeser Park’s preservation project, launched by MnDOT in fall of 2020, will continue when spring arrives. It was a drizzly 43° when I visited on May Day. The average temperature is 64°, so we are quite a bit behind schedule.
Already completed is initial preservation of the historic beehive fireplace and reconstruction of six original stone tables. Andrea Weber is Manager of MnDOT’s Historic Roadside Property Program and this project. She is committed to repairing and refreshing this treasured 1940 Lilac Way park to preserve its historical significance.
We are grateful for her efforts to preserve this Lilac Way park—thanks, Andrea! The community is looking forward to watching the progress progress.
“With this spring being so slow to warm up it is hard to get any kind of schedule from the contractors. Masonry work is temperature dependent and must be consistently above 40 degrees, so I don’t have firm dates yet. The contractor (EAI) will be completing the project begun last year by the end of June. That includes finishing the picnic tables and pads, the beehive and possibly a bit more work on the overlook wall by the parking.
I will be working on one more phase for the 2023 fiscal year (Fiscal Year 2023 = July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023). I plan to do work on the pond edges in the rock garden, a bit of bench repair, a new concrete or bituminous walk along Broadway and from Broadway to the top of the stairs.
This walk will also link to an accessible picnic table and an interpretive panel. I am not sure if we will connect to an existing table or put in a new one yet. There could be some changes to this depending on budget. I would like the interpretive panel to include Lilac Way and Jefferson Highway information.
After the fiscal year 2023 phase, I believe we will be ready for the conveyance to the city.”
—Andrea Weber, Historic Roadside Property Program Manager
Six table have been re-built, five more coming!
With a view toward transferring control of the property to the City of Robbinsdale, MnDOT has already reconstructed six tables using original materials from parks that were dismantled due to highway construction in the late 1990s and early 2000s. There are now five tables in the main picnic area, and one near the cone fountain in the rock garden area.
Preservation of the beehive started last summer, including a power wash to remove 80+ years of dirt. The project is ongoing and all work meets national standards for historic preservation.
If spring is late, will the lilacs bloom later than usual?
Most likely. This has been the 17th coldest April on record, but not as bad as 2018, so we’ve got that going for us.
According to Sven Sundgaard, “most official NOAA forecast and computer model forecasts agree that we’ll see a hot summer, especially given the background trends in climate change, which has made it pretty hard to get a cool summer these days unless it’s really rainy.”
Picnic in the rock garden, one of only two in Minnesota
Rebuilt from original 1930s Lilac Way stone saved from MnDOT’s ‘beehive graveyard‘, one table has returned to its original spot on the east side of the rock garden. It was built by Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps in summer 2021. Nearby is the stonework that originally comprised ponds, a waterfall, and a cone-shaped fountain.
Although the MnDOT project will not restore water to the park, visitors can sit at the table and imagine the ponds flowing. It’s a lovely gathering spot for picnics, card games, and get-togethers.