Rock Island Park’s preservation is on hold, until the City of St. Louis Park makes a decision.

The must decide if they will accept or decline a recent offer from MnDOT. They offered Rock Island park and its surrounding green space to the City at no cost for public use. They must respond by late December.

Restore Lilac Way has launched a public campaign to encourage SLP residents to urge the City to accept MnDOT’s offer, and maintain this park for our community. Join our “Say YES to Rock Island Park!” virtual rally. 

ROCK ISLAND ALARM, Oct. 10, 2021

SLP Residents: Urge the Mayor and City Council to accept MnDOT’s offer of free historic Rock Island park, and keep as a community park.

Preserving Rock Island and its open meadow is crucial to our community.

Rock Island and its surrounding land is an urban oasis is a valuable asset to St. Louis Park. It’s all that remains of the original Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard. It is a lovely native habitat for many plants and creatures, including birds, insects, deer, and wild turkeys.

Tucked behind a sound wall, its stone features include a pond, island, curved bench, two stairways and pathways —all built by hand during the 1930s.

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The City of St. Louis Park met with MnDOT to review their offer, and released this statement on Oct. 1, 2021:

“The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has reached out to city staff regarding a parcel of land west of Toledo Ave. and south of 28th St. in the Fern Hill neighborhood. This parcel includes Rock Island, part of the original Lilac Park which was built by the WPA in the 1930s.

MnDOT no longer needs the land and has begun a review process to relinquish ownership. When this process is complete, which can take months to a year or more, SLP will be first in line to have control of the land.

City staff have begun brainstorming possible future land uses that align with our strategic priorities and will bring this information to council in the next 2-3 months. Stay tuned!”

In a 2012 study session, the City Council reached a consensus that staff resources or money should not be spent to restore Lilac Way’s Rock Island.

We’re hoping they will review and reconsider that decision, and keep this treasured park and open space for public use.

After surviving more than 80 years of Highway 100 construction, it deserves a second chance.

What is Rock Island?

This amazing rock garden was built in the 1930s by the WPA. It has an oval pool, a 10′-long footbridge to an island and a stunning hand-built L-shaped stone bench. They are rare historical Lilac Way ‘parkitecture’. Locals often called it Monkey Island.

Watching a video is almost as good as being there.

09.08.21, #P1060319. Standing against the sound wall, looking east over the rock garden’s stone pond, island, stairways, curved bench and waterfall wall.

09.08.21, #P1060323. Looking over the green space, starting at the north end of the park. The rock garden area is below street level, just under the trees.

5.4.19. The first cleanup day for Rock Island was amazing – a group of the most hard-working people showed up to help. They uncovered 1939 pathways built during the Great Depression. Thanks to the entire crew!

5.4.2019. A team of almost 20 spent three hours weeding and sweeping in Rock Island, a 1939 Lilac Way park in St. Louis Park, MN.

5.4.19. Enthusiastic young Lilac Way supporters reenacted the original 1939 waterfall in Rock Island park, off Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park, MN. Part of the first cleanup day for Rock Island.

Grab a cool drink or picnic, and visit soon.

Directions to Rock Island.

Find it on Google maps! It’s located behind a sound wall in the northeast corner Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park, MN.

  • From Highway 100, go east on Minnetonka Boulevard
  • Turn left on Salem Avenue
  • Turn left on W 29th Street
  • Turn right on Toledo Avenue South
  • The park is on the west side of Toledo Avenue on the 2800 block, under the trees near the wall
You can’t see the park from the street, it is lower than street level.

Walk towards the clump of trees near sound wall. You will see a mowed path.

You will come up to a small set of stairs that leads you down into the park.

Rock Island, Sept. 8 2021. Entrance to park from Toledo Ave.

Key Supporters

Michael Periolat, St. Louis Park resident
Resident Michael Periolat is interested in a grassroots movement to preserve Rock Island.

Growing up just four blocks from this park, Michael never knew it existed.

After buying his own home nearby, he discovered the park and is encouraging others to step forward to support preservation of this rare 1939 Lilac Way park.

Margaret Rog, St. Louis Park City Council Member, Ward 1
Margaret Rog, SLP Council Member has
  • proposed to colleagues that they discuss a commitment of resources to this park
  • raised issue of preserving park as a potential study session topic
  • recommended encouraging project supporters to email, meet with and contact council members, to increase chances of moving it forward
  • requested community feedback re: The City of SLP making a modest investment to preserve the historic area for kids, families, seniors and others to enjoy
Diane Steen-Hinderlie, St. Louis Park resident
Diane Steen-Hinderlie and her husband John Olson have
  • volunteered to maintain this park since 2009
  • cleaned, weeded and uncovered 1939 structures
  • saved sections of 62′ stone wall from road construction
Karen Laukkonen, Restore Lilac Way, St. Louis Park resident
Karen Laukkonen, restorelilacway.com has
  • documented Rock Island since 2007
  • raised awareness for preservation through restorelilacway.com, social media and presentations
  • created signage and displays
  • campaigned to encourage the City to accept MnDOT’s offer to give Rock Island to the City for free
Dennis Williams, St. Louis Park resident
Neighbor Dennis Williams sees the value of this green space every day.

Living close to Rock Island, Dennis sees the flow of visitors that enjoy and appreciate this park every day. He watches the birds nesting in the trees, and watches the native habitat through the seasons.

Rock Island’s large wraparound bench was handcrafted by unemployed stonemasons in 1939 from limestone quarried from the Minnesota River by the Mendota Bridge.

Rock Island Park key dates
  • In 1968 the original Lilac Park was split in two by a highway on-ramp, and Lilac Park activities were reduced
    • the park could no longer be accessed from the highway
    • the grade from Toledo Ave. was steep and difficult to walk down
    • the rock garden that was north of the beehive fireplace and picnic area was cut off from the rest of the park
  • In 2008, the 1939 beehive fireplace and picnic tables were saved, and moved to a restored Lilac Way park on Highways 100 and 7, which was renamed Lilac Park
  • In July 2009, a crew mistakenly cut down all the trees that hid this park, making it visible to traffic on Highway 100
  • In 2017, Rock Island Park was again hidden, when a new sound wall was installed along Highway 100
Historical info
  • One of seven original Lilac Way parks
  • Designed by Arthur Nichols, Landscape Architect
  • Built by Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of one of Minnesota’s largest federal relief projects, 1934-1941
  • Hand-built by unemployed men during Great Depression
  • Significant in the state’s history of transportation
  • Determined ineligible for National Register status

What did the WPA build in the Rock Island section of the original Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard in 1939?

Rock Island, Sept. 8, 2021. A 10′-long footbridge, comprised of two slabs of limestone on limestone piers, leads to island from east side
Rock Island, Sept. 8, 2021. A 10′-long footbridge, comprised of two slabs of limestone on limestone piers, leads to island from east side.
Limestone walkway at the original Lilac Park on Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard
Rock Island in Lilac Park (original), Mtka. Blvd., 2007. Pool, curved paths, 10'-long footbridge.
Oval pool, island and path, Rock Island Park (AKA Monkey Island)
  • Near north end of site
  • Elaborate rock garden is hidden by sound wall
  • Built of tan, mortared limestone rubble
  • Oval-shaped pool lined with stones and encircled by a flagstone path
  • In the center is an island (about 18-20′ in diameter) ringed with tan limestone rubble
  • A willow tree grew out of island
  • A 10′-long footbridge, comprised of two slabs of limestone on limestone piers, leads to island from east side
  • South end of pool had a waterfall made of mortared rocks
  • Curving limestone steps climbing the back of the waterfall
  • Curving paths are paved with flagstone
  • Lower path encircling pool is edged with low, stone retaining walls
  • Another path, which runs at a higher elevation along the eastern side of the garden, is lined with stones that are set so the triangular ends point upward
  • Was separated from the rest of the park circa 1968 by the exit ramp from northbound Highway 100 to Minnetonka Boulevard which cuts through the park near north end
  • Remains today, needs preservation
Rock Island, Sept. 8, 2021. The curved hand-cut and built stone bench, built as one of MN's largest WPA projects.
Bench, Rock Island Park (also known as Hidden Park-Monkey Island)
  • Small niche east of waterfall contains an L-shaped stone bench with a 2′-tall backrest
  • Remains today, needs preservation
Rock Island, Sept. 8, 2021. Depression-era hand-cut main stone stairway leading into the park.
Rock Island, Sept. 8, 2021. The second stairway, located on south side of rock garden.
Steps, Rock Island Park (also known as Hidden Park-Monkey Island)
  • Two sets of 5-6 stone steps lead down into rock garden from southeast and southwest corners
  • Side railings of small mortared rocks
  • Remains today, needs preservation
Rock Island, May 2018. Low stone wall, 18" thick.
Limestone wall at the original Lilac Park on Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard
Lilac Park (original), Mtka. Blvd., 2007. 162'-ft long curved wall, N of park.
Low stone wall
  • Not part of original Rock Island area, was formerly located in south picnic area where 29th Street meets Toledo Avenue
  • Was dismantled and moved to Rock Island area after picnic area of park was removed for road construction
  • 18″ thick
  • Built of tan, random ashlar, rock faced limestone
  • 62′ long, curved shape, runs at angle along crest of hill
  • Wall was anchored with stone piers at ends and at two pedestrian openings
  • Was originally longer and lined with a short, curved pull-off drive (from Toledo Avenue) that probably formed a parking area
  • Several feet of stonework from each end of wall were removed, and curved drive eliminated circa 1968 when an exit ramp from northbound Highway 100 was built through the site
  • Remains today, needs preservation

Read MnDOT’s 1964 Wayside Rest Area Inventory (JPG) for the original Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard.

Read MnDOT’s 1997 Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventories (PDF) for the original Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard.