Proposal to Daylight Sections of Phalen Creek

Imagine a beautiful creek in East Side Saint Paul!

Map in Creek survey LR.jpg

Phalen Creek historically flowed out of Lake Phalen, meandering for about 4 river miles through East Side St. Paul until emptying into the Mississippi River on the other side of what is today Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. Between the late 1800s and 1930s, the creek was put entirely underground in a large storm pipe. LPCP proposes bringing portions of the creek back above ground. We have conducted a study to see which stretches of Phalen Creek are most feasible; in particular two stretches: (1) along the west side of Johnson Parkway between Maryland Avenue and Phalen Boulevard (Reach 7 on the map below), and/or (2) along part of the Bruce Vento Regional Trail between Frank Avenue and Swede Hollow Park (Reach 5 below). It could result in stream channels approximately 2 feet deep and 4 feet wide, on average. The stream banks would be restored and stabilized, and public access amenities are also possible. For example, small wading pools could be created, like a smaller version of the one at Minnehaha Falls park.

Rain Gardens Created by the Lower Phalen Creek Project

We partner with the Capitol Region Watershed District, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and local property owners to install gardens that will capture and filter storm water runoff in the Phalen Creek watershed. The Maria-Bates Rain Garden on East Seventh Street next to the Swede Hollow Cafe is one of our largest projects and has been showcased as a model in numerous local and national publications. A high profile garden at the Bruce Vento Regional Trailhead at Payne Avenue and Seventh Street is another large demonstration site, with a two-celled garden decorated with tiles created by Community Design Center interns and University of Minnesota art students. We ensured that most of our rain garden installations have provided hands-on education for youth. For more info on rain gardens and our involvement click here.

Trail Connections

Saint Paul’s east metro area possesses an extensive network of bicycle/pedestrian trails including the Bruce Vento Regional Trail, which connects to the Gateway Trail, and the Mounds Park Trail, which connects to the Battle Creek Park Trail.With support from the McNeely Foundation, McKnight Foundation and others, Lower Phalen Creek Project has been working to raise awareness of the trail system as a community asset and increase use. We have installed multiple “wayfinding” signs at key points along the trail, sponsored events and developed a popular East Side park and trail guide – to download, Click Here In partnership with local district councils, we also work to advocate for improved connections between the Bruce Vento Regional Trail and the places where people live and work.

Improving the connection into Lowertown

The Bruce Vento Regional Trail extension, opened to the public in 2007, extends the Bruce Vento Regional Trail out of Swede Hollow Park, connects with the Mounds Park Trails and feeds both trails into the Lowertown district of downton via Fourth and Fifth Streets. The connection includes an overlook from an abandoned rail bridge over Fourth Street and other interesting features. Due to construction for the Lafayette Bridge and Central Corridor Operations and Maintenance facility, the portion of the link along Fifth Street has been closed frequently.

As infrastructure improvements take place in the area, Lower Phalen Creek Project is working hard to make sure connectively is maintained to the extent possible and, ideally, improved by rerouting the trail connection along Prince Street. Planning efforts for the land between the sanctuary and Lowertown include redeveloping this long-neglected area with urban agriculture operations and potential recreational use. An innovative stormwater reuse program is also being discussed. Lower Phalen Creek Project is working to achieve both an improved trail connection and more beneficial land use in the area as part of the Greater Lowertown Master Plan Task Force. 

New Aguirre Avenue connection poised for installation


Lower Phalen Creek Project and the District 5 Payne/Phalen Planning Council have been working to generate support for a connection from Payne Avenue to the Bruce Vento Regional Trail at Eastside Heritage Park. This short connection, to be installed as an extension of Aguirre Avenue, will effectively link the trail network to a key commercial and residential area. The project received Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) funding in 2011 and will be installed in fall 2012

Creating this direct link to the Mississippi River has been a long-term community goal, and $1.2 million in federal support was secured, with the support of Congresswoman Betty McCollum, for initial planning and design.

With technical assistance from the National Park Service’s Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, a planning process was initiated in November 2005 and a task force was formed with representation from Saint Paul Public Works and Parks and Recreation, Lower Phalen Creek Project, Minnesota Department of Transportation, MNRRA, District 4, District 17, Ramsey County, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, Friends of the Parks and Trails of Saint Paul and Ramsey County and others.

The task force examined a wide range of options for achieving the connection, including tunnels, an at-grade crossing of Warner Road and use of existing structures such as the Kellogg Bridge. After numerous meetings and a site visit, the task force identified two options for making the connection between the Bruce Vento Regional Trail and sanctuary and the Mississippi River: 1) A pedestrian/bicycle bridge over both Warner Road and the railroad tracks. or 2) A bridge over the railroad tracks with a tunnel under Warner Road. Both connection options extend from a pedestrian/bicycle trail into the sanctuary off of the new Lower Phalen Creek Trail.

Stalled for several years, planning restarted in summer 2011. New rail infrastructure, including a “flyover” immediately adjacent to the sanctuary, is being proposed in the area and will significantly affect the project. Data now indicates that the tunnel option is no longer feasible, and the bridge itself will need to be moved further downstream than initially planned. The project remains in the conceptual phase and Saint Paul Parks and Recreation continues to gather feedback. For more information on trail connections, contact

Direct connection to the Mississippi is partially funded and in the planning phase