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Diamond Lake Neighborhood

Diamond Lake Neighborhood

The Diamond Lake neighborhood is in the Nokomis community in Minneapolis. It is bounded by Diamond Lake Road and 55th Street on the north, Cedar Avenue on the east, 62nd Street on the south, and Interstate 35W on the west. It has approximately 2233 households within its boundaries. The Diamond Lake neighborhood, together with Hale and Page, forms the HPDL.

Diamond Lake Neighborhood… unsung gem of South Minneapolis and where the charter for the city of Minneapolis was signed
When people think of South Minneapolis they most often think of the area around the city lakes and Minnehaha Creek. But if you are looking for picturesque and kid friendly, don’t overlook the Diamond Lake neighborhood. Often paired with neighboring Hale and Page neighborhoods bordering on the north to Minnehaha Parkway, these are outstanding residential areas (94% single family homes) with not only easy access to trails and parks, but also to downtown Minneapolis, Southdale and MOA shopping and the airport.

When Twin Cities Metro magazine came out with their list of the 20 most liveable neighborhoods in Minneapolis a few years ago they ranked Diamond Lake third! The reason it ranked so high was because of its very low crime rate, high-ranked schools (Hale Elementary just over the border in the Hale neighborhood), housing costs and high marks for recreation (Pearl Park has a wading pool, ball fields, recreation center and wintertime skating; Diamond Lake Park boasts wetlands for canoeing and birding).

Diamond Lake Park
At 81 acres, the delicate ecosystem of Diamond Lake Park provides habitat for a wide array of wildlife.

Diamond Lake is a small shallow water body surrounded by residential neighborhoods and parkland. The shallow 55 acre lake and surrounding wetlands and wooded areas provide habitat for a variety of aquatic creatures and waterfowl. Diamond Lake has great birding opportunities all year round, and can be accessed by canoe, snowshoe, or from the shoreline trail. The Diamond Lake Management Plan was adopted by the Board of Commissioners in 2009. The plan identifies goals and priorities, and guides citizen and MPRB action and engagement pertaining to water resource management of the lake, land and surrounding community. Diamond does not have a swimming beach and was therefore not scored for public health.

History
In a park board report on park names in 1975, it was reported that the name of the lake probably came from the Diamond Lake Terrace Addition surrounding it. But it seems more likely that the name of the addition was derived from the name of the lake.

Acquisition and Development

The first mention of Diamond Lake in park board documents is in the proceedings of the board meeting on December 19, 1923, when the park board received a proposal from Clarke’s Diamond Lake Realty to donate land around Pearl Lake and a portion of the shores of Diamond Lake for park purposes. It is likely that the realty company hoped to boost the value of its other holding in the area by having parks developed. That donation of 16.4 acres from F. H. Clarke and others was accepted in 1925.

By 1927 the park board had grander plans for parks in the area. With the annexation of a portion of Richfield across southern Minneapolis in 1926 all of Diamond Lake was then within city limits, which meant that the park board could then assess property owners around the lake for acquisition and improvement costs. The 1927 annual report of the park board mentioned the intention to acquire an additional 116 acres around Pearl Lake and Diamond Lake. The report noted that all but 21 acres of the land the park board already owned and planned to acquire were swamp and lowland. Park superintendent Theodore Wirth’s plan was to fill Pearl Lake and dredge Diamond Lake to create a beach on the north shore. Wirth compared the plan to what had been done at Lake Nokomis where a lake with well-defined shores was created from considerable swampy land.

Wirth’s plans were revised when in 1930 he reported city plans to direct storm water runoff from the area into Diamond Lake. At that time his plan for the two lake areas was budgeted at $337,000. With the onset of the depression that money was not going to be available. Wirth noted his regret that the Diamond Lake plan had come to a standstill in 1931, especially in light of the success of similar lake-shaping efforts at Lake Nokomis.

Still, in one of its largest depression-era acquisitions the board designated 80 acres of land around the two lakes for acquisition. The deal was consummated in 1936 when the park board purchased 72.32 acres around and including the lakes. The reason the park board proceeded with an acquisition when it had so little money was probably the price it paid for the land and water: $1,035. The board’s 1936 annual report noted that the “time was not propitious” for additional land acquisitions in the area or for improvements to the land except what could be accomplished through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federal depression-era work-relief program. The annual report continued that improvement work would be done when area property owners were willing to pay for it through assessments, but added that it was “questionable” whether the great majority of property owners there would agree to those assessments.

A year later the board noted no change in plans for the area but did comment that home building in the area had increased rapidly, which it said could be attributed to the stimulating effect of the initial improvements the park board had made at Pearl Lake. (Pearl Lake was not referred to as Pearl Park until the board built a recreation center at “Pearl Park” in 1968.)

In 1938 the board completed its ownership of the north shore of Diamond Lake with the purchase of four lots for $55 each. The board also reported that it was finalizing acquisition of the remaining southern shore of the lake by donation.

In the 1938 annual report park superintendent Christian Bossen presented ambitious plans for the development of the lake. He noted that the lake had once been a beautiful sheet of water a half-mile long but that with initial development in the area and the grading of streets, combined with deficient rainfall, the lake had almost dried up in the 1920s. He added that with the separation of sanitary and storm sewers by the city, the lake had been designated as a storm water reservoir. With the lake’s future more certain, the park board presented ambitious plans for development, which Bossen noted was in greater demand by the neighborhood since more housing development was taking place east of the lake.

The plan included making the lake smaller and deeper, an average depth of 17 feet, in order to generate the 890,000 yards of fill needed to develop the shore parks. The filling would have created a parking lot for 80 cars on the north end of the lake and another lot for 40 cars on the south end to provide access to four tennis courts, baseball fields, playground and a toilet building that were planned there. The board debated constructing a park road along the west shore of the lake, but decided against it.

The last mention of park board plans to develop Diamond Lake appeared in the 1939 annual report, when Bossen reported that final plans for improvement would require three to four years of construction and that neither the city nor the federal government, through WPA, would commit to any financing longer than 12 months. Without that financing, Bossen concluded, there was no opportunity to begin the project.

Ironically, the abandonment of plans for Diamond Lake came the same year that the park board finally completed acquisition of the entire lake bed with the donation of 8.54 acres of land.

The park board wasn’t done promoting the development of Diamond Lake, however. In its 1945 “post-war progress” list of projects that required funding, an $11 million shopping list, one of the largest single proposed expenditures, behind only paving Lake Harriet Boulevard, was improving the Diamond Lake and Pearl Lake properties. But in the post-war years the park board would get funding for very few projects on its wish list. Diamond Lake was destined to remain an unimproved wetland and lake. (Lake Harriet Boulevard wasn’t paved either.)

The change in how those areas were viewed is suggested by a 1977 agreement by the park board that it would take responsibility for coordinating a joint effort by the city, county and state to restore Diamond Lake to its “desirable wildlife habitat condition” through the interception and removal of particulate matter flowing into the lake. A new wildlife habitat improvement plan was implemented in 1991.

References:

“Diamond Lake, Minneapolis” │ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Lake,_Minneapolis

“Diamond Lake Neighborhood… unsung gem of South Minneapolis and where the charter for the city of Minneapolis was signed” │ https://homesmsp.com/2015/03/diamond-lake-neighborhood-unsung-gem-of-south-minneapolis-and-where-the-charter-for-the-city-of-minn.html

“Diamond Lake Park” │ https://www.minneapolisparks.org/park_care__improvements/water_resources/lake_water_resources/diamond_lake_water_resources/

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