In 1983 the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board in collaboration with the Minnesota Historical Society came together to create a new park along the Mississippi River’s west bank while preserving and protecting historic resources lining the bank. In 2000, the park board secured funding to start the $4.4 million first phase of the ten-acre park. Archaeologists from the historical society began excavating ruins of the mills that were the core of the city’s world-famous flour-milling industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Local planners URS prepared plans for the park and the development was overseen by park board project manager and landscape architect Rachel Ramadhyani. MacDonald & Mack Architects worked on second phase, which stabilized ruins buried for decades beneath sand and gravel in an aggregate storage yard.
The park’s initial phase was dedicated in September 2001. Excavations continued for years, leveraging the site as an outdoor classroom for public archaeology. The park’s interpretive paths, overlooks, and bridges invite visitors to experience mill foundations and the waterpower tailraces that returned water to the river after powering milling machinery. Also stabilized was a section of a railroad trestle that carried trains bringing grain to the mills and shipping out flour. Wood planks, recalling the trestles that wove through the area, were installed on West River Parkway adjacent to the park. Safety issues, maintenance costs, and noise generated by passing cars led to replacing the planks with asphalt paving in 2010.