St. Paul working to create master plan for Swede Hollow Park

Marjorie Otto/Review • The City of St. Paul was recently awarded an $80,000 grant to create a master plan for Swede Hollow Park. Much of the work that has occurred at the park over the years has been guided by the local Friends of Swede Hollow group, as well as other neighbors of the park, who will have a chance to provide input on the city’s new master plan.

The City of St. Paul was recently awarded an $80,000 grant from the McNeely Foundation to fund the work of creating a master plan for Swede Hollow Park. 

The plan aims to guide future work in the park, said St. Paul Parks and Recreation spokesperson Clare Cloyd, and will be created by the department’s design and construction team. 

Currently, there is no master plan for Swede Hollow Park. Other area parks, such as Lake Phalen Regional Park, have plans set in place that help guide future work based off the needs and goals established by the community, and to keep them consistent between groups like the city and county. The Bruce Vento Regional Trail, which runs through Swede Hollow Park, already has its own master plan.

While the Swede Hollow master plan project is very much in its early phases, as the city was notified in the past month of the grant, Cloyd said the city will begin working with the neighboring community later this summer and fall. 

The city will seek input from local district councils, like Dayton’s Bluff, Payne-Phalen, Railroad Island, and from groups like the Friends of Swede Hollow.


Friends of 

Swede Hollow

Since the park has not had a master plan, much of the advocacy and planning for the park has been spearheaded by the Friends of Swede Hollow organization, which is made up of neighbors of the park. The group was formed in 1994 as a way for neighbors to discuss common goals and advocate on the park’s behalf. 

Many of those same neighbors spent years cleaning up the park, which had become a dumping ground after the last of the Hollow’s residents were removed in 1956. They did the same for the area that has now become the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary just south of Swede Hollow.

The Friends group also hosts the annual Art in the Hollow art festival and was one of the main opponents that fought against the Rush Line transit line potentially going through the park.

Karin DuPaul, a Friends member who was involved in having the valley established as a city park years ago, said the group will be pushing to have its goals — keeping the park natural and respecting its history — maintained in the master plan.


A brief history

According to the Friends of Swede Hollow website, the valley that is Swede Hollow was made by Phalen Creek, which ran from Lake Phalen to the Mississippi River. The indigenous people of the area used the creek for travel, and the mouth where it emptied was a significant area for those people. 

While some of the creek still flows through there, the original path has been altered by humans over time. Large sections of the creek have been diverted with underground pipes to make way for development.

The first European to the valley was Edward Phelan, who arrived in 1841. He later sold his claim of the valley to William Dugus, who built St. Paul’s first sawmill on the creek. 

Eventually, Theodore Hamm built his brewery at the north end of the valley and a train line was built through it. The southern end was settled by Swedish, Polish, Italian and Mexican people over the years, until the city deemed the valley a health risk in the 1950s. In December 1956, the last families were moved out and all the homes were burned. 

According to the Friends of Swede Hollow website, the first push to make the valley into a park was in 1900, when William Hamm, son of Theodore Hamm and parks commissioner, tried to have the valley made into parkland in honor of his father, but the plan never came to fruition. 

In 1973, neighbors and the St. Paul Garden Club began working with the St. Paul parks department to make the area into a park. Swede Hollow became a designated nature center in 1976.


Future goals

Besides keeping the park natural and respecting its history, the Friends group has a number of additional goals for the park, many of which are similar to the goals the city has, so far, laid out to be included in the master plan. 

Some of the goals include potentially daylighting additional segments of Phalen Creek — bringing it back above ground — which is also a goal of the Lower Phalen Creek Project, a local environmental and natural resources nonprofit based in Dayton’s Bluff near Swede Hollow Park.

Other goals include increased educational opportunities and improving park access. 


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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