Take a walk, the 26th Avenue North Overlook is now open

The 35-foot tall riverfront beacon can be lit with a variety of colors but will stay dark during spring and fall migratory periods to help protect birds.

A new connection for folks to the Mississippi River

In early May the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Minneapolis Parks Foundation announced the completion of the new 26th Avenue North Overlook. The new 26th Ave riverfront overlook creates a connection to the Mississippi River to folks in North Minneapolis – a rare site to view the river up close on the Northside.

The oval-shaped overlook platform centers around a 35-foot-tall riverfront beacon that leans toward the water, creating a new river experience and trail connection on the Northside Mississippi riverfront. The beacon light can display a variety of colors but will stay dark during spring and fall migratory periods to protect birds in the Mississippi Flyway.

Play netting offers additional seating in middle of the overlook, allowing people to suspend themselves over the riverbank below. Steel grates and sustainable Black Locust wood planks were used to build the overlook decking, and Juxtaposition Arts, a teen-staffed art and design center located nearby, designed artwork featured on the railing.

The overlook is located at the east end of the recently completed off-street bike and pedestrian trails built along 26th. The new trail connection spans North Minneapolis, connecting the river and Theodore Wirth Regional Park, and traveles past Farview Park and Nellie Stone Johnson Community School.

“When the park system was imagined 140 years ago, the upper riverfront was already occupied by industry. This is one steppingstone toward reversing past decisions that separated North Minneapolis, and specifically African American communities, from the Mississippi River,” says Tom Evers, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.

The overlook marks the first phase of a broader project known as the Great Northern Greenway River Link. The broader vision for the River Link includes connections to downtown Minneapolis and West River Road walking and biking trails, together with new parks stretching north and south from the overlook along the riverfront. Once complete, the full River Link will unite downtown to North Minneapolis along the river, open up a new 40-mile trail loop in Minneapolis, and eventually reach across the river to nearly complete Great Northern Greenway trails in Northeast Minneapolis.

The Parks Foundation provided most of the funding for this project through its RiverFirst Capital Campaign, which raised nearly $20 million from philanthropic contributions for riverfront park projects. RiverFirst is a generational vision for transforming 11 miles of once-industrial Mississippi Riverfront into a welcoming place for all people through improved habitat and miles of new interconnected parks and trails.

With funding from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), the shoreline surrounding the overlook has been stabilized and rehabilitated with new native vegetation planted as a living alternative to an armored shoreline for long-term erosion control. The MWMO has contributed to every RiverFirst project, funding a stormwater reuse system at Water Works and providing a large grant to complete the Hall’s Island restoration.

“The overlook is a landmark attraction for the Northside,” said Kale Severson, who represents North Minneapolis as District 2 Park Commissioner. “I look forward to it becoming an iconic link in a series of parks and trails that allow everyone in Minneapolis truly equitable opportunities to enjoy our waterfront.”

The opening of the overlook marks the completion of the first major North Minneapolis riverfront project since Ole Olson Park was developed in 2007, 200 yards south along the river. The MPRB received a $3 million grant in the 2020 state bonding bill to help build a trail connection between the overlook and Ole Olson Park and has begun exploring options to make that connection underneath the railroad bridge between the two riverfront destinations.