Protecting a natural legacy

Eden Prairie / Minnetonka, Minnesota
For the public good
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HERITAGE DISTRICT FEATURES

BIRCH ISLAND PARK & LAKE
Including Eden Wood Center, Glen Lake Childrens Camp and Holasek House.

Birch Island Park may only be 28 acres in size but with neighbors such as Birch Island Lake and Birch Island Conservation Area and a swath of wetlands, it retains an isolated, wildneress character. The 7 acre, woodsy grounds of the Eden Wood Center, a retreat with outdoor programs for mentally disabled children is located within Birch Island Park. The center includes the historic Glen Lake Childrens Camp and the Holasek House

The 21 acre undeveloped portion of Birch Island Park harbors early geographic and archealogical records; the park’s unspoiled, glacial features are unique to Eden Prairie.

A trail along a ridge and a low lying (sometimes soggy) isthmus between Birch Island Lake and northerly wetlands connects a parking and picnic area near Eden Prairie Road to the Eden Wood complex in the east. The park offers a quality wilderness setting for bird watching, hiking, snow shoeing, ski touring and some canoing.

BIRCH ISLAND LAKE

The levels of this lake have declined by approximately 8 feet with the construction of Highway 62 to the north. Responding to a request by the Friends of Birch Island Woods, the 9 Mile Creek Watershed District began studying underground water flowage in 2003 to determine why the lake’s levels are low and if they can be restored.

Campers from the Eden Wood Center now travel to other lakes to swim but continue to use Birch Island Lake for canoing. The low levels have attracted an interesting variety of wading birds; loons drop in occasionally.

Click here to visit the 9 Mile Creek Watershed District website for more information on the lake

BIRCH ISLAND WOODS

32 acres of this 41 acre forest and wetland complex have been designated as part of the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. The City of Eden Prairie would like to expand the size of the conservation area either through acquisition or by obtaining easements on one or both of the two parcels that are in private ownership. A management plan for the conservation area calls for continued passive use of the woods for hiking, bicycling, bird watching and snow shoeing.

The main trail of the conservation area is the original c. 1880 roadbed of the precursor to the Milwaukee Railroad. A new wood chip, loop trail was installed in October 2003. The City intends to add a small parking lot, improve the trail heads and add a new wood chip trail from Birch Island Road near Harlan Drive to the approximate midpoint of the main trail. The Friends of BIW and others also find merit in providing a pedestrian underpass beneath the Twin Cities & Western Railroad to connect the woods to Birch Island Park and the Eden Wood Center.

Campers and counselors from the Edenwood Center visit the woods for nature study and confidence building programs. The main trail of BI Woods has become a popular route for north central Eden Prairie residents and others via the Southwest Regional Trail and local trails.

The Friends of Birch Island Woods have begun a modest buckthorn and garlic mustard removal program in the woods and with the Picha Heritage Farm and others, hope to open a maple sap collecting area and install an interpretative sign. The group’s volunteers regularly monitors the woods and its periperhial streets - Birch Island Road, Edenvale Boulevard and Indian Chief Road for litter collection. The group also hopes to partner with the City and others to restore native plants including the introduction of birch trees to areas where they were once common.

NATURAL HISTORY OF BIRCH ISLAND PARK AND WOODS

Trees
Cottonwood, aspen, willow, box elder, oaks, maple, ash, black cedar and a few white pine, red pine, scotch pine (in the park), basswood, Ironwood, elm and maple are common in the area. Disease and other factors have nearly eliminated the area’s birch trees. Buckthorn has colonized portions of the park and the woods.

Mammals
Among the mammals that inhabit or pass through the area are
badger, deer, fox, beaver, coyote, mink and woodchuck and grey squirrels. Spring peeper frogs, tree frogs, leopard frogs, toads and salamanders are among the area’s amphibian reidents.

Birds
The following are the less commonly seen & heard of 65+ recently identified species of bird in the Birch Island Park, Lake and Woods area. Bald Eagle, Blue Bird, Redstart, Barn Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Canvasback Duck, Cedar Waxwing, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Coot, Dark-eyed Junko, Double- created Cormorant, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Egret, Gray Catbird, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Great Blue Heron, Great Crested Flycatcher, Great Egret, Great Horned Owl, Green Heron, Hairy Woodpecker, Loon, Magnolia Warbler, Marsh Wren, Nashville Warbler, Northern Flicker, Orange-crowned Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Rail, Raven, Red-Tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireo, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-necked Pheasant, Scarlet Tanager, Spotted Sandpiper, Teal, Tennessee Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Wild Turkey, Wood Duck, Yellow-headed Blackbird.

EDEN WOOD CENTER

Eden Wood Center is operated by Friendship Ventures, a non-profit agency which creates unique educational, recreational and social opportunities for people of all ages with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.

Friendship Ventures leases the grounds and buildings from the City of Eden Prairie. It also offers full service conference and retreat amenities and professional team-building programs in this “up north” setting.

The site began operation in 1924 as the Glen Lake Children.s Camp which was operated by the Glen Lake Sanitarium a nationally celebrated tuberculosis center located 1/4 mile north in Minnetonka. All that remains of the nationally celebrated sanitarium is the Glen Lake Childrens Camp. Built in 1925, its two buildings and environs are the last of its kind in the United States and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information on Eden Wood click here for the Friendship Ventures website.

GLEN LAKE CHILDRENS CAMP

Opened in 1925 as part of the Glen Lake Tuberculosis Sanitarium 1/4 mile to the north in Minnetonka, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Friendship Ventures uses the original dining hall for rainy day activities and the original dorm for overnight, special needs guests and counselors.

Click here to read more about this celebrated, historic camp.

HOLASEK HOUSE

This Chaska brick farmhouse has been places. It was erected around 1882 near the site of the Northwest Health Club at Baker Road and the Crosstown Highway by one of Eden Prairie’s more prominent Czech farm families, the Holasek family. In the 1970’s the house was refitted to be the headquarters Arteka , a landscaping company then operated by Jerry and Ron Bailey
.
About 1986 Arteka moved the house to a new site nearby in Minnetonka. But Arteka’s bustling business demanded larger headquarters. Holasek House was donated to the City of Eden Prairie and moved to a site just off of Indian Chief Road in the Eden Wood section of Birch Island Park. Holasek House is currently used as a residence for Friendship Ventures’ Eden Wood staff.

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