About Nine Mile Creek & Central Park


In Central Park, near downtown Bloomington, Nine Mile Creek runs through a wooded ravine down to the Minnesota River. The area is sometimes referred to as the Nine Mile Creek Corridor (NMCC).

Currently, there is a gently winding walking trail along the creek and others through the woods atop the bluffs. No bicycles or motorized vehicles are allowed.

The park is populated by diverse species of wildlife. Mink, otter, beaver, deer, and raccoon all call the park home, as well as many species of birds, including barred owls, blue herons, and kingfishers. The endangered rusty patched bumble bee lives here, as well as several endangered butternut trees. Numerous wildflowers bloom in the spring. In such bucolic surroundings, you can forget you are in the center of a city.

Central Park is recognized by the state of Minnesota as an important collection of ecosystems. It is a Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) site of high biodiversity significance (2023), not to mention that it abuts the Lower Minnesota River Valley Important Bird Area, meaning it is used by hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. Bloomington has a unique opportunity to spend nearly $20 million to protect this vital natural habitat.

Conservation biologist Brian Wolff has made a 30-minute video about the park. View it here:

Where it is

The Nine Mile Creek Corridor (NMCC) consists of several parks located in Central Bloomington.

The beginning of the NMCC is Moir Park. This is a traditional city park, with a playground, pavilion, and disc golf course, on 104th St between Penn and Queen.

Moir merges into Central Park, which follows Nine Mile Creek south to the Minnesota River. There are multiple entrances to the park, including at the Harrison Picnic Grounds, near the intersection of 100th St and Old Shakopee Rd.

A pedestrian walking path follows the creek, periodically crossing it on picturesque bridges. The trail north of 106th street is paved, the trail south of it is crushed gravel.

The trails in Central Park are narrow, so the experience of walking in the woods is much more intimate than in a more developed park such as Hyland Lake Park Reserve.


This part of Nine Mile Creek is at the bottom of a small gorge, with steep, wooded bluffs rising above the floor of the ravine. The height of the bluffs enforces the valley’s peace and isolation. The hillsides sometimes come right down to the trail, which is why widening it would require building retaining walls. (More on that here)

The creek meanders with steep bends and curves. In some areas, the creek flows rapidly; in others it is calm and quiescent. When the creek approaches the river, the land flattens out into a floodplain forest, and semi-permanently flooded wetlands.

The NMCC, with its woodlands and wetlands, provides an abundant wildlife habitat. It is a natural area unique in the Twin Cities. Even other natural creek areas in the metro area, such as Battle Creek and Minnehaha Creek, do not offer the untouched beauty of the NMCC.

There are rustic trails through the park such as this abandoned stairway up to the bluffs.

The creek is more than Nine Miles long

The name Nine Mile Creek has nothing to do with the length of the stream. The story goes that the creek was named by soldiers from Fort Snelling, who had to travel nine miles to a ford on the creek to reach the nearest saloon.

The creek has two headwaters, one in Hopkins and one in Minnetonka. Learn more about the whole creek from this 10 minute video made by the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lHV3fDK4Bk.

Central Park surrounds the creek on the last two and a half miles before it empties into the Minnesota River.

Environmental designations

Restore the Nine is not alone in believing that Central Park is a unique and important natural resource. The park has a number of environmental designations from the state and the Audubon Society. It is:

  • An MBS site of high biodiversity significance

  • A Metro Conservation Corridor

  • A Registered Natural Area

  • A Conservation Opportunity Area (as part of the Lower Minnesota River Valley)

  • Part of the Lower Minnesota River Valley Important Bird Area

  • A Regionally Significant Ecological Area


Central Park and the NMCC are composed of multiple habitats.

There are wetlands, floodplain forests, oak savanna, hardwood forests, and several acres of remnant prairie that predate human settlement.

Most of these habitats are degraded already. Restore the Nine wants the sales tax dollars to be spent on rehabilitating the park and then protecting it against further damage in the future, preferably by declaring the park to be a protected natural area or urban nature preserve.

Endangered species

There are two endangered species in the park: the rusty patched bumble bee and the butternut tree.

Because of this, the City will be required to perform specific surveys for the USFWS and the Minnesota DNR if they want to do any construction in the park.

We fear that development in the park could inadvertently damage rusty patched bumble bee colonies. Butternut trees, being stationary, are less at risk, as long as care is taken not to disturb them.

Photo: Sam Droege, Smithsonian National Zoo
CC license.


Central Park is not only home to many species of birds, including owls, woodpeckers, kingfishers, and great blue heron, it also provides a stopover for migrating songbirds, neotropical migrants, waterfowl  and endangered birds who rely on this natural area to rest and feed during their long migration journeys.

In addition, the park is contains a variety of vegetation and ecosystems that birds depend on for courtship, brood rearing, molting, food, water, and shelter. Therefore, maintaining and restoring this habitat is essential to the populations of birds that use this area.

The Lower Minnesota River Valley is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Audubon. Increasing land use pressure from outdoor recreation threatens to diminish both the quantity and quality of critical bird habitat in Central Park.

Wildflowers & Plants

Walking in Central Park in Bloomington is peaceful, beautiful and a place of discovery. Have you ever noticed the wildflowers that grow here?  Purple Coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, Prairie Smoke, Skunk Cabbage, Nodding Trillium, Bloodroot, Hoary Puccoons, Dutchmen's Breeches, Pasqueflowers, Tall Bellflowers, Cup Plant, Butterfly-weed, Marsh Marigolds, Water Lillies, Arrowhead, Wild Ginger, and Asters are only some of the wildflowers you’ll see. Each grows in its own environment and season.  

A beneficial relationship exists with insects, moths, butterflies and fungi in which pollen and nutrients are exchanged. Some wildflowers are important to a specific animal species, such as the relationship between Milkweed and the threatened Monarch Butterfly.  The wildflowers also contribute to a healthy ecosystem which is important to our own health.  

So, stop and look at the intricacies, beauty and variety of wildflowers and remember that we are co-dependent with all of nature.

-Mary A


Watch this short video showing some of the more than 200 species of animal that live in Central Park

The human side

Members of Restore the Nine have spoken to many people in Central Park about the possibility of widened trails and bicycle access. While a few have expressed support for biking, most are opposed. These people enjoy the quiet, sedate pace on the trails now, and how the hillsides cradling the trail with the creek meandering down the center creates a feeling of intimacy with nature.

We often hear that the park is an oasis, where you forget you are in the middle of a city. Visitors, who come from all over the metro area, love seeing the wide variety of birds, animals, and wildflowers.

Birdwatchers and wildflower lovers in particular tend to walk slowly and stop frequently and are worried about safety with bicycles sharing the trail. Seniors have also expressed concern about safety, especially with the inevitability of electric bicycles using the trail.

As we age, our reaction times slow, and we lose agility and acuteness of hearing. These changes make it harder for seniors to hear bicycles or get out of their way, if necessary.  Older women, in particular, may have osteoporosis and a fall could mean a hospital stay.

Some feel that their small children may be at risk on a shared path.

Dog walkers have commented that they come to this park to walk their dogs because most parks either don’t allow dogs or do allow bicycles. Some dog owners have said that their dogs chase bicycles and thus cannot be walked on a shared trail. Even Bloomington recognizes that bikes and dogs don’t coexist well — they are relocating the off-leash dog park currently at Tretbaugh Park because Tretbaugh is being converted to a mountain bike skills training area.

It is unknown whether the currently unpaved trail south of 106th will be paved if a shared path is implemented. But there are people who have arthritis and other disabilities that make walking on pavement difficult or impossible for them. Paving that section would mean these current park visitors would no longer be able to walk in the park.

Don’t just take our word for it that this walking trail is special. Visit it yourself. It’s also been rated the #1 trail in the Minneapolis area on AllTrails: https://www.alltrails.com/us/minnesota/minneapolis/walking

As you can see, there are many reasons people do not want the current pedestrian trail converted to a shared trail. If you agree with them, please be sure to make your voice heard at the city’s community engagement events.

Note: Photo is not of trail in Central Park, but is the same width the expanded trail would be: 10 feet vs. 7 to 9 ft.


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