U.S. Rep. Omar Visits Sochacki Park in Push for Water Quality Improvements
The tranquility of a park sandwiched between two northwest suburbs was the showcase for a visit from U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar on Wednesday.
The Fifth District congresswoman met with representatives from Golden Valley, Robbinsdale and the Three Rivers Park District to talk about how her earmark in an appropriations bill could help improve Sochacki Park.
“Thank goodness for earmarks!” said Rep. Omar, a Democrat serving in her third term in Washington, D.C. “We can specifically target resources to the needs in the district.”
Specifically, the $2.5 million she set aside for Sochacki Park would help Three Rivers staff pay for improvements to the water that flows into and sits in several basins in the park–basins that drain into Bassett Creek.
“Improvements we can make here, including phosphorus reduction–up to 67 pounds a year–are really going to reduce what’s going downstream, all the way to the Mississippi,” said Three Rivers Park District Director of Natural Resources Jami Markle. “It’s our plan to take a holistic look at how these wetland basins function, how they’re related to each other, and what are the nutrient and sediment pollutants that are coming into the system, and what can be done both in the watershed and in the basins themselves to improve water clarity, water quality, and that habitat we want to have in the park.”
Markle explained that the area that became the park was a dumping ground for construction debris in the 1960s and 70s. Large chunks of concrete and odd-shaped boulders of asphalt still jut from the ground along trails and under trees that have grown up over the decades. The runoff that comes into the park has had to navigate the bumpy terrain all this time.
“[The water basins] been manipulated over time,” said Markle.
Three Rivers staff also wants to construct a classroom space with running water and toilets at the park. Markle said the goal is to create better access to cleaner water for all to enjoy.
“Seeing the shore birds, some of the wildlife species, maybe getting out on a dock or a boardwalk next to it, seeing some turtles–just learning about wetland ecology and things like that,” he said.
Currently, the money is part of an earmark in a larger Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development bill.
“Just passing the bill is the hurdle, so I feel like we’ve done the majority of the work already, and so the rest of it hopefully will be successful,” said Omar. “To be here with folks from Robbinsdale and Golden Valley is a big deal to both hear about this great park but also the hopes that people have in improving it and making it more accessible. This is kind of what we live for and why we go to Washington every single day to fight for our constituents.”