Built in the 1930s by National Youth Administration workers, Lookout Park Wayside in Eden Prairie became a favorite destination for motorists and locals along what is now Flying Cloud Drive for its spectacular vista of the Minnesota River Valley.
However, due to safety concerns associated with its proximity to Flying Cloud Airport, the 3.2-acre site was declared off-limits to the public years ago.
Nevertheless, the stone overlook, though now showing signs of decay, remained a magnet for visitors seeking its breathtaking views from the bluffs overlooking the river. In response, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) took action last month by enclosing the area with fencing and prominently displaying “Private Property — No Trespassing” signs to enforce the restriction.
“There are no specific plans for the site other than to keep it closed,” said MAC spokesperson Jeff Lea.
MAC, which has owned the site since the late 1970s, oversees all airports in the Twin Cities, including the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and regional facilities such as Flying Cloud and Crystal airports.
Flying Cloud Airport, according to its website, is the busiest in the MAC’s reliever airport system, with over 100,000 takeoffs and landings annually.
“Our action was taken because of safety concerns,” Lea added.
The site is within the flight path of one of the airport’s runways.
In “Eden Prairie Pioneers,” Marie Wittenberg describes Lookout Park as featuring fire pits for picnicking and serving as a highway rest stop with views over the bluffs, the river valley, and the historic Murphy’s Ferry site below. She recalls public gatherings and kite flying, which, she notes, sometimes interfered with operations at the nearby airport. The park also became a popular hangout for youth.
“It has great historical significance,” said Kathie Case, president of the Eden Prairie Historical Society. “Sadly, it has fallen into a state of disrepair. The original marker is gone, and the stone walls need attention.
“We’ve tried to negotiate with the MAC for public access to the park, but they don’t seem interested,” Case added.
A 2002 agreement between the city and MAC regarding airport noise regulations and runway expansion at the airport established that the site should be off-limits to the public. However, public awareness of these restrictions seemed to diminish over time, leading to increased public visits.
Capt. Chris Wood of the Eden Prairie Police Department said Lookout Park has not been an unusually high problem area.
“In 2023, we had 23 calls to the area,” Wood said.
He suggested that those seeking river valley views consider Prairie Bluff Conservation Area to the west of Lookout Park Wayside and the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area further west.
And, while Lookout Park is no longer accessible to the public, the Minnesota River Vista Overlook, constructed by the city about 1,600 feet to the west, offers a comparable experience with panoramic views of the river valley.
Although it is not accessible by car, visitors can reach the overlook by foot or bike via a trail on Charlson Road that goes beneath Flying Cloud Drive.
An Aug. 22, 2018, Eden Prairie News article reported that Lookout Park Wayside inspired the Minnesota River Vista Overlook’s design. The project, as detailed in a city report, aimed to use stone and design elements reminiscent of the historic site.
We offer several ways for our readers to provide feedback. Your comments are welcome on our social media posts (Facebook, X, Instagram, Threads, and LinkedIn). We also encourage Letters to the Editor; submission guidelines can be found on our Contact Us page. If you believe this story has an error or you would like to get in touch with the author, please connect with us.