Thompson Park lake plaza and boardwalk

2021 Thompson Park Improvements

Thanks to Southview Animal Hospital for their support.

What’s happening in Thompson Park?

The 2021 improvement project is bringing some major changes to the county park. The Thompson Park project will include a new accessible playground, plaza areas, water access, lake loop, and more.

The project will cost $2.29 million and construction is expected to begin in April and be completed by November. The playground and much of the trail around the lake will be closed during construction—starting May 10. The county has a map of the impacted areas.

Officials from Dakota County acknowledge that closing park space isn’t ideal coming out of a pandemic, but they’re hopeful the improvements will be worthwhile. The county may try to do some programing at the park to make up for the closures.

Didn’t Thompson Park just go through some major construction?

Yes, in 2019 the county did a $2.6 million water quality and wetlands restoration project that remade the northern portion of the park along the lake.

What are the specific improvements?

The project focuses on the popular northern area of Thompson Park and focuses on the playground, lake plaza, linear green, lake loop, and entrances. See the project design for full details.

Local artists Christopher E. Harrison, Pao Houa Her (who grew up a few blocks from the park), and Jonathan Herrera Soto collaborated on the design, giving inspiration and visual direction to some of the features, including interpretive elements, seating, tables, etc.

Linear Green and Lake Plaza

One of the major improvements will be the linear green and lake plaza area. The linear green will make the park more welcoming immediately from the parking lot with trees, picnic tables and grills, bike racks, rain gardens, and more.

A big feature will be the lake plaza that offers water access and boardwalks.


The park will get a brand new playground designed with accessibility in mind. It will feature a rubberized surface, be ramp-accessible, and have features to address sensory issues.

The design will also bring picnic tables closer to the playground.

A 3D model of the playground is available (works best in Chrome).

Lake Loop

The half-mile trail around Thompson Lake will be fully lighted and enhanced with several “story areas” that add points of interest and interpretation along the path.

There will also be a dock for canoe access on the western shore.

Park Entrances

The entrances to Thompson Park will also see some improvements. The main north entry along Butler Avenue will see the addition of prairie berms. The west entry at the end of Sperl Street will see some potential gateway elements and path connections that make it a legitimate entrance.

What’s Next?

These improvements are part of the long-term plan for Thompson Park. The park’s master plan includes some bold ideas—land bridge over highway 52, 110-foot observation tower, daylighted stream and cascading water feature—that stayed in the plan thanks to community support, but it will be a while before anything further is implemented.

The master plan includes five-year, 10-year, and long-term plans. Much of the current project is part of the five-year plan.

May 21, 2021 Update: Playground Is Gone

The Thompson Park playground came down this past week as construction is beginning. The lake walk and fishing pier are still open for now, but will be closed when project fencing goes in.

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