On June 11, 1921, more than 30,000 people lined a parkway in northwest Minneapolis to commemorate lives lost in World War I. In a stunning example of forward-thinking urban planning, the Park Board planted 568 Moline elm trees and placed markers — one for each Hennepin County soldier and nurse who died — along the three-mile route.

Designated a state historic district in 2003, Victory Memorial Drive is part of the city’s 40-mile Grand Rounds, which is in turn part of the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program.

In 2004, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board released a master plan for preserving and improving the parkway. Two years later, the state legislature created a task force comprised of legislators, the state historical society, Minneapolis and Robbinsdale city councils, Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, residents, and the local veteran’s organization to help refine and implement the plan. The state provided $2.7 million for the $6 million project; the county, $3.5 million.

Construction began in 2008. The two-lane asphalt road was resurfaced, bike trail widened, sidewalks added, and intersections streetscaped. Almost 200 street and pedestrian lights were installed. Dead and dying trees were replaced. Gateway monuments clearly delineate the two entrances.

“It’s a good feeling when you develop something that people really appreciate and you create a memory that can’t be erased,” says Dean Michalko, project engineer for the Hennepin County Public Works Department, who was the project’s lead.

Next page: Mastering a memorial