French Regional Park, along the north shore of Medicine Lake offers a variety of opportunities for outdoor exploration including an award-winning play area, beach, fishing and lighted trails. In 2018 and 2019, the park renovated the playground and improved trails, parking lots and the boat launch.
French Regional Park's Upgraded Playground
Construction on the park's new creative play area was completed in the fall of 2018. The new playground was designed with help and input from a "Kids Task Force" at Park Brook Elementary School in Brooklyn Park. To the great relief of some of our Facebook community members, the new playground has continued its 30-year tradition of a cargo net play area with 47 cargo nets to climb and Three Rivers tells us feedback from kids and adults alike has been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to the beloved nets, the playground now has a 29-foot tower, six slides, and a splash pad with spraying misters. The playground also has features for the smaller kids and ADA accessible decking throughout the second level. Find a video of the new park on Twin Cities Frugal Mom's Facebook page.
Weather permitting, the play area is open daily from 9 a.m. to sunset from spring through the end of October. Avoid disappointment by checking the Three Rivers Playground page for closures.
French Regional Park Beach
The beach is free, but unguarded, and is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Find More Beaches: Splash Happy: Twin Cities 2019 Guide to Beaches, Pools, Water Parks & Splash Pads.
Three Lighted Trails for Winter Hiking
This park offers three lighted trails to make walking during the short days of winter a little easier. The Lagoon, Lakeview and Skyline Trails are all lit after dusk.
French Regional Park Wildlife
The park has trails around Medicine Lake, through woodsy areas and near marshlands. Besides the expected wildlife, look for:
The park is part of the Three Rivers Park District's Wood Duck Management Program. The park maintains and monitors wood duck boxes through volunteer efforts and has seen its efforts pay off in the last 50 years. According to Three Rivers, the best time to watch wood ducks, swans and other water fowl is in the spring and fall.
Purple Martins, which used to be common in our area had disappeared from parks by 1980. In 2006, Three Rivers set up martin condos near the beach at this park and now has a thriving colony at this location, as well as a couple other parks in the district. See these birds in the summer, because they migrate to Brazil for the colder months.
Medicine Lake is home to soft shell, snapper and painted turtles. In 2016, Three Rivers began tracking and monitoring turtles through the Urban Turtle Project, from which they have learned quite a bit. Look for turtles especially in May and June, when they are nesting.
Three Rivers recommends waiting patiently on a dock or trail that runs alongside a lake or larger stream during the early mornings or late evening hours for a chance to see these elusive nocturnal rodents. Learn more here.
Sensory Friendly Sundays
Three Rivers and the Autism Society of Minnesota have partnered to offer “Sensory-Friendly Sundays,” on the fourth Sunday of each month from 9 a.m. – noon, at this park. Three Rivers recognizes that new experiences can be stressful for people with sensory sensitivities. In response, they have created this program that includes support from trained staff and volunteers and a comfortable, welcoming environment for everyone. Noise-reducing headphones, ear plugs, nose plugs, sunglasses, variety of fidgets, weighted blankets, and other sensory supports will be available to borrow on these days as will a space to take a break.
The park also plans to add sensory signage, online social narratives, and virtual tours This program is free and open to all ages. Find the next Sensory-Friendly Sunday on our special needs calendar.
Articles Regarding French Regional Park
Awards of Excellence for the French Regional Park Play Area
In 2019, the new play area was selected for national recognition by the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO) with an award of excellence from the Park and Recreation Facility – Class II category. By an overwhelming margin, people said they wanted the new play area to incorporate the same signature feature as the previous play area: cargo nets for climbing between levels. The new play area features a custom play area that with nets as its centerpiece and a greater level of accessibility — the level approximately seven feet off the ground is fully accessible by wheelchair.
The NACPRO Award was followed by the Tommy Johnson Award from the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association (MRPA). Each year, MRPA’s Awards Committee selects one Award of Excellence award winner to receive the Tommy Johnson Award, which is the highest honor the organization gives to projects or initiatives. The committee selects the project or initiative it believes best exemplifies the characteristics and values that Tommy Johnson was known for: innovation and creativity in shaping future trends, philosophical change, sharing of resources, and new concepts.
Gallery of Photos Before the Update to the Playground