The relationship between Robbinsdale and the sparkling lake in the center of town has never been an easy one. In the 1880’s, Crystal Lake Avenue (West Broadway) was used by farmers to bring produce into Minneapolis. The steep hill on the west side of the lake caused teams and carts to line up in caravans twenty deep.In 1893, a couple months after Robbinsdale was incorporated at a village, the council decided to use to use $1000 from the “Saloon Fund” to cut down the hill. The fill from the project was used to shrink the lake. William Randall and George “Don” Johnson started Robbinsdale Ice and Fuel Co. and began cutting ice on Crystal Lake in the 1890’s. A couple years later the Crystal Ice Company the Cedar Lake Ice Company began staking out territory on Crystal Lake. In 1903 Thomas Girling’s Picturesque Robbinsdale newspaper reported that the number of parties cutting ice on Crystal Lake was due to the “extreme clearness and purity, this ice is considered the best that can be had around Minneapolis.” Andrew B. Robbins believed Crystal and Twin would one day rival the popular chain of lakes in Minneapolis. Enthusiastic about the possibilities of Robbinsdale’s lakes, He claimed that “Crystal Lake in size would compare with the better known Lake Harriet of Minneapolis, while Twin Lake is twice that size. Its mate, upper Twin Lake connects with a chain of several lakes.” A canal between Crystal and Twin Lakes was proposed on a number of occasions.
Floyd E. Nash opened his bath house on the lake in in 1916.The facility featured toboggan slides, boat rides, a fishing dock, picnic grounds and rental cottages. After the baths closed in 1933, Floyd E. Nash built 16 cottages on Crystal Lake. Some were remodeled for year-around use. The water quality in the lake deteriorated during the depression as more of the north west portion was filled.Peat fires near Crystal Lake posed another problem. The peat was 10 to 12 feet down. Firefighters covered the area with water only to find it burning again the next day.
In 1959 a bond issue for the development of a park on the south end of Crystal Lake was approved. The area was largely marsh and the city spent two years hauling fill before development could begin. A naming contest was held with a bicycle as a prize. George Hollencamp won with his name “Lakeview Terrace”. Sadly the fill used to create the park did quite a bit of damage to the lake and in 1967, Crystal was declared a “dead lake’. the Crystal Lake Water study Committee was appointed by the city Council and a restoration program was put together with funds provided by Hennepin County.In 1973 aeration pumps were installed and bentonite volcanic clay was sprayed into the lake via helicopter. The lake was successfully restocked with northerns,walleyes and bluegills the following year. Shoreline Park, on the north side of the lake, was dedicated in 1974. Sadly, in 2002, Crystal Lake was placed on the state’s impaired-waters list. To address the problem, Crystal Lake was made part of the Minnesota Pollutions Control Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load Project with a goal of reducing the amount of phosphorus in the lake by by 72 percent. As part of that strategy, the Crystal Lake Flocculation Plant was installed in 2012. The plant draws water from the lake and mixes it alum to bind with the phosphorus.The resulting material, called floc, is discharged into the sewer system and clean water goes back into the lake or ponds.The plant’s operates on the south side of the lake from May to November.cOther efforts to clean up the lake include the construction of rain gardens, wetlands,booms and pollutant traps in storm sewer systems.