I am heartbroken as I and many others begin a death watch for the remarkably beautiful and environmentally sensitive area of north Cedar Lake in Minneapolis. The votes have been bought, the trade-offs made, the political favors called-in and Southwest light rail is going to bulldoze its way through the last remaining natural area in the Chain of Lakes.
The restored prairie at the north end of Cedar Lake buffers old-growth woods and wetlands that are habitat for wildlife and sanctuary for people seeking an oasis at the edge of the city. It is a living, breathing counterpoint to the west side of downtown, and it is irreplaceable.
The Southwest light-rail project is ill-conceived and is a perfect example of our society’s willingness to sacrifice the environment when the big money comes to play. Everyone involved in the project knows that the process has been horribly flawed. It was planned years ago, and the complexion of that part of the city has changed dramatically.
A much more sensible route would put the light rail down the Midtown trench, where there is already an unused rail line, and where feeder services could link it to other transport arteries such as Hennepin and Cedar avenues. But no, the Kenilworth corridor and north Cedar Lake provide the path of least resistance and the money must be spent before it goes away.
Minneapolis City Council members who promised active opposition to the plan during election time dutifully fell into line and eked out a couple of amenities, but they did not stand firm and protect what makes our city so special — the visionary work of the early planners who saw to it that we would be blessed with a core of parks and natural areas unrivaled in this country.
Minneapolis will survive the destruction of north Cedar Lake, but we will be diminished and we will be a lesser place. I would encourage everyone to visit the area right away while the prairie is in bloom, before the chain saws and bulldozers turn it into just another noisy stretch of nothingness.
James Lindbeck lives in Minneapolis.