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Posts about People and neighborhoods

Park Board keeps Phillips pool alive

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 6, 2014 - 6:48 PM

The proposed reopening of the pool at Phillips Community Center is alive for at least another half-year while the Minneapolis park system and a nonprofit group of swimming boosters seek additional money to pay for it.

A proposal setting new deadlines at the end of February for raising construction and operating money was approved by the Park Board Tuesday on a 7-2 vote.  The approval followed a failed proposal by Commissioner Anita Tabb to delay approval for two weeks while park staff would have come up with a proposal to improve swim lessons citywide. That drew only two votes.

So far a fundraising effort led earlier by nonprofit Minneapolis Swims has generated $2.2. But the most basic option of renovating the empty six-lane pool inside the center and adding an instructional pool is estimated to cost $2.8 million.

The approval followed a spirited debate that pitted advocates for equity in swimming opportunities, particularly those in high-poverty neighborhoods, against those who warned that a pool would pose a further operating drain on the Park Board's budget. "We can't even maintain what we have now," said Commissioner Annie Young, who nevertheless voted for the new proposal.

An upset State Rep. Karen Clark, who lives blocks from the pool, warned the board against delaying the pool to develop a broader swim plan, arguing that the city's legislative delegation would feel betrayed. 

(Phillips Community Center's pool has sat empty for the past several years.)

Lights coming this fall to LRT bike trail

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 5, 2014 - 3:23 PM

The lights should be on along the Hiawatha LRT Trail by the end of the year, some six years after a series of robberies on the bike trail and the connecting Midtown Greenway.

That's what city specs call for in a bid up for City Council approval this month. The $600,000 project funded by the city and Hennepin County will install lights every 95 feet in the remaining unlit areas of the trail, which parallels the Blue Line. The area to be filled in lies between 11th Av. S. on the eastern edge of downtown and E. 26th Street in the Seward neighborhood.

According to a city memo, the lights will cost some 33 percent less than the engineer's estimate.  That partly reflects the presence of several lights already installed near the Metro Transit operations center, and the earlier installation of lights south of 26th when the Sabo bridge for the greenway was built.

The new lights will be higher-efficiency LED lights, which use 50 percent less energy than high-pressure sodium lights. Existing lights on the trail will be retrofitted to LED as part of the project. They'll be designed to spill light in an oval-shaped pattern along the LRT trail, according to Allan Klugman, a city engineer.

The two trails were the site of at least 10 attacks in late 2008, including one armed robbery of a Star Tribune videographer. That prompted the formation of a Trail Watch patrol of the trails organized by the Midtown Greenway Coalition that continues six years later.

There have been muggings maybe once or twice a year since then on both trails, according to Soren Jensen, the coalition's executive director. But he said that the coalition has tested light levels on the greenway with meters, finding dim spots in about a dozen areas.  Three lights were added last year and three more are coming this year, he said. Jensen said priority is being given to lighting trail areas near stairways that can provide quick getaways for groups of youth that in a typical attack surround a lone biker. He said security cameras on the greenway are being improved, and he's hoping for signs that warn potential muggers that they're being filmed. 

Jensen offers these safety tips 1) Bike with a companion after dark. 2) Call in suspicious activity to 911 even if you are able to speed past a group of youths since they may prey on the next biker. 3) Keep using the greenway because there's safety in numbers.  

(Photo: Paul Caspersen and Mark Ambroe on night patrol on the Midtown Greenway in 2009.)  

W. River Parkway could be closed all year

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 1, 2014 - 5:20 PM

With a detour on W. River Parkway diverting more than 6,000 motorists a day, Minneapolis park officials say they may not have a fix in place yet this year for an unstable slope that closed the road in June.

Park officials said Friday that they're analyzing soil borings and other data to try to determine how they will stabilize the hillside so traffic can resume.

"We all wish we had a firm answer on what the next steps will be," said Justin Long, an assistant park superintendent.

He said the Park Board expects to begin construction yet this fall on a repair that will keep the hillside stable, but that work likely will not be completed until spring. Asked if the parkway would repen by the end of the year, Long said he wasn't sure.

"We understand that this is a huge commuter route and it is a huge inconvenience to our constitutents," Long said. Besides thousands of motorists, hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians also are detoured.

Long said that the section of parkway, which lies below Fairview Health Services downriver from 4th Street S., may adjoin a quarry that was mined for limestone when walls were built for the parkway in the 1930s.  The area was then backfilled with soil.

Initially, park officials have used stakes, sandbags and concrete barriers to try to pin the soil in place with a fabric casing.  But when it rains, groundwater flowing laterally through the ground washes more soil down the slope and against barriers on the verge of the road. Sometimes the flow has been strong enough to nudge the concrete barriers lining the bottom of the hill, Long said. The Park Board has trucked the silt away, Long said.

"This is very loose material and there's still signs of movement," he said.

Given that situaiton, park officials don't feel it's safe to reopen the roadway, Long said, although the pavement itself wasn't damaged. But other damage to nearly railings and to rebuild the hillside is estimated to cost aobut $4 million and the park system is documenting what it does to address the problem to claim federal disaster reimbursement.  

W. 36th Street bikeway nears construction

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 1, 2014 - 3:51 PM

The city is nearing construction of its first protected on-street two-way bike lane, and an adjoining pedestrian lane, on the south side of W. 36th Street next to Lakewood Cemetery,

Construction should begin in the next 30 days on the planned improvement that connects two sections of parkway -- Lake Calhoun and King's Highway.

The nine-block-long segment will feature two five-foot-wide bike lanes, and a six-foot-wide walkway where no sidewalk now exists next to the cemetery.

The bike lanes will be separated from the adjacent eastbound traffic lane by a three-foot buffer strip containing lightweight plastic bollards. More conventional bikes lanes are expected to be extended from King's Highway, where the protection will end, for two additional blocks east to Bryant Avenue.  

Access between the new bike-pedestrian facility and bike and pedestrian paths at Lake Calhoun will be in two stages across 36th and E. Calhoun Parkway

The project cost of $110,900 is being split by the city and by Hennepin County, which is working to fill gaps in bike routes.

Northeast's cycling museum open Sunday

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 25, 2014 - 6:16 PM

When Brent Fuqua moved the expanding bike shop he co-owns into a newly refurbished storefront across Central Avenue last summer, he suddenly had thousands of square feet in which to stash the bikes the business had stored in rented garages across northeast Minneapolis.

That new space included a big second floor. Meanwhile a buddy, Juston Anderson, had accumulated somewhere between 40 and 50 vintage bikes in 27 years of collecting.

“I thought people should see these bikes,” Fuqua said.

So during Sunday’s Open Streets event, in which bikers will take over 8-1/2 blocks of Central for six hours, the Cycling Museum of Minnesota will debut in the upstairs of Recovery Bike Shop, 2504 Central Av. NE.

From 19th century boneshakers, including one with a 60-inch drive wheel, to trendy Pusgley fat-tire bikes, cyclists will get a glimpse of cycling history that highlights important advances in biking from technology to alliances with good roads boosters to changing social mores. They’ll see those how changes affected bike safety and speed.

It’s a coming-out party for the museum, which organizers say is only in the formative stages and won’t be open regularly until sometime next year. “It was just a bunch of dudes with bikes,” Fuqua told a sneak

preview Thursday night that was intended to elicit interest and funds from an invitee list that dressed from cutoffs to suits.

The organization’s nine-member board has incorporated and plans to put on educational programs, conduct community rides, host family events, present lectures and show films.

The collection includes beginner bikes for kids, BMX bikes, mass-produced bikes by Sears, hand-made frames by some of the state’s noted builder, bikes on which some of the state’s best-known racers sped, and vintage machines such as a locally made tandem designed for courting couples.

But there are also prosaic bike collectibles, such as the 1950s prototype of a Park Tool Co. bike repair stand.  It features such parts as a concrete-filled World War II shell casing, kitchen table legs and a 1937 Ford truck axle.

Anderson, 42, of Arden Hills, remembers looking at pictures as a kid of the high-wheeled bikes that dominated the 1880s but were typically affordable only to wealthy young men with strong legs. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how you could balance on something like that,’” he said. But earlier this month he completed a century (100-mile) ride on one at a collectors meeting.

The nursing home janitor said he takes a frugal approach to collecting. He said he reminds his wife: “There’s other hobbies I could get into. I could get into hunting or gambling or drinking.”     

(Above: Recovery Bike co-owner with a bike that mimicked automobile streamlining; below: an 1897 courting tandem made by Deere and Webber of Minneapolis.)

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