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Posts about Parks and recreation

W. River Parkway trails to get rehab detours

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 18, 2014 - 5:13 PM

The already detoured W. River Parkway will get added trail detours this week with trail reconstruction between Plymouth and Franklin avenues.

The work will mean trails closings through the rest of the construction season and into 2015, park officials said.

The 3.2 miles of trail in some spots include the original paving when portions of the bike and pedestrian trails were created. The trail ranges from as old as 38 years on spots of the parkway to as new as 16 years old in the newest segment of central riverfront parkway opened in 1998. Some of the latter area also was repaved after the construction of the new Interstate 35W bridge.

The parkway and its biking and walking trails have been closed just south of S. 4th Street since a June 19 mudslide. Minneapolis Park and Recreation officials have said that section of parkway near the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus may not reopen by the end of the year, while they attempt to devise a means of stabilizing soil that continues to wash down the hill.

According to the most recent bike counts available, the parkway bike path is used by about 1,400 cyclists a day near the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

The work is being paid for by $2.2 million in state and federal funding. Work is scheduled to begin with tree removal on the project’s Franklin end, with removal of trail paving following next week, working upriver initially.

Completion of the entire project isn’t expected until next summer. Among the trail improvements planned as part of the project are better connections to the Stone Arch Bridge and the Cedar Lake Regional Trail, replacement of some warped or rotting planks opposite the Mill City Museum area, and a new trailhead with a kiosk and drinking fountain at the south end of Bohemian Flats.

Minneapolis lags on black history listings

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 15, 2014 - 1:41 PM

The recent addition of the Arthur and Edith Lee house to the National Register of Historic Places highlights the paucity of black-oriented Minneapolis sites on the prestigious federal list.

St. Paul boasts five of the state's nine national register sites associated with black history.  The Lee home at 4600 Columbus Av. S. represents only the second such black-oriented listing for Minneapolis on the national list. It was the site of mob gatherings of thousands in 1931 when a black family bought the home in an all-white neighborhood.

To be sure, there may be additional sites that have been designated as worthy of historic preservation as important parts of the city's heritage under a local preservation ordinance. But one can use the city's searchable map of such landmarks to scan areas of long significance historically for black residents, such as the South Side area around Hosmer library, or the entire North Side, without finding a single locally designated site with an obvious association with black history or residents. That's aside from the city's lone other national regisrter site associated with black history, the Lena O. Smith home.

But one group has no trouble finding a collection of sites associated with or commemorating black history. That's the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota, a group of black cyclists.

The club is sponsoring its annual Dark2Dawn ride on Aug. 23. The all-nght ride begins at 9 p.m. at Martin Luther King Park, 4055 Nicollet Av. S., winds to about a dozen sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and ends with a 6 a.m. breakfast. Registration is required for the $25 event that's a fundraiser for the club, named after the legendary black cyclist who competed professionally at the turn of the 19th century, setting world records for speed.

The moderately paced ride of about 50 miles is billed as a tour through African-American historical geography, and will feature speakers at each site.  In Minneapolis, the tour includes the Lee house, the historically black E. 38th Street and 4th Avenue S. business district, the Minnesota African American Museum, Bassett Creek and the Van White Bridge, the J.D. Rivers garden, the Homewood subdivision in the Willard-Hay neighborhood, and Morrill Hall at the University of Minnesota. St. Paul sites include St. Peter Claver and Pilgrim Baptist churches, the Hallie Q. Brown complex with Penumba Theatre, Minnesota History Center, and Union Depot. More information is at: http://tinyurl.com/m9kzhso

Until the Lee house designation, the only national register listing associated with black history in Minneapolis was the home of Lena O. Smith, an early black lawyer, and a longtime leader in the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP. She also representated the Lees in their negotiations with the the white-dominated homeowners association.

One black-oriented business long at the corner of 38th and 4th, the 80-year-old Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, is being considered for local designation.  More may emerge next year. That's when the city's heritage preservation staff hopes to focus more on properties associated with people of color, according to city planner John Smoley.

(Photo above: The Lena O. Smith house at 3905 5th Av. S., was the only Minneapolis site associated with black history on the National Register of Historic Places until July.)


Mayor appoints lawyer to probe Al Flowers arrest

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 8, 2014 - 5:27 PM

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said Friday that lawyer Donald Lewis, who gave the maximum amount to her 2013 election, will lead what she described as an independent investigation into a police arrest involving activist Al Flowers 

Flowers supporters said they have confidence in Lewis, but criticized the scope of his appointment. Lewis was assigned to examine whether police department policy was vioalated in the late July arrest of Flowers. His attorney, Bobby Joe Champion, said Lewis should be assigned the entire criminal investigation.

“I’m not sure how you bifurcate these things unless you’re trying to get a desired outcome,” said Champion.  "Don Lewis has always been a person of integrity," he added.

Lewis withdrew from a 2001 appointment to head an investigation into City Hall corruption after that arrangement drew criticism because of his political support for then-Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton.

Council members questioned that appointment because of the appearance of impropriety rather than the issue of whether Lewis, an experienced investigator, was qualified.

According to campaign records, Lewis gave $500 in contributions to the Hodges campaign in 2013.  Lewis also gave $250 to mayoral candidate Jackie Cherryhomes. One lawyer in his current firm gave another $125 to Hodges, while another gave $500 to Mark Andrew.

In 2001, he held a fundraiser for Sayles Belton at his law firm, donated to her campaign and had her lawn sign at his south Minneapolis home.

There was no immediate reaction from the mayor's office on the question of whether he could be independent in a probe of the late July arrest of Flowers in an altercation at his home. Lewis deferred questions to the mayor.

Mayoral spokeswoman Kate Brickman said in response to questions about the scope of his duties that “Lewis is a private practice civil law attorney who has been asked to investigate whether the involved officers violated department policy regarding use of force in connection with the arrest.  The chief is considering next steps with respect to a criminal investigation and can provide an update on that probably sometime next week.”

"Mr. Lewis is the right person to conduct this investigaiton," Hodges said in announcing the appointment of Lewis.  "He is a respected leader in the community who I know will be thorough and fair."

Lewis is a Minneapolis lawyer who was dean of the Hamline University law school from 2008 to 2013, and worked as a federal prosecutor. He previously investigated allegations of academic fraud in the University of Minnesota men's basketball program and lead an independent investigation for St. Paul officials into the 2013 landslide at Lilydale Regional Park in which two children died.

(Photo: Attorney Donald Lewis)

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.  


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