Commissioner sees different park than I do

In response to my Dec. 11 letter about Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Dakota County Commissioner Paul Krause paints a grim picture of land "degraded by farming" and bursting with invasive plant species (Short Takes, Dec. 16). This view does not reflect reality.

The park's hills and pothole lakes made it mostly untenable for crop production. Farmers left large areas untouched, resulting in a place filled with majestic oaks well more than 100 years old. Many native plant species, some rare, flourish here.

The real issue is the multimillion-dollar, seven-mile paved trail through the center of the park. It will be the main connector hub for seven other county bike trails. Commissioners want the federal government, the Metropolitan Council and, ironically, our state's Legacy Fund to pay for it. However, the funding is contingent on making this bike superhighway wheelchair-accessible.

That's why the specs call for 150-foot sight lines, 30- to 50-foot-wide clearance and a maximum grade of only 5 percent. Large swaths of hills, ancient oaks and wild animals will be bulldozed. And for what? This long, point-to-point trail is a 14-mile round trip, clearly designed for bikes, not for the disabled.

Our elected officials see this beautiful wild place as degraded and weedy. The lure of big money must have clouded their vision. Less costly, more sensible trail solutions have been proposed and ignored. It's time to seriously consider them before the destruction begins.

LAUREL REGAN, Apple Valley

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Commissioner Krause is correct: $15.5 million would eradicate a lot of buckthorn and plant some wonderful oak savannas. But after further review, that's not really what's in the plan.

Krause defines the controversial Lebanon Hills Development Plan as balanced — $15.5 million for "land protection and restoring natural ecosystems" and $15 million "or so" for recreation development.

Development does represent 51 percent of the estimated $31 million cost. After that, the numbers get fuzzy, because the remaining 49 percent actually includes both acquisition and natural resource stewardship.

"Balance" in this plan means 51 percent facilities development, 23 percent acquisition and 26 percent natural resource stewardship.

Even fuzzier when you consider that acquisition spending is not at the county's discretion but depends on whether the properties identified actually become available for purchase. Take out that uncertain element, and the plan's "balance" becomes 66 percent development and 34 percent natural resource stewardship.

Even fuzzier than that is Krause does not tell you that it is his opinion, and not that of the people he represents. So far 90 percent of the residents who have voiced an opinion do not want the plan as presented.

MIKE STINSON, Apple Valley


Another prediction of doom bites the ice

On Dec. 13, 2008, in Saarland, Germany, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore stated that the "entire north polar ice cap will be gone in five years."

He was not alone in that view — other "experts" were making similar predictions.

But the ice cap is still alive and well, and as of Dec. 13, 2013, it was larger than the entire United States, including Alaska. It is also more than half a million square miles bigger than last year at this date. So don't book a cruise ship tour over the North Pole just yet.

You can get to the pole by joining the U.S. Navy and getting assigned to one of our nuclear submarines, like the newly christened USS Minnesota. They regularly make the 1,900-mile trip under the Arctic Ice Cap, powered solely by their reliable nuclear power plants.



The price we paid to get whatever it is we got

To the calculations about the impact of Edward Snowden's NSA revelations, add these hard numbers: $4.5 billion. According to Reuters, that's the amount of a contract Brazil has just awarded to SAAB to build 36 fighter jets. Boeing had been favored to get the contract, but "Snowden ruined it for the Americans," according to a Brazilian official quoted by Reuters.

Reuters did not estimate the number of American jobs that might be lost or never created as a result, but the number is clearly substantial. When we consider the potential value of intelligence that may be gained through eavesdropping on other countries, we should also factor in the political and economic costs when our actions see the light of day.



It's not the piece of paper that matters

A Dec. 13 article on graduation rates at the University of Minnesota ("U grad rates go from failing to middling") takes it as an unquestionable axiom that higher graduation rates are better than lower ones.

As one who has earned three degrees from the university, I cannot deny that for many people, degrees have some value. However, an emphasis on grades and degrees leads many students to treat the learning of the subject matter of a course as merely a price paid to get a grade rather than the thing they showed up for. That is not education. A student who attends for three years and leaves without graduating may gain more from the experience than does another student who gets a degree, and should not be considered a failure for it.

MICHAEL HARDY, Minneapolis


The fine art of picking a potato for use in lefse

The people who make the lefse at Norseland Lefse down there in Rushford say the biggest problem is getting the moisture consistent.

This is why they have found it works best to stick with truckloads of potatoes direct from the single fields, rather than just taking whatever comes off the railroad car.

House of Jacobs, over in Willmar, got around this by selling its "mix" with dehydrated potatoes.

I've made lefse both ways and have found that no one can tell the difference ("Lessons in lefse," Dec. 19). But it's a whole lot easier not having to mess with ricing freshly boiled potatoes.

DAVE PORTER, Minneapolis