Because of the coming Super Bowl event, there is a lot of hoopla about the attractions of the Twin Cities area, varying from the Mall of America to Mystic Lake Casino. And, occasionally, there is even mention of our wonderful metro lakes, parks and trails. But I haven’t seen much or any mention of a Twin Cities plus or value that no other metro area in the U.S. has — the preservation, attractiveness and recreational utilization of our three magnificent river systems: the Upper Mississippi, the St. Croix and the Minnesota.

The most unusual and significant aspect of these metro rivers is their federal designation — the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. These designations were done when the state’s Democratic and Republican congressional delegates worked together to achieve great things.

The Mississippi is nearly within a football pass of U.S. Bank Stadium; the St. Croix is the entire eastern border of the metro area, and the Minnesota is just across the street from the Mall of America — it is the magnificent green space that travelers cross on southbound Hwy. 169, Interstate 35W and Cedar Avenue. Together, these federal areas, with adjacent state and locally managed recreation areas, are an intrinsically valuable resource. We need to acknowledge and appreciate these resources and even brag more about them during this Super Bowl season and forever beyond.

Edward Crozier, Burnsville

URBAN DENSITY

A disaster? If you’re a resident who’s been crowded out, yes.

Jack Zipes was right-on with his Jan. 2 commentary “Know your zoning: Beware the high-density disaster.” I lived in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis for almost 75 years and raised three kids, who safely walked to the elementary, junior and high schools, two of which have been torn down. I enjoyed the friendly merchants of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue, many of their businesses now replaced by restaurants and bars. The race to bring high-density apartments to Uptown, lining every block with hundreds of high-buck rental units, which often require multiple renters in each one, bringing multiple cars and quadruple parking problems, is my issue with the City Council.

My neighbors’ single-family dwelling was razed and replaced by a triplex, with each unit having five bedrooms and four bathrooms. Guess how many 25-year-olds now live in that single lot? Guess how many additional cars they brought with them?

The solution for me and my wife was inevitable. I left the once-great Uptown area that served my family so well for so long and moved to Prior Lake! So I join Zipes in warning Uptown’s new residents: “Beware the high-density disaster.”

Dick McChesney, Prior Lake

• • •

How much affordable housing is being built in the area around the lakes in Minneapolis? I think there are many examples from around the nation and the world about how a neighborhood can add more density and maintain livability. I live in the North Loop, where we have a lot more housing and many transportation options — abundant buses and good bike routes as well as convenient walking to groceries. One solution to maintaining livability, where I live and in Uptown, is to choose to make trips by other means when possible. Learn where the buses go and use them. Walk to as many trips as you can, in combo with the bus. For our city to work well for everyone, we need to accept density, prioritize affordable housing and reduce congestion by not automatically getting in the car.

Hilary Reeves, Minneapolis

• • •

Zipes starts from the false premise that zoning regulations form an ethical pact with neighborhoods “to maintain the livability of neighborhoods for those who invest their savings there.”

First, zoning regulations are not contracts. Their purpose is to determine appropriate land uses for various zones within a municipality. Zoning can be altered over time, in response to changing community needs, through a specific variance process.

Second, there is an ethical dimension to zoning regulations. Zoning, especially density and lot size regulations, has historically been used by wealthy communities to exclude affordable housing. Although there are other factors involved, exclusionary zoning is one important reason the Twin Cities area faces high levels of segregation and an affordable-housing crisis.

Higher densities are essential to correcting this injustice, reducing racial and socioeconomic segregation, and making it financially feasible for developers to build more affordable housing.

Third, the price of our profligate urban sprawl is that we’re saddled with unaffordable road maintenance. We simply must “build in” with higher densities to provide affordable housing for growing populations, make public transportation financially viable and reduce carbon emissions to slow climate change.

Finally, higher density is by no means a “disaster.” It is simply one tool to create a more equitable, livable and sustainable world.

L. Hope Melton, Edina

The writer is an urban planner.

FOOD PRODUCTION

Critics of series fault emotions, seek facts — and lack both

In their Jan. 2 counterpoint “Emotions, not facts, incorrectly ruled ‘Future of Food’ series,” George Rehm and Don Reicosky make the argument that we must use science and not “emotional perceptions” to direct which food production systems are supported by society. So I find it disappointing that the two soil scientists ignore basic evolutionary biology and march out a common myth when trying to justify extensive planting of GMO crops.

Although they and biotech companies would have us believe that GMO traits have made weed problems a thing of the past, the facts don’t back that claim. For example, the ubiquitous use of glyphosate-tolerant crops has in recent years created extensive stands — including here in Minnesota — of superweeds that resist being killed by herbicides. The result? More, not fewer, herbicides are being sprayed on crops like soybeans in any given year. In the largest U.S. study of GMO crops and pesticides to date, scientists writing in the journal Science Advances reported in 2016 that adopters of genetically modified crops used 28 percent more herbicides on soybeans compared with farmers who didn’t use GMOs. And in an attempt to knock out these new strains of chemical-loving weeds, farmers are forced to turn to some of the old, highly toxic blends of spray that GMO technology was supposed to deliver us from. That’s a scientific fact, one that affects our environment and farmers’ bottom lines. For scientists and nonscientists alike, such a reality check should evoke an important emotion: humility.

Brian DeVore, Minneapolis

The writer works for the Land Stewardship Project.

• • •

We already produce enough food for the increase in populations. The problem is that we waste it. Distributing it is the problem.

The so-called emotionless scientists had better get emotional about ruining our soil. You cannot dump chemicals into soil and expect it to behave as healthy soil. For example, it’s blowing in the wind from too much plowing. For example, there are more microorganisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than the scientists have yet to identify — billions.

Organic farming produces more calories per acre than industrial farming.

Oh, let’s not forget, healthy soil is our most impactful repository for carbon sequestration.

Barbara Vaile, Minneapolis

HOMELESSNESS

Your actions matter

While the cold is miserable for many of us, it is deadly for people who are homeless. Shelters around the state are doing an amazing job under awful conditions. Please support your local shelter and if you see a homeless person on the street, if you can’t help, at least be kind. Life isn’t easy for them.

Ed Murphy, Minneapolis

The writer is executive director of Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless.