Every spring Nine Mile Creek rises halfway up Jenn Edwards' steeply sloping back yard on Cahill Road in Edina, then shrinks back to a narrow, muddy ditch flanked by weeds and willows and cottonwoods.
Edward cherishes the ribbon of untended flood plain. "I see it as natural land that we don't have a lot of in Edina."
She wonders how a 10-foot wide biking-walking trail being considered by Edina and Three Rivers Park District could fit in the narrow plain that snakes so closely behind her home and hundreds of others.
"I don't know what they are thinking because it's a really tiny area," Edwards said. "Why would we do this when we could go on an established street?''
That's the key question for the Edina City Council as it moves closer to selecting a route this fall for the city's portion of the east-west Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail. The route, which could cost $20 million to build, is much anticipated because it's the first regional trail through the city. It would connect at the border with Hopkins through to the Richfield border to the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington.
"Edina has a ribbon of natural parkland following a creek and it's public land," said Jonathan Vlaming, Three Rivers chief of planning. The city will have to decide "what is the best use of that land."
A second open house to learn about the project is set for 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at South View Middle School, 4725 South View Lane, Edina.
The first open house last week attracted more than 100 people, most of them creekside property owners who favor a street route for the trail.
Former city council member Alice Hulbert, who favors the creek route, said the council will listen to everyone before deciding. "Just like you don't put a playground in a parking lot, I wouldn't put a bike trail on a roadway unless there is completely no other way."
After walking the length of Nine Mile Creek in Edina and seeing the variety of scenery, Hubert says a creekside trail "will be wonderful."
Opening public land
Coordinating trail construction with Nine Mile Creek Watershed District's restoration of the creek's bed and banks would improve the setting for the stream and open public land to the public, she said.
Andrew Heyer, a recreational biker and resident of Edina's Parkwood Knolls neighborhood, sees the creek route as the only place for the trail.
"I have compassion for the people who have a house on the wetlands," Heyer said. "They must enjoy their view out that window. I certainly would enjoy it and I would enjoy the privacy of it. But the problem is that that is city-owned land. You have to weigh it as a benefit to the community versus the cost to homeowners."
Heyer said his grandchildren would love taking a trail from Walnut Ridge Park near his home through creek wetlands to Bredesen Park. "If I am going to ride a recreational ride, I try to find something with some parks and some views," he said.
Heyer said he is a Sierra Club member and sorry about disrupting the wetland, but thinks proposed trail construction on a boardwalk would minimize the damage.
The alternative street route for the trail in his neighborhood would follow Lincoln Avenue, a frontage road to Hwy. 169, and connect with busy Vernon Avenue, which runs past Bredesen Park.
"Why go on a busy street with cars zooming by and exhaust and noise?" Heyer said.
He has set up a website and a Facebook page to organize support for a creek trail at www.edinatrails.org and Edina Residents Supporting the Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail on Facebook.
Residents along the creek say hundreds of mature trees would be felled for the trail and wildlife would be disrupted. They oppose spending the estimated $20 million and say it would likely be more. Creekside opposition has a website at www.9milecreek.org.
"We are not opposed to bike paths but we feel that there is a more cost-effective way to produce a trail through Edina," said Bob Lubar, who lives along the creek in Parkwood Knolls.
Lubar said there are better street routes than the ones under consideration. He objects to the environmental effects of a creekside trail and has doubts about maintaining it through spring floods.
He's also concerned that a trail that could not be seen from the street could invite crime.
Said his neighbor, Carol Russell: "I don't think they should be digging into the swamp."
Edwards cites mosquitoes as a problem in the flood plain.
"I am not sure people are going to be that excited about riding their bikes through here,'' he said. "I see this as a tiny little area that deserves to be left alone."
Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711