Park Board seeks goats for invasive species control

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is offering room and board to local goats in exchange for help keeping invasive plants at bay.

Plans are underway to bring goats to two metro-area parks as part of an effort to fight invasive species such as buckthorn and garlic mustard without using herbicides.

The two locations — Riverside Park in Minneapolis and Wirth Park in Golden Valley — were selected from a list of eight possible locations to kick off the new program. Criteria included adequate forage and access to water, as well as distance from busy streets, according to a Dec. 21 presentation to the park board.

A request for proposals is expected to go out next month, with the goal of having the goats move in this summer, a parks spokeswoman said. They'll be in the parks 24/7 and live in fenced enclosures.

Emma Nelson

St. Louis Park

'Zero waste' container rule starts next week

Starting Jan. 1, St. Louis Park will become one of the first cities in the state requiring all takeout food containers to be recyclable or compostable.

The city says it spoke with about 130 businesses in the past eight months to inform them of the new ordinance.

Polystyrene products and plastic-lined paper cups will no longer be allowed. Businesses are also required to have marked areas to dispose recyclable or compostable items.

St. Louis Park is the only inner-ring metro suburb to adopt a ban on foam takeout containers. Minneapolis passed a similar law last year.

The city initially discussed the requirement in 2015, when it was also considering a ban on the use of plastic bags. The city dropped the plastic bag proposal later that year.

Miguel Otárola

Anoka County

Crime lab plans to add partner, change name

A name change may soon be in store for the Tri County Regional Forensic Laboratory in Andover, where plans are in the works for a fourth county to come on board.

The lab's advisory board voted late last month on "Midwest Regional Forensic Laboratory" for its new name should Isanti County contract for the lab's services.

The lab, a joint venture of Anoka, Sherburne and Wright counties, has seen a sharp increase in demand for testing, especially in DNA submissions, since it became internationally accredited in 2014, said lab director Scott Ford.

Located in the Anoka County Sheriff's Office, the lab has an annual budget of $1.7 million.

Isanti County has allotted $55,000 to partner with the lab in its 2017 budget, which the County Board passed last week. The contract, if approved, will begin in July.

County officials said they hope having more direct access to forensic testing will help curb property crimes like theft. "We have to set priorities," said Isanti County Board Chairwoman Susan Morris. "Public safety is a top priority."

Hannah Covington

Washington County

Gold Line transit route proposal moves ahead

A new transit route for the proposed Gold Line in Ramsey and Washington counties has been sent to the Metropolitan Council for study.

The Washington County Board, sitting as the Washington County Regional Railroad Authority, last week recommended a route through Oakdale and Woodbury for the Gold Line, also known as the Gateway Corridor. The proposed bus rapid transit corridor would run from the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul through the east side of St. Paul, through Oakdale to Woodbury.

The current plan shows the line following Fourth Street to Helmo Avenue in Oakdale, and then turning south, crossing a new bridge over Interstate 94 to follow Bielenberg Drive to the Woodbury Theatre Park and Ride.

"We're pretty much hearing unanimously in the community that it's a better route for Oakdale," said Commissioner Stan Karwoski, the newest member of the County Board.

The transitway is projected to start operating in 2023.

Kevin Giles