St. Louis Park is on its way to becoming “an inner-city wasteland” with “hoodlums standing around on the corner to harass the young women.” Meanwhile, unelected bureaucrats trample on the rights of citizens.
And it’s all because of sidewalks.
That distressing scenario was painted by John Iacono, a resident of the Aquila neighborhood, where sidewalks will be installed over the summer.
In an e-mail this week to city officials, Iacono let off steam about what he sees as an unnecessary change to the quiet street along Minnehaha Creek, where he’s lived for 45 years.
The City Council recently decided to proceed with the $3.1 million project to install sidewalks and rebuild streets in the Aquila, Minnehaha and Cobblecrest neighborhoods. Crews have been out to place flags and paint spots marking the path of the upcoming construction.
“Many residents have asked the city to take wise opportunities to invest in these types of infrastructure projects,” said Gregg Lindberg, the council member who represents the areas in the Third Ward affected by this year’s construction. “The city’s comprehensive plan calls for these connections.”
Car-oriented postwar suburbs throughout the metro area are looking to reinvent themselves for the millennial generation. From Coon Rapids to Apple Valley, long-range suburban plans include sidewalks and trails where cars now reign supreme.
But the shift doesn’t always come easy for longtime residents. In Edina, for instance, a public meeting to discuss new sidewalks grew so heated that one resident felt compelled to apologize to a beleaguered city planner, saying he’d been sent “into the lion’s den.”
John Iacono’s wife, Connie, was still distressed in an interview Friday as she walked the couple’s dog, Sally.
“There’s a lot of anger and a lot of hard feelings” in the neighborhood over the sidewalk plan, she said.
Information on the project, which includes narrowing W. 34th Street, “has been poorly conveyed,” she added. “They say it was all decided four or five years ago, but we weren’t aware of it.”
The sidewalk project is a continuation of Connect the Park, a 10-year capital improvement program that’s adding sidewalks, trails and bikeways throughout the community.
The initiative came out of an extensive community planning program that began nearly a decade ago and culminated in a long-term plan to connect city neighborhoods by foot and bike.
Connie Iacono said she’s particularly concerned about the potential for runoff into the nearby creek as residents use salt or other chemicals on the new sidewalks.
Throughout the neighborhood, bright-green signs reading “Say ‘no’ to sidewalks!” were still posted in yards Friday, but the battle is officially over.
During the meeting in which the council voted unanimously to proceed with the plan, Lindberg said he was influenced by something his 4-year-old daughter said as they walked through the neighborhood.
“She asked me, ‘Why are we walking in the street?’ ” Lindberg said. “Why isn’t there a sidewalk?”