Completing the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway is a Minneapolis Park and Recreation project that is still probably five years out there. (Actually, it’s been unfinished for more than 100 years; landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland thought up the original idea of a “continuous green necklace” looping Minneapolis in the 1900s.) So far, it includes 50 miles of parkway, bike and pedestrian trails.
The problem is, it’s got a gap.
The gap–a.k.a. the Missing Link–is three miles long and lies between St. Anthony Parkway and River Road in Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis.
A Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) and a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), comprised of city staff that includes engineers and architects, have been meeting since last summer, trying to figure out how to connect the pieces.
Recently, a CAC suggestion to use St. Anthony Parkway as a primary route and Stinson Parkway as a secondary route caused a stir. Some neighbors in the Windom Park and Audubon neighborhoods, especially those who live on Stinson Parkway, strongly oppose it. And because the eastern curve of St. Anthony Parkway runs through the city of St. Anthony (where the name changes to “St. Anthony Boulevard”) the idea hasn’t been well received by St. Anthony city folk, either.
Jerry Faust, St. Anthony Village mayor, said, “There was some conversation on the staff level. We’re not interested. It absolutely doesn’t make any sense. It is not the St. Anthony Grand Rounds, it is the Minneapolis Grand Rounds. The people in Minneapolis who live on Stinson Parkway don’t want it, so then where would ours go? On our parkway?”
In the meantime, some neighbors calling themselves the “Save Stinson” group, started a web site (www.savestinson.org) and posted red lawn signs on Stinson Parkway. Windom Park Citizens in Action (WPCiA) president Doron Clark said the “Save Stinson” people are not officially endorsed by WPCiA. However, WPCiA has written a four page “position document” setting forth its own views about the Stinson Parkway bicycle path, which it does not support. Clark said he was scheduled to talk about it at the park board’s April 9 meeting.
“Stinson Boulevard has always been a key part of the Windom Park neighborhood. It is a main thoroughfare, and part of our park space. Over the years, we’ve grown more concerned because of traffic,” Clark said. “The speed limit there is 25; one in seven cars is going at least 35. We’ve been after the city and park board to do a traffic study of that route. There hasn’t been a study since 1997, just after the Quarry shopping center [between Stinson Boulevard, New Brighton Boulevard, 18th Avenue and Johnson Street] opened, and before the Stinson Technology Campus [Stinson Boulevard and Kennedy Street NE] and all the development in St. Anthony [Silver Lake Village, between Stinson and Silver Lake Road, north of 37th Avenue NE] took place. Traffic on it is very high.
“If the park board wants to create a family-friendly bike route, then a street with 11,000 cars a day and children on bikes cannot mix. In under a mile, there are seven intersections and Highway 88.
“Part of our frustration is that there’s been a lack of information,” Clark added. “CAC [Citizen Advisory Committee] has been working their tails off, concentrating mostly on the area south of Hennepin. When discussions about Northeast come up, people say ‘you don’t need to worry about it. That’s just amenities we’re talking about there.’
“We see it differently. The boulevard is 24 feet wide. It might become six feet of grass, 12 feet of asphalt and six feet of grass,” he said. “The reason CAC recommended Stinson Parkway for a secondary roadway was to create a bike loop. We don’t mind the idea of a loop, but it would be redundant; a current loop already exists with the Northeast [Minneapolis] Diagonal Trail.”
(The entrance to the newly constructed Minneapolis Diagonal Trail is at the south end of Sunset Memorial Park, at New Brighton Boulevard and Stinson Boulevard. The pedestrian/bike trail was built in 2007 and 2008 and is a joint $2 million project between Minneapolis, St. Anthony, Three Rivers Park District, Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority, and Ramsey County Parks and Recreation. It received city, county and federal funds. According to City of Minneapolis information, the 2.9 mile trail runs from Elm St. SE/18th Ave. SE along Stinson Boulevard to the Stinson/New Brighton boulevard intersection and to the Hennepin/Ramsey County line where it connects to Roseville’s County Road B-2 trail.)
Clark said that although WPCiA opposes the Stinson bike route, that doesn’t mean they’re not in favor of bike paths. “We support the idea of getting this done. We are pro-bike path. We put $50,000 into the Minneapolis Diagonal Trail and have $100,000 set aside for the proposed 18th Avenue bikeway.”
Even though the Missing Link construction might be some years in the future, he added, the planning is starting now.
“The bulldozers and chainsaws may not be there today, but if we don’t act now they will be coming. One neighbor, Lois Kelly, walked two blocks on Stinson Parkway and counted 22 trees that would have to be cut down. Everywhere in Minneapolis is supposed to be within six blocks of a park. Well, in Windom Park, that is our green space. We are confident that if all of our arguments are listened to regarding this, people will agree that Stinson is not the right place. Let’s go with the right proposal, not the first proposal.”
Nick Eoloff, park planner for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, said CAC had two charges: finding a Missing Link route, and coming up with additional green space, open space and park space for the Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis residents.
There were 20 people on CAC, he said.
“The Missing Link is more than a bike trail. It’s a parkway, with cars on it. There is a bike and hike trail and green space. At this point, we haven’t even looked at where the bike trail is going to go. The committee just suggested that there be a loop in the bike trail.”
CAC member and past Audubon Neighborhood Association (ANA) president Gavin Watt said the park board hired consultants HNTB to work with CAC on the Missing Link, and the committee has spent most of its time talking about the southeast routes, where industrial complexes stand in the way and make routing difficult.
CAC members were told at the outset, he added, that “we were not building a bikeway. We’re making a parkway happen. It will be a roadway for vehicular traffic–limited access, no semis–with an off-road fast bike lane and an off-road pedestrian path. It is not about bike transportation. A key part of it is that it has to be green, with grass and trees and plantings, or have some sort of historic interest.”
He said that some Audubon Park neighborhood residents, like those in Windom Park, have made it clear to their neighborhood groups that they do not want a bike path on Stinson Parkway. “Nobody wants it in their front yard.”
Watt added, “This is a very big project. When you start throwing bridges and underpasses in and when you get federal money for it, you have to provide bike and pedestrian routes along with it. It will probably be at least five years in the future. We’ve just been making recommendations; the park board doesn’t have to follow them.”
John Akre, CAC member, Sheridan Neighborhood Organization (SNO) member and avid biker, said, “We haven’t actually talked at all about putting any off-street bike paths on Stinson. As a bicyclist, I think Stinson probably doesn’t have much room for anything other than stripes on the street. I think Windom Park [neighbors might be upset because they] felt like they didn’t have a voice in that process. As far as I know, though, the process hasn’t said anything that’s been written in stone other than what already exists: Stinson is part of the Grand Rounds parkway system.”
The happening bike trail
Eoloff said construction will start this spring on another Northeast project, a bike trail on St. Anthony Parkway (Northeaster, Aug. 11, 2005). The trail will run 3.5 miles, from Stinson Parkway to the Mississippi River, with a crossing at Camden Bridge. It will cost about $800,000.
“The trail varies in width, with a 10 foot wide average. It will be a two way bike trail, mostly asphalt, but the part between Ulysses and Stinson will be concrete.” Construction should take no more than 60 days, he added.
Details can be found on the park board’s website (www.minneapolisparks.org) under Design and Planning, Current Projects, St. Anthony Bike Trail.