Thursday, December 10, 2015

Birds and Benches

It's been a little more than a month since I last wrote a blog.  I got distracted by this owl over by St. Anthony Main. Normally street art like this is outside but this fine mural by Adam Turman must be viewed from the outside looking in.  I was doing just that and a minute later I was stepping off the sidewalk, rolling my ankle and ended up flat on the ground in the dirt.  My husband was looking down at me and thinking what the F&%#$ have you done now woman.  I layed there in the dirt (giving myself a few minutes to assess the damage).  Yep, ankle hurts, knee hurts, neck hurts.  Thanks to Chad, a stranger who assisted us in getting back to our side of the river.  

With the help of some physical therapy on my ankle, I've been back out checking on the park.  It was fun to see this canoeist still enjoying the Mississippi River and Bassett Creek on a December afternoon in Minnesota.

There was a real shit storm that hit this bench.

I stalked this tiny Downey Woodpecker until I got a photo.

I've been picking up trash of course.  Some of it, like the sock inside the shoe is frozen solid.  Of course there is less of this kind of thing in the park, but I still see signs of folks sleeping out.  Seems dangerous.  It is dangerous.

Finally, I am a little preoccupied with this bench.  Located above Bassett Creek, it has a nice view of the Mississippi.  A little isolated, so it's a good drinking bench.  I pick up a lot of beer and liquor bottles in this spot.  It's not that I mind that.  It's just that most often the folks that drink here throw their litter off the cliff and into the shrubs below.  I will eventually be able to get to this spot at the end of next summer when the water levels change again.  What would it take to change this behavior here?  Should Park and Rec just remove the bench?  That would be one way I suppose.  If there was a trash can here would that help or would the trash can just get pushed over and rolled down the hill?  It would definitely get rolled down the hill. What about a sign? A sign that says "please don't blah, blah, blah".  No, signs are just good for adding graffiti to.  Flowers?  Yes, and maybe paint that bench pink.  Well, there is some kind of solution here and I'll give it some thought.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Father Hennepin Bluffs Park

Yesterday was one of those top ten weather days.  Early November and it's t-shirt weather outside.  We walked across the river over to Father Hennepin Bluffs Park. It's 5.5 acres of park along the bluff as well as down along the river.  There are some pretty rickety old wooden steps that take you down the bluff to the lower trail.

There would normally be more water down here, but that just gave us an opportunity to explore.  All the old mill ruins are now a graffiti playground.  This park is pretty much neglected. There is plenty of trash to be picked up.  Will do that some other time.

Urban Grotto

Ghetto Protected.  Nice angel.

See that yellow guy?  That image is all over town including a new red one that is along River Road on the downtown side of the river.  He gets around.

That's the Pillsbury's Best Flour sign on top of the old mill buildings.  It was refurbished in the last year and finally relit in the last week.  Workers were down in the lower trail area working on the hydro project that will power the A-Mill building which has been turned into artist lofts.

Good time to explore.  Thanks for leaving the ladder.

What's behind that door?

At the south end of the park you can stand on the shore directly under the Stonearch Bridge.  It's a hot mess of graffiti down there.  Across on the downtown side I could see that this area looked like it had been recently painted which is why I wanted to see for myself.

That barrel should be recycled.


                      I did find a nice covered bench to admire the view of downtown.

You will be okay.  Just don't use the south end steps to go back up the bluff from here.  There is a five foot gap about half way up.  Better to bushwhack it up the hill and through the woods or go back through the park.  Didn't intend to keep walking after Father Hennepin Park, but it was just so nice out.  We decided to walk towards the U of M since we had never done that on the east side of the river.  We got distracted by a path off in the woods.

It's a graffiti playground down in that pit.  Nice view of downtown from here.

Looks like sometimes this pit is home for some folks.

Looking back to where we have been.  The bike path is right off to the left so you don't have to walk on the track if you don't want to.  There is a graffiti culture over here both on the outside and inside of the railroad cars. This area looks like homeless folks are finding shelter here too.

Rainy nights, in my lonesome.

Sluto, I've seen your work elsewhere.  Nicely done.

Take me home.  Yes, time to head back home.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mississippi Meringue

More about that walk yesterday.  As you can see, I'm downstream from downtown Minneapolis.  I'm on that stretch of river between the two locks.  I saw a lot of whitish brown goop floating on the river. Looks like meringue topping on a pie.  Mississippi Meringue.  That's what I'll call it. I have no idea what that stuff is, chemically speaking.  I know I may pick up trash, but what's really important is the quality of the water itself. Can we swim in it, can we eat the fish from it, how are the fish and wildlife doing?  What do we need to do better?

You can get some of those answers in the State of the River publication that is a joint effort of the National Park Service and the Friends of the Mississippi.  It's available on the web at  
I'm going to get through that whole report at some point.

I was following a trash pool that was floating upstream when I noticed the pill container (far left).  I can see it is still full.  Not surprisingly, I pick up quite a few pill containers out of the river, but this one is out of my reach. Page 42 of the State of the River addresses the problem of pharmaceuticals going in the river. Basically don't throw your left over drugs down the drain or in the toilet.  Our treatment plant is not designed to treat for those.  Crush them up and put them in some dirt or cat litter or coffee grounds and seal them in a bag?  That's what I've heard, but are there better methods.  Ideally if there were a place to take them to like a Target Pharmacy for a take back program that would be even better. Here is what the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recommends.

Floating on top of that nice thick green carpet is a bottle with something inside.  Is that another message in a bottle for me?  Out of reach.  I'll check back in the future and see if it's washed closer to shore.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Living on the River Part 2

I had seen this spot near downtown before.  There is a lot of garbage here.  I hauled out some of the stuff on the bottom a month or so ago.  I had been wondering what was on top of the cliff. This is what I came across this morning.

 This is just part of what I found.  Are there folks living here?  I can't imagine there are, but yes I think there might be.  So what is the next step?

Living on the River Part 1

I've come across some unexpected things in the last 6 months on my walks along the Mississippi River.   I have some rules that I go by now. The first one is don't be here alone.  Be safe.  Second is if it looks like someone is coming back don't disturb their stuff however much it looks like trash.  I don't know what issues this person suffers from (alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness), but they don't need me making it worse. This is a photo taken in the summer. I hope this guy has found other shelter because it's now getting colder with every passing day.  If this spot were closer to my home I would probably go back here periodically to see if it was "abandoned" to do some pick up.

This sleeping bag floating downstream last April should have been my first clue about people living along the Mississippi River in camps.  I was never able to retrieve this out of the water.

I have picked up a lot of clothes since I've been doing this.  At first I was disturbed when I would find clothes along the river because it feels, well creepy and I worried that something sinister was going on.  I think the truth is that when a person who is homeless has to carry possessions they just naturally lighten their load.  Used clothing is cheap and easy to replace.  The Salvation Army downtown sells clothes priced by the pound.

Backpacks.  I see these all the time. If they are empty, dirty, falling apart, I will dispose of them.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Changing water levels on the Mississippi River

The falls on the north side of the Third Avene Bridge looked liked this on Monday, October 19th.  Pretty typical day.

A week later on the 26th it was like this.  No more water flowing over the concrete spillway.  That green slime looks nasty.  You can see the spikes poking out of the concrete on the left side that is preventing that giant tree from going over.  How many trees have to collect here before somebody moves those off?   That's not mother nature controlling the water flow.  What's going on upstream?  The Coon Rapids Dam is what's upstream.  The dam was just reopened in July of this year after two years of renovation.  The old rubber gates were replaced with steel gates.  It has been normal procedure to raise or lower the water levels of the pool above the dam each fall and spring so I can only assume that what I see here has something to do with that.  I should have gone out to look at my favorite trash picking spots to see what new stuff was exposed along the shore when the water was this low.

By the time I had the chance to do some trash picking the water levels had changed again. Yesterday I took a walk to survey my Mississippi Mile and see what's been going on.  Bassett Creek is now nice and full.

We are past the prime fall colors but I am still enjoying the leaves on the ground.  There were so many beer bottles and cans dumped just on the other side of this barrier and down the hill.  Oh, why do you people make it so difficult for me!  Ha, I got most of them anyways.

Some clean up at First Bridge Beach.  See that big chunk of stryofoam block.  I pick up a fair amount of marine styrofoam but this is the biggest piece I've found.  (Not good for birds and marine life)  One thing I noticed yesterday is that some of the trash cans along my mile are gone.  I get it.  Winter is coming and less park use.  It just makes it less convenient for me.  Water fountains are turned off and sealed up.

Time to head back home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Green Bricks

This morning I was working a new little spit on the river that I will now name Green's Point.  I found this brick.  The name stamp is nice and readable.  So who is A.P. Green and what became of his empire? A.P. (Allen Percival) was the owner of Green Fire Brick Company in Mexico, Missouri, maker of the world's best fire brick.  He is long dead (b 1875) and things were going well until we find out later that what makes those bricks fire retardant was the asbestos that was added.  Things went south from there and the company went bankrupt after finding it difficult to keep up with all the lawsuits and payments.


I don't know much about asbestos.  Is there asbestos in that brick or is it safe to use if you wanted to add it to your patio?  I didn't bring it up.  I think I've seen others like this one along the river but can't be sure.

Green's Point is just south of the railroad bridge. I had to scramble down the hill and there were a few too many shrub branches poking at me that made it less than comfortable. I try to be careful with those pointy shrub branches and wear my sunglasses.  A month or so ago I scratched my cornea on a shrub branch after reaching for an empty water bottle.  Two doctors visits and putting goop in my eye for 2 weeks taught me to be more careful.  But it's clean now so I have no reason to go back.

More brick trash.  Kind of looks cool.

All in an hour's work.

Come home with me my new little friend.