Friday, August 28, 2015

North Mississippi Regional Park

Yesterday morning we took the the No. 22 bus from downtown to North Mississippi Regional Park.  The bus goes up Lyndale Avenue paralleling Interstate 94 along the river.  Exit the bus at 42nd Ave N. It's only 4 or 5 miles out of downtown.  Walk out onto the Camden Bridge to get this view.  The park is on the west side of the river and the water treatment facility for Minneapolis is on the right.

Underneath the bridge (no graffiti here) we heard noises that sounded like a combination of jungle birds and car alarms.  We finally noticed the speakers attached to the underside of the bridge beams.  That noise might possibly keep taggers off the bridge, but I guess it was designed to keep birds from nesting there. Someone else thought it was interesting and put up a you tube video of that racket. 

Shingle Creek empties out into the Mississippi in the park.

I picked up three bags of litter in the park.  A park attendant told us volunteers pick up trash about 4 times a year.  These branches and logs make a nice barrier for collecting trash that comes out of the creek

There is a nice view of Heron Island from the park.  No herons in sight and the island looks a little raggedy. There was a tornado that went through this area in 2011 decimating the rookery that was once here. 

I wonder if some of the herons that we have seen just downstream at Bassett Creek were from this island originally.  There are plans to restore the cottonwood trees and the herons to the island.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Middle Beach Litter Pool

Just over this log at the end of Middle Beach we found a nice litter pool waiting for us this morning.

That laundry basket came in handy for trash collecting

Victor Leavy, your basketball ended up here in case you were wondering what happened to it.  It didn't look like it could be salvaged.

Handguns and funyuns were just some of the junk from this morning.

And just about done.  Does that shadow make me look fat?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Walk to Bohemian Flats

After walking about a mile down 2nd St South in downtown Minneapolis toward the 35W freeway you come to this nice little tunnel. (bikes and pedestrians only!)  It's the start of the Dinkytown Greenway and it takes you right under the freeway.  No graffiti here.  There are cameras everywhere.  On the other side of the tunnel is the 10th Avenue Bridge and an interesting display of art, junk, found objects.  What is it and why is it there?

It's all neatly arranged behind a fence.  It looks a little like a voodoo garage sale.  Several months back I remember seeing a newspaper article by Tim Spitzack in the Downtown St. Paul Voice.  He came across this on a walk and well, that's all I can remember.  Further research needed I guess.

 If you keep walking past Bluff Street Park and down to the river you will reach the Lower St. Anthony Lock and Dam.  The Upper Lock and Dam is closed to boat traffic but the Upper Lock still allows boat traffic through.  There's a nice view of downtown from here.

I found a good spot by the Lock and Dam for some trash collecting.  This area was in desperate need of some care.  It had all the usual stuff.  I didn't have enough bags with me for everything in this area.

Looking downstream toward the U of M, the new 35W bridge is sleek and clean compared to the old Tenth Avenue Bridge right next to it.  The 35W bridge was built in 2007 after the sudden collapse of the old bridge killing 13 and injuring over 100. The Tenth Ave Bridge was built in 1929 and seems like it is in desperate need of repair.  I've wondered why we need both of these bridges now and this MinnPost article tackles that question.  One thing that is interesting about the new 35W bridge is that the design makes it very difficult to vandalize.  Those sloping columns don't make it easy to scale for someone with an itch to put their tag on it.  There is nowhere to anchor a rope and dangle from the underside of that bridge.

At the base of both of the bridges.

Keep walking downstream past the old Burlington Northern Bridge now turned into a Bike/Pedestrian Bridge.  Those faded words say North Coast Limited.  The NCL was one of Northern Pacific's passenger trains.  It was discontinued back in the early 1970's.

 Bohemian Flats was my destination for today.  Back in the late 1800's this space was home to 1,000 people living along the river.  There is no trace of their lives now except in the history books.  There is a good short description of life there at

Along the river I met Tim H. who was happy to show me his catfish catch.  I asked him if he eats the fish he pulls out and he said yes, some of it.

He showed me the gills of the one he had already caught.  They were pink and healthy.  If the gills are black then it has mercury poisoning.  Don't eat it, don't throw it back.  Kill it and put it in the garbage.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Haircut at First Beach

This gathering spot between the old railroad bridge and the Hennepin Avenue Bridge has no name that I know of.  I've referred to this spot as Debbie Duncan Beach.  In any case it is a place for folks taking a break from work to eat lunch and have a view of the river.  It's a place where old guys gather to sip coffee, read the paper and smoke. It's a spot for exercise groups, a place for folks with cameras and sketchbooks, and folks throwing out a line at night hoping to pull in a few of the giant catfish out there. It is well used but in need of a makeover.

When I took this picture in May 2015 this was typical of what the litter looked like on the beach.  When people see trash they have a tendency to leave theirs there too because well, why bother.  When folks see it clean does it change behaviors?

Maybe a better name for this beach is First Bridge Beach because the Hennepin Bridge there in the distance is considered to be the first bridge that was built over the Mississippi River.  Well, not that bridge exactly but the one that was built in the 1850's.  We are either on our 3rd or 4th bridge in that spot.


In the last week or so this stretch of beach got a haircut.  About of 20 to 30 feet of brush was cleared and the shoreline was extended.  I have no idea what the motivation to do this was.  There is a nice bench sitting at the top of the cleared area and maybe it was cleared just to improve the view.  Maybe it was cleared because there were some invasive species of plants in that spot.  Folks who want to fish here have gained some ground.  Whatever the reason I bet that Park and Rec (maybe they did) did not know that this was a favorite spot for homeless folks to hide from the world.  I had been in that thicket a few times and it wasn't so easy to pick up trash in there.  It was always sad to find an abandoned bag that had a few personal items scattered on the ground.  Things that they had received from a shelter like deodorant and a razor.  Empty pill bottles, items that they took with them from a hospital stay, a crumpled up college admission form, dirty clothes. I gathered up 6 or 7 liquor bottles and all the rest of it today so it looks better, but I expect that the thicket just beyond will serve the same purpose soon.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Whose Trash Is It Anyway?

I was out early this morning for my trash walk to Far Beach wearing long pants and a sweatshirt.  JOY! The heat is gone. Watched thunder and lighting and rain last night from my balcony while listening to an old Outlaws version of Ghost Riders in the Sky.  Yippie i ay, yippie i oh. Naturally, after the storm there was new trash that had floated onto the beach.  This Marine Max sign must have floated in from some business selling boats upstream.  It was laying half on the beach and half in the water.  So whose property is it actually on?  Does the shoreline of the Mississippi River belong to the State of Minnesota?  When the shoreline is part of the park does it make it Park and Rec property which means City of Minneapolis?  I don't know.  I collected a bag of junk as usual plus this sign and brought it up to the Park and Rec trash bins.  A trash collector from the City of Minneapolis was there and said I couldn't leave the sign there.  After some discussion he took my sign (after smashing it up) and was off to the incinerator.  I asked him about the stove top down on the beach and he let me know that I can't just drag anything out of the water or I could incur a stiff fine.  (Just how much of a fine are we talking about?)  The stove top was technically not in the water, it's on the beach and the last time I looked for it I couldn't find it. Someone else may have brought it up!  I told him about the big fan thingy I dragged up a few months ago.  I called the city about it originally but after waiting for a week or two I finally broke it into pieces and put it in a trash bin.  It was definitely on park property to begin with so I think I'm safe there.  What about when I pick up trash under the Hennepin Bridge (not park property) and put it in the Park and Rec trash bin.  Ok, not ok?  Isn't it all city property anyway? Today I took a stick and grabbed a Frito bag that was floating in the river.  Clearly in the river, three feet out into the river.  Guilty!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Skyway Walk

Xcel Energy Box on Hennepin Avenue
Yeah, it's been hot and muggy and we are all tired of it.  I think the end is near though.  Thunderstorms are approaching and that means cooler weather will follow.  When it's been too hot to walk outside I head indoors to the Skyway.  Supposedly there are about 8 miles of walking through connecting buildings in downtown Minneapolis.  If I want an hour long walk (3miles) I will usually do the outer loop or walk from the river to the convention center and back.

The Skyway connections are maintained by the various building owners and they are certainly not all the same.  One can be like a sauna and the next is wonderfully air conditioned.  Hours can vary slightly too between buildings.  Last Friday I was in the Skyway just before the crazy rush of downtown workers looking for a little lunch.  The Skyways are full of food choices for folks. Since Earth Day last April I have been witnessing the downtown transition from Styrofoam take out containers to compostible containers made out of more eco-friendly materials.  I haven't done a scientific survey of this change but I watch and I notice when one business has made a change and others have not.  Sometimes I will ask a manager or business owner what their experience has been.  Eco-friendly containers cost more and some businesses pass it on to the consumer and some are sucking it up and hoping the container prices will come down soon.  Dave from Dave's Downtown in the Oracle Building says he was on board before the Earth Day mandate and is happy to be a part of this important change.   A few (no names here) who have done nothing claim that they are still using old stock (which is allowed) but I find it hard to believe that after 4 months you would still have old stock to use up.  Will they be fined when they have their yearly health inspection?  I hope so.  I also spoke with Kate from Greenfield Natural Kitchen in the Canadian Pacific Building.  She has created a great visual display over their recycling bins so the customer is not confused about what goes where.  She also gave me a tutorial on PPL plastics (who knew that you could make takeout bowls out of corn and sugar).  By the way Greenfield is also composting stuff right in the basement of their building.

Have you noticed how some plastic bottles are getting really thin?
Really there is so much to learn about recycling.  Where does our trash in Minneapolis even end up?  Do we have landfills somewhere?  The website MPLS Green answered some of those questions for me and I recommend the short video on their website.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

University of Minnesota River Flats

We took the light rail from downtown to the U of M yesterday morning.  I wanted to see what the beach looked liked on the east bank of the University.  Just behind the medical center is a staircase that takes you down to the river flats area.  I saw the familiar Park and Rec trash barrel so I guess that makes this city of Minneapolis park land.  The stuffed elephant was waiting there at the bottom of the staircase. No, I did not throw him in the barrel.  My bag was half full of trash just with what I picked up on the staircase.

I don't remember ever exploring this side of the river.  On our way down to the beach we came across this little gem.  This graffiti work at least does a nice job of blending into its environment.  I wonder what's in that little locked door.

The beach area has several larger items that need to be hauled out.  This one looks like a heavy duty metal frame for what maybe was once a dormitory sofa.  Wild party in the dorm.  Next day the sofa is missing.

More large items...propane tank and I don't even know what that other piece of metal was from.

 There were some interesting things down at the beach.  I like that minimalist fork sculpture.

If you leave the River Flats area and take the path downstream you will get to the foot bridge and the area under the I 94 bridge.  By the time we arrived there my trash bag was full.  I saw another empty bag near the foot bridge and went to get it.  I reached for the bag and realized I was looking right into some guy's make shift home.  He looked to be about 20 years old and was sound asleep.  I backed out of there as quiet as I could.  If you walk in any of the urban paths along the Mississippi River, there will be evidence of people living along the river.  That is just a fact.  There is more graffiti along the way too.  The graffiti that I see on the bridges and cliffs just isn't particularly well done and it doesn't add anything to the experience.  It seems most of it is less about artist expression and more about dare devil skills of getting onto and under the bridges and scrambling up rocky cliffs.  Further downstream is the Franklin Avenue bridge.  The bridge is closed for repairs and the path under it is also closed.  Under the bridge and up in the cliffs is more graffiti and another makeshift home. Sticks and blankets shield the entrance to a cave.  Someone has hung a swing from a tree for entertainment. Time to turn back.  Had the path been open, we would have been in St. Paul and continued onto other parks along the river.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fishing Lure Collection

Hey, it doesn't hurt to start out with a pretty picture before I get to the trashy stuff.  We had some beautiful evening strolls this week.  There was plenty of urban fishing going on and a couple of gals had some nice size catfish on their stringer.

I've started my own collection of found fishing gear.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these but I'm going to start by snapping off those nasty hooks. Christmas tree ornaments?  Future art project?

I dragged up this blue tarp this past week.  It had been stuck under a big log since the spring and I'd been waiting patiently for it to come loose.  

A little further down from that tarp in a tangle of drift wood is some kind of a basket.  I had seen it from a distance but wondered if I could get in there to retrieve it.  Of course there are a bunch of other trash goodies waiting to be collected.  I can't quite tell if that is a laundry basket or something else.  Somewhere up river Martha or Harriet is still blaming the boys next door when her basket went missing.  Maybe I'll get over there next week to see what kind of treasure awaits me.  More fishing lures I hope.

There are a few metal items down along Middle Beach waiting for disposal.  Looks like a stove top to me.  It's not going to fit in the Park and Rec trash cans.

My favorite photo of the week.  Look, George....everything looks better this way!