Sunday, December 18, 2016

It's one of those below zero days and too cold to go outside.  Put a pizza in the oven, make some soup, but definitely don't plan on stepping foot outside.  Ok, I did open one door and stuck my hand outside to confirm what the weather channel predicted....and they got it right.  So, I'll use this morning to write about something trash related that has been bugging me.  If you live or work in downtown Minneapolis, you notice all the new apartment buildings going up.  That's a lot of people moving into downtown and a lot of trash to pick up.  The City of Minneapolis only picks up trash for apartment buildings that are 4 units and smaller.  If you live in a single family home or smaller building the city picks up your trash, provides one sort recycling, and organic recycling.  One sort recycling...that means you don't even have to sort out glass, cans and paper into different containers.  Simple.  Plus there is an extra bin for organics.  That group of residents should all be getting an A+ on their recycling efforts.  They are given all the tools they need to be successful recyclers.  But wait, according to the latest addition of the Green Digest by Nate Gotlieb in the Journal, the news isn't all that positive.  A study that was done last May by HERC (Hennepin Energy Recovery Center) shows that many folks are not doing their part and at this rate we will not meet our state-imposed recycling goals by 2030.  In the study, the city dug through garbage from three different neighborhoods and weighed and measured and categorized all that trash. What a fun day that must have been.  Ok, read about it here if you care to find out the details.
Now back to those of us who live in downtown apartments with more than 4 units.  That's a lot of folks and more apartment units are going up like crazy.  We rely on our apartment owners and managers to contract out with trash haulers and provide us with recycling. The hauler that my building uses does not provide organic recycling.  I know because I called them.  I think I should be offered that and I hope the city will remedy that soon.  If I wanted to walk to the nearest city organic recycling site it would be about 4 miles round trip and I'm just not going to do that.  But according to city ordinance (Article VI 225.780), all apartment building owners are required to provide their tenants with the opportunity to recycle.  I'm sure most apartments these days do that.   But there are also other measures that apartment owners are required to do:
  1. Recycling containers conveniently located on the premises of each property
  2. Adequate container volume for recycling collected by tenants of the property
  3. Written recycling educational materials provided from the hauler to the tenants annually that includes the following information:
  • Materials that can be recycled in the hauler’s recycling program
  • How to prepare materials to meet recycling requirements
  • How to properly dispose of hazardous waste including drop-off locations, hours of operation and contact information.
Now as far as my own building is concerned, the recycling container is not exactly convenient, but it is probably the only choice.  The volume of the container is adequate, but number three on the list is what is lacking.  I never received any information on recycling at move-in or on an annual basis thereafter.  This information is supposed to be provided by the trash hauler to be distributed to tenants. And it is education that gets folks to participate and buy into recycling.  Not everyone has a clear idea of what can be recycled and that information changes every year.  It would be interesting to see a study of my apartment building's trash and find out just how we do compared to the neighborhoods from the May HERC study.  I wonder if any of the other large apartment complexes downtown provide their tenants with recycling information?

Friday, December 9, 2016

State of the River 2016 Report

I got up early this morning and went to a presentation of the State of the River 2016 report.  Presented by the Friends of the Mississippi River and the National Park Service's Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, it attempts to tell us how our river is doing.  The 75 or so folks who attended most likely came from city governments, people from the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control and stormwater management groups, but some concerned citizens like me showed up too. Can I swim in the river?  The report has a nice map of impaired vs not impaired stretches of the river.  And by that I mean bacteria in the river that might make you (or your pet) sick.  In the downtown area, it would be best to head to the gorge area or just get out of the city entirely.  The river down by Inver Grove Heights and Hastings is fine or head over to Stillwater and swim in the St.Croix.  Various charts in their report show feedlot runoff to be the biggest culprit, but human septic systems and pet waste play a role too.  Other folks may want to know about fishing and eating what you have caught.  I'm not supposed to tell, but the fishing is supposed to be really good just below the Coon Rapids Dam. The report touched on indicators of river health such as native river mussel population, the status of invasive carp, and bald eagle populations.  While there are many positive things, there were things that stuck in my mind after I left the meeting.
  • Minnesota is responsible for about 6% of the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone problem.  That is the area in the gulf that is so deprived of oxygen that fish cannot live in it.  Hmm, The Dead Zone, sounds like a  good name for a head banger band.
  • In 300 years Lake Pepin will disappear due to sediment buildup coming in from the Minnesota River and even by the end of this century it will be greatly changed.  So, if you have a 5 year old take them over there now, get a photo, and tell them to return in 2095 and see the difference.
  • We dump too much salt on the roads here in the winter.  One teaspoon of salt is enough to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water.  We do not have the technology to get it out once it runs off the roads, into storm drains and finally into the river.
  • We are just beginning to find out what microplastics and microfibers can do to our health.  They are in the river and they are now in you.  Maybe that's the reason you have a gut ache. You know that fuzzy fleece jacket you love.  Every time you wash it, fibers go down the drain.  Well that just sucks!
  • We will never solve our clean water problem unless we get farmers on board and move some farm land into perennial cover crops.  For that to happen there must be markets for them to sell those products and make a living.
Well, sure there is more in the report. So, read it yourself if you are interested at
Finally as the meeting was closing, someone expressed their concern over President Elect Trump's pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency.  Yes, we will be hiring the fox to look after the hen house.  And on that depressing thought the moderator said something like....don't be depressed, choose to live bravely.  And so we must.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Downtown Minneapolis Homeless Camp

I periodically walk up the short trail that leads to this downtown Minneapolis camp.  There is a nice view of the river from here.  Few people living in downtown would even know this camp exists as they run or bike along the trail below. Throughout the spring, summer and fall there are often folks camping here.  With temperatures falling as we approach our coldest months only the foolish might consider camping outside as an alternative to going to a homeless shelter. I think we have reached that point with the weather now.  As people move in and out of this camp, trash gets pushed further and further down the hill.  Whose property is it?  Who is responsible?  It has become an unauthorized urban landfill.  This habitat, these wooded areas along the Mississippi River are also home to birds and animals and they deserve better than this. When you think about it, with humans out of the woods, this is exactly the time of year to get this place cleaned up.  I don't think we have to wait until Earth Day to do something about this disaster.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's feeling like a dirty world out there.  Not happy about the election results and the direction that our country is headed.  Where are we going in terms of climate policy and environmental regulations?  In any case, I can still work on my personal goals in not sending Minnesota trash downstream to other states.

We are having a wonderfully mild fall here and with the leaves off the trees and shrubs it is much easier to see things that need to be picked up.

The song that was running through my head this last week was 99 bottles of beer in the woods, 99 bottles of beer, la, la, la.  I picked up more than that.  Much more.   The warm fall weather tends to bring more folks out into the park.

Dirty and wet blankets, no one is coming back for this stuff.
Park and Rec trash barrel lid.  Another night time Frisbee game.

I thought I was just about done for the day when I came across this mess.  (Fuck-a-doodle was the thought that was going through my mind as I still had that damn song in my head.)

I was out of bags, but noticed there were several wet, partially submerged bags in the river.  So I got a stick and dragged them out.  When I emptied the water out of one bag, $8.25 in quarters poured out along with the dirty river water into the sand!  Thanks.  I'll take it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Chester's Place

About a month ago I was walking under the 10th Street bridge and passed by Chester's Place.  It seemed to have grown since the last time I had walked this way.  This time I decided to go around the fence and take a tour up inside the thing before snow and winter winds start to blow things around.  I found an article in the Star Tribune from 2015 about Chester and his life under the bridge.  He died about a year ago and yet his camp remains as something of a testament to not only his homeless-by-choice lifestyle but also the willingness of his community to look out for him.  It feels more like an art installation now and something that is obviously being cared for by others who may have know him.  

Maybe Chester had visitors who would stop by. His space seems inviting in a weird kind of way. I hope he wouldn't mind me poking my nose around in his home.  (I think I was respectful.)

I love the little figurines in the garden.
There's one of the vehicles that no longer worked. 

And his truck.
I was glad to read in the article that Chester liked to pick up trash in nearby Bluff Park.  He must have brought all his odd finds back to his camp, but maybe now other folks are bringing little items too.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fall Colors

I've put on a lot of miles on my old hiking boots this week, trying to enjoy the weather and get my mind thinking about other things besides politics and the news. I've walked up the new trail along the river in Nordeast Minneapolis, the Winchell Trail, Bohemian Flats, Cedar Lake and through Theodore Wirth. The fall leaves on the ground have been outstanding.

The Winchell Trail along the Mississippi River is so peaceful.
There are still plenty of green leaves in the shrubs and this Broad Winged Hawk stayed still long enough for me to get my camera out and get a picture.

These Prairie Coneflowers were still blooming near Bohemian Flats.  I noticed this flower on the Minnesota Wildflower website, but had never seen one before.  There are still a few die hard flowers blooming here and there along the roads where it's sunny.

I spotted one of the new kayak rentals along the river.  I think you reserve on line, get a code, open the locker and get the paddles and life jacket.  Next year.

Best new surprise of the week.  Someone installed swings under the pedestrian bridge that is near the 35W bridge.  That put a smile on my face and yes I stopped to have a swing just like a kid again.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Today's Crap

I took a quick trip up river today to do about an hour of trash pickup.  Starting under the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, there was the usual litter plus these four cans of Endust.  I see someone was enjoying a little "dusting".  I don't know much about that habit but the evidence was there in the dirt under the bridge.

Also under the Hennepin bridge, the graffiti that arrived early October has been painted over already.  I see "That Guy" was out and about. The bridge maintenance crew was on top of that really fast.  Good job.

Just a bit upstream and on to the river viewing area and steps.  I am here a lot!! So many booze bottles. It is a favorite place for all kinds of stuff, good and bad.  It's time to get park and rec over here to do some graffiti abatement work.  There seems to be an increase of graffiti here with nothing done about it.  Some of this has been here for more than a year and some is more recent.

 If you are going to do do graffiti, it is probably best to not sign your name Azarea.

"That Guy", possibly the most prolific graffiti artist working in the cities marked up the steps a couple of weeks ago.  That white stuff seems like it is some kind of gunky caulk.  After a good rain, it can be chipped off with a pocket knife.  I wonder how long it will take for the residue to fade.
This graffiti has been here for as long as I have lived in downtown.
Last thing of the day was to bring up two air mattresses and and a down comforter out of the woods nearby.  Never leave your address on the box that it came in.  I left it all by the road.  As I was walking home I saw some park and rec guys driving that way so hopefully they picked it up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Paranoid in Bassett Creek

Goodbye Panda Paranoid Wall.  It started out as just two eyeballs and the word paranoid.  That was many months ago.  Then the eyeballs became the the Panda face.  Then the messages starting to appear. I did enjoy reading those messages:  "Stand for something or you'll fall for everything" and "we sat on the side of the hill as we were not allowed into the fairy garden".

Last winter the wall was just a big ugly thing with peeling white paint until the eyeballs appeared.

I was picking up trash along Bassett Creek recently and realized the thing was painted over.  First, I thought ok, great. I like that brown better than the white.

But it's not really finished. The white walls that did not have any graffiti were not painted.  So now, well, it just looks stupid.

Painting over graffiti almost seems like a waste of time and resources when you keep having to repeat the same task.  I think there is a better way to deal with this kind of stuff.  We have a thriving arts community in Minneapolis who could probably come up with some interesting ideas to fix this problem and make areas like this much more pleasant.

That Guy

 I've walked from downtown Minneapolis to the University of Minnesota about 4 times in the last couple of weeks.  There are two pedestrian bridges that go across the river.

The view is great looking up or down the river.  Students were going back to school and the campus was busy.  I grabbed a couple of freebies that folks were handing out; popsicles, chicken on a toothpick, and cheap sunglasses.  If I could have stayed longer I could have gone to a free Korean barbecue but that might be pushing it since I'm not a student.

I couldn't help but notice the graffiti on the East Bank along a wall that faces the river.  That's new.  It's "That Guy" leaving his mark for the beginning of the school year.  I believe the folks that work over at the city graffiti control call you "The Face".  I wonder if they have a file full of your artistry. I started to think of just how often I see graffiti from you and how many photos I have taken.  We visit the same spots.

You've left your mark under all the bridges that I have visited; the Ford Bridge, the Lake St. Bridge and countless others.   Sometimes the proportion of the the face changes.  I know you are also into making stickers and I saw one of your stickers by the entrance to the Bassett Creek conduit.  The truth is, I like stickers.  I need to go back and clean up the trash that was left there.  Was that you?  I picked up a notebook discarded in the bushes along the river walk downtown.  Hup, that was your doodle book.

Sometimes "That Guy" just pops up unexpectedly. 

Mostly "That Guy" keeps to places that are hidden but once in awhile he gets bold and it pops up in a neighborhood.  Maybe this one has been painted over already.  The neighbors around the park probably complained to the city.

I see you visited the homeless camp that we cleaned up last April.  Interestingly enough, the homeless man that helped us clean up this spot along the river was furious that you had left this mark on the concrete wall back there.  I have mixed feelings about this stuff.  There is personal preference for graffiti and what is art.  Once you put it out there everyone is free to be a critic, even the homeless guy at the camp.