Sunday, April 24, 2016

Earth Day 2016

Yesterday was the 22nd annual Minneapolis Earthday Clean Up.  I was the site coordinator for the Gold Medal Park location.  We dragged the bags, gloves, first aid kit and all the rest of the stuff down there and waited, wondering if anyone would show up or would they choose one of the other 32 sites around town. But a variety of folks showed up right away and nine of us worked the bluffs behind the 35 Bridge Memorial for 2 1/2 hours.  I had a group of hard workers and a big, big thank you to all of them for their efforts. They didn't know what they were getting into.

The homeless camp back there had been accumulating stuff for years.  Old clothing, tents, sleeping bags, carpet remnants, and just general junk. There is more to be done.  Another day.  So how does a place get like this?  Years of neglect.  It is an isolated spot and honestly a convenient place for people who are homeless to camp out.  It is close to needed services that are in the downtown community.  A month ago when I visited this spot no one was living there.  One week before the cleanup date that had changed and my husband and I spoke with the guy who is temporarily calling it home.  He is working to change his circumstances.  He was joyful that we were coming to help clear the trash out.  In fact, he said he could hardly sleep the night before and thought we were all a bit late when we arrived at 9:30 am!  Dude, you are a hard worker and I am grateful to have had the experience of meeting you and hope you get back on your feet soon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Walk to Snelling State Park

How much trouble is it to get to Snelling State Park without a car?  The normal entrance by car is by taking the Post Road exit off of 494 by the airport.  Without a vehicle you can take the light rail to the Fort Snelling Light Rail Station then walk a ways on Minnehaha Avenue curving around to Bloomington Road until you see the underpass of the freeway.  Or maybe you can just follow a river otter if you see one like we did. This little guy wasn't planning on going down the storm drain.  He waited for the car to pass and then headed toward the river.

Once you find the old fort, walk back behind it and down the path to get into the state park.  There are no entrance fees if you come in this way without a car.

Once you're down in the park there are any number of walks.  Without a car we didn't have to think about coming back the same way we got into the park. Our plan was to head upstream back towards Minnehaha Park and get back to the light rail station that way, but I suspect that if you walked in the other direction toward the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge you would be able to walk to the Mall of America and hop on the light rail from there.  You could have a hike and a shopping trip all in the same day!

I think they call this point Steamboat Landing.  That's the Highway 5 bridge upstream.  Downstream a little further is where the Minnesota River converges with the Mississippi River.

Limestone caves along the river are so tempting to go in.  I did find some plastic bags in the woods so I decided I should pick up some litter along the way.  The park seemed pretty clean.....

....until I poked my head under a few footbridges.  I left it all there cause I didn't want to haul it.

Under the Highway 5 bridge there is this weird pedestrian footbridge that my neighbor said she had crossed once in her youth.  Looks like a bad idea.  I don't think that is what it was meant for.

Some of the park has infrastructure problems.

Taking a detour to visit the Coldwater Springs area, the site of American soldier's first settlement in Minnesota.  This area used to have some government buildings that were covered with graffiti inside and out before they removed them all.  I don't think I ever saw that graffiti, but I think there were some tours led by park rangers before the restoration efforts began.


Still heading upstream. I don't know where Snelling State Park ends and Minnehaha Regional Park begins.  I wonder what the history of this totem pole is?  Tripadvisor shows a picture of it as #144 of its things to do in Minneapolis. Who knew.  Keep walking.  We found ourselves coming through the back entrance of a very large off leash dog park.  Happy dogs everywhere.  Large dogs that couldn't care less about you because they had too many other things to smell.  Pure doggy heaven.  Outside the doggy park park we were now in Minnehaha Park and at the top of the bluff.

Through the trees at the top of the bluff we could spot a bit of color so.....we walked back down to the where Minnehaha Creek lets out to the Mississippi River.  It's a graffiti hot mess down there.  So let's explore it a bit.

                                          Interesting.  Yes, I am at the place I was meant to be.

                                                                            Nice work.

                                                               Climbing up some steps.

                                                      Hmm...that gate might be unlocked.

                                                             Following the creek back.

WPA job (1940), approximately 135 steps up.  Beer waiting at the top.  Bent Paddle Stout to be exact.  I hurried up those steps.  Light rail station just another 1/2 mile beyond the beer stop.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Utility Boxes in Minneapolis

When I want to walk inside the Skyway instead of outside, the river to the Convention Center is about three miles roundtrip.  I did that loop the first weekend in April.  There was a lot going on that weekend including some free beer tasting, a sportsman's show, and some body builders parading around.  The City of Minneapolis had a bunch of tables with assorted displays of services that they provide.  I picked up a flyer for a city resource called The Placemaking Hub.  The flyer describes the Hub as "a new online resource from the City of Minneapolis to guide community driven enhancements in the public realm."  In a nutshell if you want to find out about making the City of Minneapolis a better place to live in you could probably find it there.  One of the programs offered is the Artist Designed Utility Box program.  I have seen various utility boxes around town and wondered how artists got permission to paint those.  Hennepin Avenue has quite a few.

Maybe a utility box in your neighborhood looks like this.  It occasionally gets tagged, then painted over, then tagged again.  The cycle keeps going around and around.

This utility box would be more fun.  So how do you get it painted?  You can't just get a group of your friends and start painting.  That would be great but the city requires a bit more of a process.  

There's forms, approvals, etc.  Find an artist, get the neighborhood or business to sponsor, submit applications, wait for 8 or 9 weeks for approval, pay some fees, etc.  It ain't easy, but I'm glad that some folks had the patience to go through that process.

You could end up with a work of art on the street.  Taggers seem to leave them alone after they are complete.

Artists and the neighborhood that sponsored the project are supposed to maintain them, do some touch ups when needed.  This one could use a little paint but it still looks better than the plain box it used to be.

Thank you to all the artists and sponsors who have made walking around downtown more interesting.