Welcome to the new Park Watch website. We hope that you will find the new format easier to read and to use. To facilitate navigating the website, there is a search feature and an index of topics.
In addition to the current postings, the new website includes ALL the postings from the old website beginning with January 2004. With ten years of postings, the Park Watch website presents a valuable perspective on a critical period in the Park Board’s history.
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Attached is the July 21, 2015 MPRB Comment Letter (12 pages) which was submitted to the Met Council regarding the SWLRT Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).
The following article by Janet Moore was published in the July 23, 2015 edition of the Star Tribune:
Transit Deja Vu: Another Round of Public Hearings Set for Southwest Light Rail
Met Council Chairman Adam Duininck — Photo by Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune
Changes from cost-cutting have changed $1.74 billion project.
Just when it seemed like a retooled Southwest light-rail line was back on track, the Metropolitan Council opted Wednesday to order a new round of public hearings that will stretch into October.
The hearings and subsequent votes, called municipal consent, will take place in Hennepin County and the five cities along the line — Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. They are prompted by more than $250 million in cuts to the project, including dropping the final station at Mitchell Road in Eden Prairie and deferring another stop at Town Center there.
The cost of the slimmed-down line now stands at $1.74 billion, a dramatic change that will require more public input.
To continue reading, click on this link to the Star Tribune:
The following article by Steve Brandt was published in the July 16, 2015 edition of the Star Tribune.
Minneapolis Parks Spurn Graco Offer
The action opens plans for part of a riverside park to other developers.
Minneapolis parks commissioners ramped up pressure on Graco Minnesota Inc. by rejecting its development proposal for part of a planned riverfront park and instead seeking proposals from all comers.
The action means Graco won’t have a leg up on developing about 3 acres of the former Scherer lumber site upstream from the Plymouth Avenue Bridge in northeast Minneapolis. The board vote was 8-0.
Graco had proposed two office buildings of about 50,000 square feet each on land it would lease from the Park Board for at least 99 years. The lease payments from any development would help pay park operational costs.
A key riverfront advisory committee rejected the proposal as “insulting” for not meeting previous riverfront planning guidelines.
To continue reading, click on the link to the Star Tribune
Star Tribune: Minneapolis parks spurn Graco offer
The following article by Friends of the Mississippi River staff member Irene Jones was published in the FMR newsletter on July 20, 2015.
Three Cheers for the Minneapolis Park Board
After months of trying to negotiate an agreement with Graco Corporation to provide an easement for a riverfront trail in northeast Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has secured the narrow strip of land for the trail through condemnation, also known as eminent domain. Surprisingly, Graco did not object to the land transfer when they testified in court, but the final price that MPRB will pay Graco is yet to be determined by a court appointed panel.
This move paves the way for MPRB to construct a new east bank trail that will connect Boom Island Park to the Burlington Northern railroad bridge at approximately 18th Avenue NE. If title to the land had not been granted, MPRB would have risked losing a $1 million federal grant to install the trails. The new trail will also connect Sheridan Memorial Park and the future Hall’s Island Park to the regional trail system for the metropolitan area.
The MPRB has issued the following press release.
Public Hearing Regarding Proposed Concept Design for Water Works on 8/5/15
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) will hold a public hearing on the proposed concept design for Water Works as a subarea of Mill Ruins Park within the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park. The hearing will be held on Wednesday, August 5 at 6:30 pm in the Board Room of MPRB at 2117 West River Road in Minneapolis.
Since 2013, the MPRB has been collaborating with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation to prepare a refined and expanded design for the upper portion of Mill Ruins Park, an area being called Water Works in honor of the location’s history. Preparation of the Water Works concept design was performed within the community engagement process conducted for the update to the Central Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan adopted by the Board of Commissioners on April 1, 2015. The key tenets of the Water Works design were recommended for approval by the appointed Central Riverfront Community Advisory Committee and adopted into the master plan by the Board. The Water Works concept plan builds largely from the 25-year old Mill Ruin Park plan but expands the plan to the west side of the parkway, infuses greater recreational interests, clarifies complex site circulation and restoration, and like other signature locations in the Minneapolis park system, establishes a clear point of arrival, place of shelter, and visitor services.
All are welcome to attend and provide comment on the recommendations regarding the proposed concept design.
The following letter was submitted to the Met Council on July 20, 2015:
Danger of Co-location of Freight and Light rail
I am opposed to the SWLRT co-location of freight trains and light-rail. I want to make the point that the freight cars carrying flammable liquids can leak or exude flammable fumes and should not be located adjacent to light-rail and light-rail’s electrical wires because of the danger of an explosion. This is particularly dangerous in the Kenilworth residential area. Co-location should be banned.
Bryn Mawr Neighborhood
Co-founder of Park Watch
The following article by Susu Jeffrey was published on July 21, 2015 in the RISE UP TIMES: Media for Justice and Peace.
Shafted by SWLRT: Comments by Susu Jeffrey on the Most Expensive Public Works Project Ever Proposed in Minnesota
The Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) public process by Hennepin County Commission and Metropolitan Council has been an exercise in pretend democracy. From the beginning the LRT was presented by elected and appointed government officials as a fait accompli.
Although design plans have morphed since 2014 no new municipal consent procedure appears to be planned. With an estimated cost approaching $2-billion, half the funds from federal sources, SWLRT is the most expensive tax-payer program ever imagined for Minnesota.
The off and on again co-location of heavy and light rail traffic was a bait-&-switch tactic. To illustrate the intent to deceive the public about the safety of co-location no “blast zone” map of ethanol rail cars next to the SWLRT was produced for citizen inspection and comment.
From St. Louis Park to the baseball stadium, through the Chain of Lakes, the half mile wide residential and park land remains menaced. The manipulation of promises and threats reifies citizen mistrust of government powers.
The “Equity Train”
The “equity” argument for the SWLRT was a brilliant public relations maneuver to silence guilt-prone white people. Equity is P.C. The pitch was that underserved black Northsiders would get transportation to jobs in the southwest suburbs. Like the promise to move heavy freight with dangerous ethanol traffic out of the urban zone, the equity promise lapsed.
SWLRT was never planned to move the densely populated Minneapolis black Northside or white Uptown populations. In addition to being a construction jobs program the SWLRT was apparently designed as infrastructure for workers to get to suburban cubical factories. Continue reading
The following article by Dylan Thomas was published July 8, 2015 in the Southwest Journal and updated on July 14.
Met Council Approves Slimmed-down SWLRT Project
Even after $250 million in cuts, funds in question for $1.74-billion transit link between Eden Prairie and Minneapolis.
The Metropolitan Council on Wednesday afternoon voted to approve a Southwest Light Rail Transit project slimmed down in both budget and scope.
The line is about $250 million and a station lighter than it was just a few weeks ago, before the project’s Corridor Management Committee agreed July 1 on a package of cuts. Now a $1.74-billion project — instead of nearly $2 billion — the light-rail connection between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie still has a long way to go before opening day in 2020.
Met Council Member Gail Dorfman, a former Hennepin County commissioner, praised the local elected officials who pushed the controversial transit project forward, saying they were “beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The following press release has been issued by the Met Council:
Met Council initiates municipal consent process on revised preliminary design plans
MINNEAPOLIS – July 22, 2015 – After making $250 million in scope reductions recommended by communities on the planned Southwest LRT line in early July, the Metropolitan Council today approved reinitiating the municipal consent process.
While the corridor communities demonstrated strong support for the future METRO Green Line Extension by committing funds and suggesting reductions, the Council will again seek municipal consent from Hennepin County and the cities of Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minneapolis.
“The municipal consent hearings will be the public’s opportunity to comment on the preliminary design plans that were revised as a result of $250 million in scope reductions,” Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck said. “Southwest LRT is a once-in-a-century project and reinitiating municipal consent is critical to ensuring that there is an opportunity for public and community response to the project’s current design.”
The Metropolitan Council/Hennepin County Board of Commissioners/Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) will jointly hold the first public hearing on the revised Southwest LRT preliminary design plans on Aug. 27. The five corridor cities will set their own hearing dates. The process must be completed between July 23 and Oct. 11.
The public comment portion of the Aug. 27 joint hearing will begin at 6 p.m. at Hennepin County’s Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, in Minneapolis. An open house where the public can review layouts will be held at 5 p.m. prior to the public hearing. Upon request, the Council will provide reasonable accommodations (i.e. sign language, an interpreter or assisted hearing equipment) to persons with disabilities. Please contact Nkongo Cigolo at 612-373-3825 or Nkongo.Cigolo@metrotransit.org at least seven days before the hearing to request assistance.