The following articles by reporter Cristof Traudes appeared in the December 1, 2008, edition of the Southwest Journal
POP MACHINES IN PARKS: DO THEY BELONG?
With the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s beverage contract nearing the end of its fifth and final year, General Manager Don Siggelkow hoped in October to give commissioners a brief update on the process of getting a new contract. What he got instead was a flurry of a discussion that lasted maybe five minutes but revealed a lot of interest and heat.
Commissioner Annie Young wants pop out of the parks. She sees the combination of caffeine and heavy amounts of sugar as dangerous. While she admits to having some bad health habits herself, drinking pop isn’t one of them.
Commissioner Jon Olson, the owner of several Dairy Queen locations, sells pop for a living.
Commissioner Scott Vreeland said he’s drunk maybe three pops in 20 years. He prefers juice, and for the moments he craves less sugar, he drinks water. But no pop.
The discussion blindsided Siggelkow, who heard nothing like this the last time the Park Board approved a beverage contract.
“This wasn’t an issue then,” he said.
At that time, though, there were fewer studies to suggest pop — especially diet pop — had negative impacts on people’s bodies. Childhood obesity was less of an issue then, too. But these days, studies are more regular and findings more shocking. A recent study showed the arteries of some obese children looking similar to those of 45-year-olds.
One of the Park Board’s main missions, laid out in its comprehensive plan, is to promote healthy lifestyles. It’s for that reason that Young wants to have some sort of community dialogue. When the park system is writing grants to boost healthiness, should it also be selling pop at the same time?
“I think it’s something we’re going to have to discuss,” she said.
Not that anyone’s expecting a satisfying outcome.
“It’s kind of a cultural question. I don’t know if there’s a black-or-white answer,” Commissioner Scott Vreeland said.
But he said he still wants to ask, even if merely for the sake of asking.
“We’d like to have [a policy] that the community can like or understand,”
To avoid coinciding a potentially anti-pop discussion with another five-year beverage contract, Siggelkow decided to extend the park system’s current contract, with Coca Cola, for a year. He warned commissioners, though, about getting too deep into a discussion that he said is unlikely to bear any fruit.
“It’s a service,” Siggelkow said. “I don’t think you’re going to change behavior one way or the other. … It’s kind of the same issue as with Halloween candy.”
Take it away, and all the fun might go with it.
EMERALD ASH BORER SPOTTED IN WISCONSIN
The emerald ash borer is creeping closer.
The exotic beetle that has killed ash trees of all types, sizes and ages in states such as Michigan, Ohio and Maryland recently was discovered in Wisconsin — the closest location so far to Minnesota.
There is no known way to eradicate the emerald ash borer, whose larvae disrupt ash trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients. When the beetle is spotted, arborists say the only thing that can be done is watch ash trees die.
There are about 210,000 ash trees in Minneapolis.
Because arborists consider the spread of the beetle slow but inevitable, the only thing Minnesotans can do is make the process take longer. If you believe you’ve seen the ash borer in Minnesota, call the state Department of Agriculture’s “Arrest the Pest” hotline, 651-201-6684, or e-mail Arrest.The.Pest@state.mn.us.
MINNEHAHA FALLS RESTORATION PROJECT UNDERWAY
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and the Park Board broke ground Nov. 21 on the $5.8 million restoration and improvement of the Minnehaha Falls and Glen area in Minnehaha Park.
The work, done in collaboration with the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Veterans Home and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, focuses on fixing up deteriorating 1930s-era structures surrounding Minnehaha Creek, preventing future erosion and constructing new trails. A new rain garden will absorb stormwater runoff.
“There will be greater protection of all natural resources on the site, including a revitalized trail system along Minnehaha Creek below the falls, an elevated boardwalk and stabilized stairways,” Commissioner Carol Kummer said in a news release.
During construction, the area will largely be restricted to visitors. The bulk of work should be completed by spring. Vegetation work at the site is expected to continue through next summer.
For more information about the project, go to http://www.minnehahacreek.org/MinnehahaFallsandGlenRestoration.php.