Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Greening Minnesota ~ May / June 2011

May and June are great for undertaking activities in the green movement. Read on to find out about how Minnesota communities are working towards creating a more environmentally-friendly world.

First of all, businesses along University Avenue could use your patronage. Construction on the light-rail track installation for the Central Corridor is taking its toll on businesses left struggling. In some cases, revenues have decreased by half as customers forgo trying to get to their favorite places due to the mess. The construction zone stretches from Emerald Avenue on the Minneapolis border to Syndicate Street N. Go have a bite to eat, have some coffee or shop at local businesses as our Twin Cities try to make more public transportation options available to residents.

Melissa Rappaport Schifman and her husband, Jim Schifman, bought a 1950s rambler on a corner lot across from Cedar Lake in Minneapolis with plans to remodel it using green methods and materials. When they discovered what it would cost to solve moisture issues in the basement, they scrapped the idea (and the house) to start from scratch. Ultimately, they built a sustainable, energy-efficient, healthy home with lower their energy consumption (and costs) and great views of the lake.

The long-awaited 4.3-mile Cedar Lake Regional Trail connecting St. Louis Park to the Mississippi River is finally complete. The last mile, through downtown, was ready May 23. The 20-year effort, spearheaded by the Cedar Lake Park Association (CLPA), produced what planners said was the nation's first federally funded bicycle "freeway." Its design, with two one-way bike lanes and a third pedestrian lane, has been reproduced for trails nationwide.

Anoka County also recently celebrated the opening of a 5-mile segment of Rice Creek North Regional Trail. The new trail segment connects the Lino Lakes Town Center with Baldwin Lake Park, through Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve. It also connects Rice...

Strange-But-True: Into the Snake Pit

The Sessions' thought the 5-bedroom house on nearly two acres would be their dream home. Little did they know, the home’s current reptilian residents had other plans.

They slithered behind the walls at night and released foul-smelling musk into the drinking water. And they were so numerous that Ben Sessions once killed 42 in a single day.

Shortly after buying their dream home, Sessions and his wife discovered it was infested with thousands of garter snakes. For the next three months, their growing family lived as if in a horror movie. More than a year after they abandoned the property, the home briefly went back on the market, and they fear it could someday attract another unsuspecting buyer.

garter_snake_400That's when they realized their home was probably sitting atop a hibernaculum, a place where snakes gather in large numbers to hibernate over the fall and winter. 

There had been warning. When they bought the house, a document the couple signed had noted a snake infestation. That unscrupulous real estate agent assured the Sessions' that the snakes were just a story the previous owners invented to abandon their mortgage.

It turned out practically everyone in the tiny town of Rexburg, Idaho, knew the snakes were there. The property even had a nickname among the locals: The Snake House.

The Sessions left in December 2009, the day after their daughter was born and just three months after moving in. Because of the paperwork they had signed, the couple had little recourse but to flee. They filed for bankruptcy and the bank foreclosed.

Then astoundingly, the home briefly went back on the market in its current condition. After the Animal Planet network featured the Sessions' story in its "Infested" series, the listing was removed while...

Celebrate Home Safety Month in June

During the month of June, the Home Safety Council celebrates Home Safety Month! The theme for this year’s Home Safety Month campaign is "Hands on Home Safety."

Home safety is of particular concern to people who are trying to sell a home. If a potential buyer is hurt on your property, instead of unloading a house you might gain a lawsuit!

The Home Safety Council (HSC) is an organization which encourages people to take easy steps toward making their homes safer for people and pets. For this year's Home Safety Month, HSC suggests simple hands-on steps to create a safer home environment from the five leading causes of home injury: falls, poisonings, fires and burns, choking or suffocation, and drowning.  Many household accidents like these can be avoided with precautionary measures!

Falls are the leading cause of injury at home, according to the HSC. Steps that can be take to prevent falls include:

  • Make sure that stairwells and hallways are well-lit
  • Stairs should have handrails on both sides, secured along the full length of the stairway
  • Fix uneven or broken stairs
  • Ensure the halls and stairs are unobstructed
  • Make certain that smooth walking surfaces are dry
  • Place rugs at doorways and in the kitchen in front of the sink to provide traction in potentially slick walking areas

Falls can easily happen outdoors, too. Cracks in the asphalt that result in uneven pavement or a gap can cause people to trip. The concrete doesn't need to be entirely replaced, however. Mud jacking and sand jacking services can help to raise part of the concrete to reduce the gap. Landscaped paths with brickwork or stepping stones that have become uneven over time should be re-leveled.

Check out the safety articles HSC has provided for a variety of potential issues, including fire, water, cooking and child safety. It also might be worth checking out their summer safety guide.


The streets of the Twin Cities are lined with green gold

Those who live in or visit the Twin Cities probably have seen how many trees we have along our streets, avenues and boulevards. 

Recently, a first-of-its-kind study was completed that used high-resolution satellite technology to analyze the tree canopy of the Twin Cities. The study was carried out by a team of University of Minnesota researchers. High-resolution satellite technology was used to examine Minneapolis from above on a clear and cloudless day, recording and analyzing how much tree cover there, down to each individual property.

They study estimated Minneapolis' overall tree coverage to be 31.5%, higher than previous estimates using less precise methods. In St. Paul, the canopy cover rate was 32.5%.

Minneapolis' estimated 979,000 trees offer many benefits, including:

  • Cleaning the air
  • Sucking up water that would otherwise flood stormwater pipes
  • Increase the attractiveness of homes
  • Drive up property values
  • Reducing the need for cooling during hot summer days by providing shade

"In terms of energy conservation, it doesn't get any easier than planting a tree on the west side of your house if you can," [Minneapolis project coordinator June Mathiowetz] said.

The Lynnhurst neighborhood off the southeast shore of Lake Harriet had the most urban tree cover. Nearly 49% of its area is covered, which includes a portion of Minnehaha Creek. Other neighborhoods that rank high for shadiness have residential lots and extensive parkways, mostly along Minnehaha Creek in southern Minneapolis, West River Road, and along the city's western border.

The research will be helpful in multiple ways. The study shows gaps in the urban tree cover, which could help city planners and foresters target areas in need of improvement or develop low-cost programs to encourage more saplings on private land. It also provides a useful benchmark...

Twin Cities are the Healthiest, Fittest in the U.S.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are the healthiest, fittest cities in the country, according to a new examination of the 50 most populous United States metro areas.

The annual American Fitness Index, from the American College of Sports Medicine, is based on health factors, including obesity rates, percentage of people who exercise, and the availability of parks, walking trails and farmers' markets.

Some of the reasons the Twin Cities achieved its high rank is due to a lower-than-average obesity rate, an above-average percentage of residents who exercise, a relatively low smoking rate and moderate-to-low rates of chronic health problems likes asthma, heart disease and diabetes. Oh, and Minneapolis and St. Paul have some of the best and most extensive parks and recreational facilities in the country. Almost 16% of land in the city is park land vs. an average of 10% in other cities.

Here are the rest of the top 10 healthiest cities in the nation:

2. Washington, D.C.
3. Boston
4. Portland, Ore.
5. Denver
6. San Francisco
7. Hartford, Conn.
8. Seattle
9. Virginia Beach
10. Sacramento

Oklahoma City were ranked last and Louisville is second to last. The American College of Sports Medicine is working with these cities and others to help create strategies and policies that make it easier for residents to be healthy.