Greening Minnesota ~ March 2011

Spring is in the air, the snow is melting, and hearty Minnesotans are beginning to stir from a long winter. With our local world getting ready to turn green, its only natural that more projects to Green Minnesota have been popping up. Here is a roundup.

According to the quarterly U.S. wind energy rankings published by the American Wind Energy Association, Minnesota is ranked fourth in the nation in installed wind capacity. Three new, large wind farms that came online late last year pushed Minnesota to No. 4, up from No. 7 the previous quarter. Minnesota ended 2010 with wind energy production capacity of 2,196 megawatts.

Coon Rapids' Homes for Generations program aims to take houses that are older but otherwise solid and "recycle" them by transforming them into homes built to last. In previous projects, builders used recycled and repurposed materials to save money. The fourth project will be even more eco-oriented, using things like recycled paint and solar panels.

Plymouth is hoping to add organics recycling, commercial and multi-family housing to its next citywide contract to encourage residents and businesses to recycle more trash. In contract bids, due March 24, Plymouth invited competing companies to propose a price for the three new targeted services and to describe how they would educate people to encourage more recycling. Firms that include these proposals in their bids can gain points toward winning the three-year contract.

Newport is about to join the legions of cities that have community gardens. The Newport City Council recently agreed to establish the city's first community garden, which will allow residents to grow their own plants and vegetables on a plot of city land that hasn't yet used. Other Twin Cities communities have similar programs. In Minneapolis, all 190 spots for the 2011 growing season at the Dowling Community Garden are already spoken for and there is a four-year waiting list to get in.

In the woods...

Twin Cities Residents Riding the Rails

At long last, the Hiawatha light rail line is finally complete. The last planned stop, the America Boulevard Station located in Bloomington at 34th Avenue, opened on Saturday. And it opened ahead of schedule, as the work wasn't even supposed to be finished until January.
The $3.3 million station was included in the original plans for the light rail line, but its construction was deferred when the south end of the 12-mile route was redesigned, said Bob Gibbons, director of customer services for Metro Transit. Money to build the new station came from the Bloomington Port Authority, Hennepin County, Metropolitan Council and the federal government.
The new station is northeast of the Mall of America and a short distance from Bloomington Central Station. Three hotels, an office complex and large long-term parking lots are located nearby. The area is being redeveloped and Bloomington MN officials view the new station as a key component to the plans.
"It serves a section of the Airport South district that we hope will become part of a new residential neighborhood," said Larry Lee, director of community development for the city. "It's especially important for residents, but ... tourists and business people [also] have the option of getting around by LRT instead of riding in a car."

That vision of a community built around transit is already a reality at the Reflections condo development by Bloomington Central Station, Lee said. Many couples who bought homes there have gone from two cars to one and some are living with no car at all, he said.
The north end of the line was completed in November when a new station opened in Minneapolis at Target Field. That station also serves as a link for Hiawatha riders to the Northstar commuter rail line.

Speaking of the Northstar, Metro Transit has announced that 33,112 people rode...

A New Era in the Twin Cities

After $317 million, political struggles, and a 13-year wait, the 40-mile North Star Commuter line embarked on its maiden voyage on Monday morning, November 16, 2009. And people were certainly checking it out. After the last train of its first operation day finished its run, Metro Transit reported that more than 2,400 paying customers rode Northstar trains. On a typical day, the line is projected to have 1,700 passengers each way.

Trains were on time -- the first one arrived three minutes early -- but the first day was not entirely free of glitches. At Target Field, the doors of the 7:10 a.m. train didn't open for a few minutes, so its more than 300 passengers were stuck inside. Once they made their way upstairs to the Hiawatha station, light rail wasn't there to greet them because of a mechanical problem. A replacement Hiawatha train left the station at 7:25.

During the afternoon rush, there were some frantic dashes for closing doors, some doorway stumbles and even a few people who missed trains and had to wait for the next one. Only one person missed the final train, arriving at Target Field two minutes late on a connecting light-rail transit train.
It is Minnesota's first long-distance commuter rail line. It currently has stops in Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Fridley, and Minneapolis. It is eventually expected to reach all the way out to St. Cloud.

You can read more first-hand experiences from the light rain in this Star Tribune article, Finally, All Aboard for Northstar. Yes, finally!


August Events in the Twin Cities

August is a swinging month in the Twin Cities when it comes to community celebrations, festivals, and other excuses to walk around in shorts and eat "Something on a Stick." There's lots to do, starting with today!

New Brighton's annual summer Stockyard Days are taking place on August 2 through 9. The event, now in its 29th year, features a golf tournament, a kiddie parade and grand parade, street dances, and fireworks. For a complete list of times and locations for all Stockyard Days activities, go to www.stockyarddays.org and click on "events."

Lake Hiawatha’s Annual Neighborhood Festival is taking place today, Wednesday, August 5 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lake Hiawatha Park, 2701 E. 44th Street in Minneapolis. There will be a talent show with prizes, carnival games, food for sale, and community information tables.

There will be some Outdoor Puppet Theater on Thursday, August 6, from  6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Folwell Park, 1615 Dowling Avenue N. in Minneapolis. "The Adventures of Katie Tomatie" will be presented by Open Eye Theatre with live music.

LYNAS Summerfest takes place on Thursday, August 6, from 5:30 p.m to 9p.m. at Lynnhurst Park, 1345 Minnehaha Pkwy. W. in Minneapolis. As always, the annual event will be a fun evening for the whole family with food, games, music and more.

The 36th Annual Longfellow Cornfeed occurs on Thursday, August 6, from 5:30 p.m to 8 p.m. at Longfellow Park, 3435 36th Ave. S. in Minneapolis. Join in for an evening of fun, food, and entertainment perfect for the entire family! Enjoy hot, delicious corn on the cob, live family-friendly entertainment, hair and face painting, fair style concessions, large inflatable attractions, community information tables, and much more!

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is partnering with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts...

Minneapolis Phillips Community Highlights

The Phillips Community is located south of downtown Minneapolis. It is bordered on Interstate 94 on the north, Interstate 35 on the west, Lake Street East on the south and Hiawatha Avenue on the east. The eastern border continues along Hiawatha to Cedar Avenue South and then along the Soo Line railroad. The community takes its name from Wendell Phillips, a 19th century abolitionist.

Located in the middle of the city, the Phillips community is diverse.  Around 20,000 people of over 100 ethnic nationalities call this area home. A healthy mix of residential, commercial and industrial uses, several large employers such as Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Wells Fargo Mortgage and Allina Health Care Services along with small neighborhood businesses can be found here. The most attractive dining and entertainment options can be easily accessed in Downtown Minneapolis.

One of the most important projects undertaken within Phillips in recent times was the $189 million redevelopment of the vacant Sears building at Chicago Avenue and Lake Street into the Midtown Global Market. The Market is a mixed-used development of offices, hotel, retail and housing, as well as a comprehensive farmers' market during the growing season. Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Attractive dining and entertainment options can be easily accessed in Downtown Minneapolis just a short distance away.

The Minneapolis Phillips community puts effort into providing safe recreational activities to its youth via the East Phillips Community Center. This community center provides indoor basketball courts and pool and a craft room. Phillips houses a portion of the unique Midtown Greenway, a paved trail that spans four Minneapolis communities and ends at the Mississippi River.

The Midtown Greenway provides a bike path across the width of Minneapolis and even connects first-ring suburbs, particularly...

Departed Duluth, Boarding St. Paul, Next Stop Chicago

Amtrak ridership in Minnesota is up.  The Empire Builder, which runs from Chicago, northwest to Saint Paul, and then west through North Dakota and Montana into Washington and Oregon, gained about 10% more riders in the 2008 fiscal year, which ended in September. At its largest stop in Minnesota, St. Paul's Midway station, 147,791 people boarded or departed Amtrak trains in 2008, about 14,700 more than in 2007. At that record pace, a high-speed train service between Saint Paul and Chicago may be in the cards. In addition, a Northern Lights Express line between Duluth and Minneapolis is moving forward.Now on a sixth straight year of ridership growth, added services fill on the Empire Builder line fill up fast.  It’s proof that people are using it. Proponents of the trains believe that if they can be faster and more efficient, even more people will choose to ride the rails as well.

Overall, Amtrak gained nearly 2 million new passengers in the fiscal year. The high cost of gas is believed to be a major contributor to the influx of new rail travelers. Amtrak and other rail services’ sudden popularity has gained the attention of the federal government, even.  President Bush recently signed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, legislation that provides $14.9 billion for Amtrak and passenger-rail funding over the next five years. That almost doubles current spending levels.

One major feature of the legislation matches grants for state rail service, opening up a whole new horizon for passenger trains in Minnesota.  A train traveling at the envisioned 110 miles per hour would make the trip from St. Paul to Chicago less than six hours. Officials in Rochester and Olmsted County would also be interested in linking to the proposed high-speed line as well. Add in the service expected to run the 150-mile trip from Minneapolis to Duluth,...

August Minneapolis Community Events

Powderhorn Park, 3400 15th Ave. S, 612-370-4960 – Powderhorn Park Art Fair; Aug. 2, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Aug. 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Over 100 exhibitors from all over the country showcase their artistic creativity and skill as part of Minneapolis Arts Weekend. Artists include painting, photography, wood, sculpture, jewelry, digital, fiber, printmaking, clay, paper, glass, leather and mixed media. Free bus service between Powderhorn, the Loring Park Art Festival and the Uptown Art Fair.

Loring Park, 1382 Willow St., 612-370-4929 • Loring Park Art Festival; Aug. 2, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Aug. 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Over 100 exhibitors from all over the country showcase their artistic creativity and skill as part of Minneapolis Arts Weekend. Artists include painting, photography, wood, sculpture, jewelry, digital, fiber, printmaking, clay, paper, glass, leather and mixed media. Free bus service between Loring, the Powderhorn Park Art Fair and the Uptown Art Fair.

National Night Out, Aug. 5, 6-9 p.m. Music, popcorn, arts and crafts, garden tours, neighborhood resources; free.

Luxton Park, 112 Williams Ave. SE, 612-370-4925 – National Night Out & Movie; Aug. 5, 6-9 p.m. Refreshments, entertainment, games, movie “Alvin and the Chipmunks;” free.

Lake Hiawatha Park, 2701 E. 44th St., 612-370-4930 – Neighborhood Festival, Aug. 6, 5-8:30 p.m. Minnesota Timberwolves basketball shooting contest, pony rides for kids under the age of 10, talent contest & family fitness challenge (pre-register for both at lhfest@yahoo.com), pre-schooler sandcastle contest, hair painting, face painting, moonwalk, games, business displays; fees. Co-sponsored by Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association.

Longfellow Park, 3435 36th Ave. S, 612-370-4957 – 35th Annual Cornfeed & Movie; Aug. 7, 5:30-8 p.m. Slide, moonwalk, music, face painting, art projects, storytelling,...

Minneapolis Parks are in Bloom!

This is one of the best times to visit Minneapolis’ popular public display gardens.  They are planted throughout the park system for education and enjoyment of Twin Cities’ residents and park visitors, in addition to their obvious beauty.   Maintained through the efforts of MPRB staff and volunteers, the garden displays range from traditional roses to native prairie grasses.  Admission to all gardens is free and they are open from dawn to dusk seven days a week.

In addition to an arboretum, the Lyndale Park Rose Garden complex has four gardens.  It is located at 4124 Roseway Road in southwest Minneapolis. 

  • Rose Garden – This 1.5-acre plot is actually the second oldest public rose garden in the U.S., visitors can enjoy the color and fragrance of thousands of roses, the “Queen of Flowers.”
  • Peace (Rock) Garden – Hardy alpine plants and dwarf conifers are featured in this 2-acre garden. It also showcases peace stones from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and the Spirit of Peace sculpture.
  • Annual-Perennial Garden – Look for a wide variety of annuals and perennials blooming in these gardens, which are located on 1-acre between the Phelps and Heffelfinger fountains.
  • Perennial Trial Garden, Hummingbird & Butterfly Garden – The garden is one of five perennial trial gardens in the state. Plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies can be seen in another section of the border.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Lyndale Park Garden on the northeast corner of Lake Harriet. It’s in full bloom just in time for the centennial celebration, which will occur on Sunday, July 27.

But wait!  There’s more! 

The Loring Park Garden of the Seasons adds a splash...

Minneapolis Longfellow Community Highlights

Longfellow is a community in Minneapolis comprised of five smaller neighborhoods. They are Cooper, Hiawatha, Howe, Longfellow, and Seward. The community takes its name from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote about Minnesota and nearby Minnehaha Falls.

The Longfellow community is bordered by the Mississippi River to the east, as well as the city limits. The community takes full advantage of the river as green spaces and various trails wind along the shores. The light rail creating its western border. Lake Street, a main thoroughfare and commercial corridor, cuts across the upper one-third of the community and Minnehaha Park, including Minnehaha Falls and Lock and Dam Number 1, anchor the southern corner.

A transit station is conveniently located at Lake Street and Highway 55. The light rail connects the southern suburb of Bloomington and the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis.

Hiawatha - The Hiawatha neighborhood extends from 40th Street on the north to 54th Street East on the south, and from the Mississippi River on the east to Hiawatha Avenue on the west and south. As with many Minneapolis communities and neighborhoods, the Hiawatha neighborhood is named for its elementary school. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the American poet born in 1807, made the names Hiawatha and Minnehaha famous in his poem, The Song of Hiawatha. . The light-rail transit line runs along Hiawatha Avenue. Parallel to this road, Minnehaha Avenue has a mixed commercial and residential use area which offers all the necessary amenities for shopping and entertainment. The rest of the neighborhood is mainly single-family houses. One-third of the neighborhood’s area is open land.

Howe - Howe neighborhood is bound on the north by 34th Street, on the east by West River Parkway, on the south by 40th Street and on the west by Hiawatha Avenue. Howe’s east side ends with the...

Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Community Highlights

The Powderhorn community of Minneapolis is just south of the Phillips community. Because the community has a strange L-shape, its borders are confusing and vary, but a map of Powderhorn can be found here. The area takes its name from Powderhorn Lake, a small lake shaped like a powder horn at the heart of the community. The lake, and the surrounding Powderhorn Park, is a central feature. At 65 acres, it is Minneapolis’ largest neighborhood park. It features a bandstand, ball fields, basketball courts, fishing dock, ice rink, walking paths, picnic areas with grills, horseshoe pits, and a community center with teen center. Powderhorn Park is also a name of one of Powerhorn’s neighborhoods. More about the neighborhood later. The population of Powderhorn is diverse, including residents of African-American, Asian, European, Latino, Somali, Tibetan and Scandinavian decent. Powderhorn community is within easy walking or bussing distance to downtown Minneapolis.

Now, let’s begin to explore the neighborhoods of the Powderhorn community!

Bancroft - The Bancroft neighborhood is located in the southern portion of Powderhorn. It lies between 38th Street East to the north and 42nd Street East to the south, and between Chicago Avenue on the west and Cedar Avenue on the east. The neighborhood was named after a school, as many other Minneapolis neighborhoods are. The Bancroft elementary school was named after George Bancroft, an American historian born in 1800. The Bancroft neighborhood is also home to the newly opened school, El Colegio/ CreArte center for the arts. The neighborhood provides convenient access to downtown via Interstate 35W, the Hiawatha Corridor, and the airport and Bloomington area via Cedar Avenue. For residents who like recreation, Bancroft lies just blocks north of Lake Nokomis, the Hiawatha Golf Course and the scenic Minnehaha...