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...

Life In Richfield May Be Your Ticket To A Shorter Commute

Looking for the best community in the Twin cities for a relatively quick trip to work? Look no further than Richfield. Residents of this city, located at the heart of the Twin Cities' transit and highway system, get to work an average of two minutes faster than average state residents.

According to U.S. Census date released in December, Richfield MN residents had an average commute of 20.2 minutes, while Bloomington, St. Paul and Minneapolis trailed at 21 to 22 minutes. Commutes were much longer in outer-ring suburbs and bedroom communities such as Marine on St. Croix at 34.6 minutes, Chisago City at 35.1 minutes, Bethel at 37.7 minutes and Waverly at 39 minutes. Statewide, the average Minnesotan's commute to work takes 22.2 minutes.

The data come from 2005 to 2009 estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS), which measures population characteristics in detail. Some of the questions focus on how people get to work and how long it takes them to get there.

While it seems self-evident that commuting times are shortest when workers are near employment centers, the data indicates that other issues may complicate the commute. Minnesota communities with the longest commutes also had no public transit systems.

Lee Munnich, a transportation expert with the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said long commutes from the fringe of the metro area reflect people's search for affordable housing in the last 20 years. The farther people went, the cheaper houses got. But industry and employment didn't necessarily follow.

"It's part of the cost of housing moving further out," he said....

Walkable Communities: Not Just a Green Thing

If you lived in a place where you had to walk on the shoulder of a road or in the grass, would you walk places? What if you lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks that lead to places like the grocery store or a restaurant?

The development choices of cities and towns can have a drastic effect on the health of its residents. Mark Fenton, a former world-class race walker and an engineer, travels the country energetically proclaiming the many benefits that health-conscious urban design can have on a community. He recently met with fficials from Bloomington, Edina and Richfield to explain why they should build more streets and developments that lure people into being active.

Fenton explains that the design of our communities influences how active we are as part of our routine daily life. The best way to encourage regular exercise is not to build trails for walkers and bicyclists just in parks, but to have paths that are part of a network and that lead to destinations where want to go. People are more willing to walk or bike to the store if they feel they are able to safely do it.

In communities that are fully developed like Bloomington, Edina and Richfield, with roads in neighborhoods that were laid out years ago, that healthy design doesn't need to be a huge project. Sometimes redesigning and restriping roads to include narrow lanes for bicyles and pedestrians can be enough.

Read the rest of this Star Tribune article to learn more about what Bloomington, Edina, and Richfield are doing to make their communities more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.


Greening Minnesota ~ July 2010

Summer is in full swing in Minnesota. That means the news is filled with stories about our lakes, our parks, and our farmers markets. of course, all of those are topics we love to cover in Greening Minnesota.

Earlier this month, Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the famous late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, visited Powderhorn Park on July 4 to promote an effort called Expedition: Blue Planet and to film a segment for it. Minneapolis was the first stop for the project’s film crew and biodiesel bus on its 14,500-mile tour across North America to investigate water issues and educate the public about water conservation. Some local organizations were there to help, too, like Blue Thumb, a clean-water program started by Rice Creek Watershed District that now has many chapters in Minnesota, and Metro Blooms, whose mission is to promote eco-friendly gardening that beautifies neighborhoods and protects the environment.

To help people recycle more when they're not at home, Ramsey County officials are setting aside $1.3 million to buy nearly 2,000 recycling bins to give to cities for use in public areas. It will be a three-phase program over three years. First, cities would put the bins in parks, along trails and in other recreational places. Second, cities would put the bins along streets. Third, the county would offer the containers to school athletic facilities. The goal is to have the same kind of container in every public park in the county. Ramsey County has already put about 400 containers in its parks and ice arenas.

A patch of grass along Nicollet Avenue past Burnsville's Civic Center campus is brown and dead for good reason: The City is turning the one-acre site into a field of native prairie grasses and wildflowers. It is the first step in the city's plan to cut maintenance costs and reduce negative impacts on the environment. Between $8,000 and $10,000 will be devoted to the project, Jacobson said, adding that it will pay for itself in seven...

Greening Minnesota ~ December

Almost didn't make it! But here it is, the Greening Minnesota, December Edition. Here, you can read about new developments in the local community which contribute towards a greener and bluer earth.

First, good news! 35 Minnesota fish and wildlife conservations projects will be getting $3.7 million in grants next year from the Outdoor Heritage Fund - created when voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.

Next, Bloomington has a farmers market. So does Richfield, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Minneapolis. But not Edina. As soon as next summer, Edina might just have a farmer's market if a proposal that's going to the Edina Park Board in January makes its way through city review processes in time. The proposed location would be Centennial Lakes Park.

Also in Edina, as construction starts on its new public works building, one of the earliest jobs will be to drill its geothermal heating and cooling system. 124 wells will be drilled 250 feet deep and a closed network of pipes snaking up and down underground will be sunk into the holes and connected to the building. This type of system has been around for decades but improved technology is making them more efficient in extreme climates such as Minnesota.

The water used at the new Green Planet Car Wash at Dodd Road and County Road 50 in Lakeville is extensively filtered and reused in subsequent wash cycles, reducing water waste per car from the 100 gallons used by the typical car wash to less than five gallons. The water is clean enough to drink by EPA standards, but don't worry, they like to save it for the car wash.

More dirty work to clean up the environment? Okay. From $28 million construction project in Shakopee is emerging a plant which will take what's flushed down the toilet from as far away as Lake Minnetonka and turn it into enough energy to save $1 million dollars a year. Shakopee has also recently authorized rooftop wind turbines all...

Community Highlights ~ Richfield MN

Richfield MN is one of the largest suburbs of the Twin Cities metro area, with a population of over 40,000. Named in 1908 for its fertile soil, Richfield still offers a rich and fruitful lifestyle more than a century later. Located nearly in the heart of the Twin Cities metro, Richfield offers a diverse range of activities to its residents.

Residents can easily hop on the freeway and be in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Bloomington, or even at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport in minutes.

Richfield MN offers the pleasures of upscale urban living with convenient access to the great local natural and green spaces. There are activities for anyone in the community to enjoy nearby at the 460 acres of parkland the City maintains. Their amenities include playgrounds, hiking trails, biking paths, pools and picnic areas. Richfield also has a state of the art community center, an outdoor waterpark, and a brand new skate park.

Raising a family or planning to? The U.S. Department of Education has recognized Richfield Senior High as a National School of Excellence, and the community offers a wide range of supportive services to ensure that all of its students get a good education.

Learn more about Richfield MN real estate....

Twin Cities Lawn & Gardening Events & Classes

If you're really feeling the itch in your green thumb, there are some events and classes coming up you might want to know about, starting with one happening tonight. All of these Twin Cities events can be found and registered for at the Minneapolis Community Education website (these were under Gardening):

Low Input Lawn Care. Reduce the use of lawn care products, water, time and labor involved in maintaining a healthy lawn. The cost to attend it $15 and it is occurring at the Winnetka Learning Center, 7940 55th Avenue N. in New Hope, MN. It is taking place on Tuesday, April 14, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Creating a Landscape Plan for Your Home. This is a six-session class that costs between $110 and $130 and requires advanced registration. The first session takes place at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive in Chaska, MN, on April 16 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

Managing Yard Waste and Composting. Pretty self-explanatory. The price is $15. It takes place at the Plymouth Middle School at 10011 36th Av. N. in Plymouth, MN on Tuesday, April 21 at 7:00 pm.

Native Ferns for Our Gardens and Landscapes. Tom Bittinger of Midwest Native Ferns will speak at the Twin Cities Chapter Wild Ones meeting. This free event takes place on Tuesday, April 21 from 7:00 pm to 8:45 pm at the Wood Lake Nature Center, 6710 Lake Shore Dr. in Richfield, MN.

Pruning and Care for Trees and Shrubs. Again, pretty straighforwrd. It costs $15 and takes place at Lake Harriet, 4912 Vincent Av. S in Minneapolis, MN. The class occurs on April 22 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Raving About Rain Gardens. Learn how to start a rain garden. Reservations required. It takes place on Wednesday, April 22, at 6:30 pm and the cost is $19. The place to be is Burnsville High School, 600 E. Hwy. 13 in Burnsville, MN. (See Also: Green Thumbs for Blue Lakes) ...

Minneapolis Southwest Community Highlights

The Southwest Community of Minneapolis consists of several neighborhoods loosely bordered on the north by 36th Street and on the east by Interstate 35W, with city limits serving as western and southern boundaries. 

Linden Hills – In the northwest corner of Southwest Minneapolis is the upscale, well-developed Linden Hills neighborhood.  Linden Hills is bound on the north by 36th Street West and Lake Calhoun, on the east by William Berry Drive and Lake Harriet, on the south by 47th Street West, and on the west by France Avenue.  Linden Hills is one of the larger neighborhoods in Minneapolis. The neighborhood was named after the linden trees and rolling hills that can be found in the area.

Linden Hills first was developed during the 1880s to lure homebuyers into leave downtown for homes on Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. Since that time, most of the original cottages have been replaced by a number of home types, like ramblers, colonials, Tudors, and bungalows. The Lake Harriet-Como Streetcar line passes through the neighborhood between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun.

Often referred to as “a small town in the City,” Linden Hills has excellent housing opportunities, interesting boutique shops, unique restaurants, and a variety of parks with many amenities.  The Linden Hills shopping district can be found at 43rd & Upton, offering an eclectic mix of shopping and eating venues which can’t be found any where else. The Linden Hills Co-op offers grocery alternatives and Great Harvest Bread Company has been a landmark in the community for years.  Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun are an easy walk from nearly anywhere within the neighborhood. The lakes provide a variety of activities, like swimming, sailing, and walking or biking ride along paths that connect to the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway.

East Harriet – To the east of Linden...

Edina Minnesota Highlights

Edina is a Minnesota city located in Hennepin County.  It is a first-ring suburb soutwest of Minneapolis within the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Edina began as a small farming and milling community in the 1860s. Today, it is a community that is 95% developed. The population was 47,425 at the 2000 census.

Edina began as part of Richfield Township. In the 1850s, 17 families came to Minnesota and claimed land in the southwest section of what was then Richfield Township. Most of them immigrated as a result of the potato famine in Ireland.  They were followed by English and Scottish farmers, who claimed more land near Minnehaha Creek. The Baird and Grimes and Country Club Districts are located in the northeast part of Edina and were among the first areas to be established. Both of these locations are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1888, the residents of the township held a meeting to consider founding a new village.  It was approved, and the process of separating themselves from Richfield Township began. That was the first debate, the second was what to name the new village. Several town meetings were held, during which the names "Hennepin Park", "Westfield" and "Edina" were suggested. Andrew Craik, upon moving to the township in 1869 from Edinburgh, bought and renamed the local mill to the Edina Mill.  It was he who proposed the name, which after much debate, was decided in 1889.

Several major highways run through or next to Edina, making it readily accessible to the greater Twin Cities area. Minnesota State Highways 62, running east and west, and 100,, running north and south, divide Edina into four sections. U.S. Route 169 in the western portion of the city extends north and south. Interstate 494 towards the southern end of the city runs east and west. Minnesota State Highway 7 is within three miles of the city and Interstate 394 is within five. Edina is about twenty minutes...

June is Home Ownership Month

For many citizens, owning a home is the very definition of American freedom and independence. Having your own home or real estate has been the American dream since before the Homestead Act. Because of how important home ownership is to Americans, June has been declared National Homeownership Month. All through the month of June, local and national organizations around the country will draw attention to the benefits of home ownership and encourage responsible home ownership. As of today, about 70 percent of Americans own their own homes at this time. According to the National Association of Realtors, this month is also the 40th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

On April 11, 1968 President Lyndon Johnson urged congress to approve the Fair Housing Act just one week following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a tribute to Dr. King's legacy and commitment to civil rights. One of the Act's central objectives was to prevent discrimination based on race in the sales or rental of housing. This historic Act has since empowered people from all races and ethnicities to pursue the dream of equal access to housing.

In 2002, President George W. Bush designated June as National Homeownership Month. The goal of drawing such attention to home ownership at that time was to increase minority homeownership in America by 5.5 million by the end of the decade. At this point in time, the rate of minority homeownership has climbed to above 50 percent.

During "Home Ownership Month," three sessions are available for first-time homebuyers to attend called "Opportunity Knocking: Get the Facts for First Time Homebuyers". These sessions are sponsored by the Minnesota Home Ownership Center, Bremer Bank and Freddie Mac. The discussions are opportunities for potential first-time buyers to learn about the process of buying a home, visit with lending and real estate professionals, and discover...