Archive for the ‘Mississippi River’ Category



August 26, 2012

Thanks to Mill City News for sharing this video…in a fun way, it captures from residents and visitors alike, why we live and work where we do.

While you enjoy a small portion of my backyard, I plan to spend the day “editing” the CRV story for the  MPI Research Meeting Design case study.  It is a worthy cause, as MPI is trying to reposition the planner role away from logisitics finally, and towards designing to achieve measurable outcomes,…a long time coming. I support the effort, as well as the effort to focus on collaboration as the means for success in the 21st century.  But that does not make the task ahead any more inviting or fun!   I am really weary of being the “mother” of this project and just want it to go away.



August 16, 2012

Yesterday, I attended a program entitled “Native American Settlements in the Minneapolis Area” at Mill City Museum.

As we gathered before the session, I chatted with the facilitator of our “Telling Native River Stories” group and was glad to hear that he, too, felt our efforts beginning in 2008 planted a seed that helped move us all to this wonderful week of coming together and re-telling of the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862.   

As we took our seats, the photos and sites included were familiar ones…St. Anthony Falls, Cold Spring, Pilot Knob, the strawberry fields and burial grounds of Lake Calhoun, Nicollet Island, Spirit Island, Loring Park and the gathering spot of the gods on the river bluff-today known as Fort Snelling. 

But two concepts introduced by the speaker, Richard La Fortune, definitely gave me food for thought.

His over-arching theme of the Crossroads of the Continent expanded my viewpoint significantly.  Of course, I know the role of the river for both native peoples and white immigrants, but La Fortune compared the north-south and east-west routes traveled for thousands of years by native peoples to today’s I-35 and I-94 intersecting right here in the city, and it all clicked together in my brain. 

I certainly know that the very first bridge ever built across the Mississippi River was “First Bridge” the original precursor to our Hennepin Avenue Bridge; but that was built here has always been marvel to me.  Yesterday, as I heard Lake Street described as a street built over part of the trail from the Mississippi River to the Tetons combined with legends of the falls known to native peoples from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, it brought it all into perspective.   Major North American migration routes have criss-crossed our state and city for thousands of years; and indeed, looking at North America in its totality from northern Canada to southern Mexico/Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean, we are located right there in the middle!

But more intriguing than that, was the current activity and findings reported at the archeological site currently under study at Prairie Island near Red Wing.  This large village, existing in 900-1250 AD, consists of square “apartments” positioned around a central plaza.  Each corner of the plaza- aligned north, east, south, and west- contains cultural artifacts from each corner of North America – dating back 10,000 years!  It was interesting to hear that the presumption is that apartments near each corner of the plaza were inhabited by immigrants from that same area of North America-each clustered around artifacts of their past.  

Rather than an outpost of Cahokia as once thought, La Fortune speculated that the Red Wing site was an outgrowth of sites here in Minneapolis, with 10,000 year old artifacts supporting the theory that indeed, this was the gathering place for all native nations on the continent to come together to trade and to forge peace agreements among the nations of the native world we know so little about.

Think about it.  A 10,000 year history of native “United Nations of America”; a 400 year history of immigrant whites that formed the 200+ year-old “United States of America”…it’s hard to understand the  justification of cries to “build a wall and shoot” in reference to keeping out the Mexican immigrants, isn’t it?  Many of them may likely have ancient ties to this land stronger than ours.  More food for thought!

I walked back from the museum thinking that the nickname “North Star State” does us a disservice in today’s world.  Becoming once again the “Crossroads of North America” has more world-class appeal!


BRIDGE: A GATHERING and BRIDGE, the exhibition

August 3, 2012

On August 1, 2007, the 35W Bridge fell down.  Over the last five years, we were lost and shocked; we mourned and struggled to recover;  we designed, built and opened a new bridge; we wrote books like “The City, the River, the Bridge – edited by a friend, Patrick Nunnally at the University of MN;  we have come together to share our feeling and offer support; and we built a memorial for those lives we lost.  

On Sunday, the Star Tribune stories  devoted to the I35W bridge collapse began, remembering those that died, and sharing the stories of those that survived after the fall, their healing and rebirth.  We were reminded through a timeline of key steps in the recovery, and of the toll it took in 13 lives, and the toll it took on the 190 persons on the bridge when it collapsed, and the toll it took for on the 145 injured.

On Wednesday morning , we read 35 poems called “Fragments for the 35W Bridge” written by Todd Boss who had crossed over the bridge 20 minutes before it collapsed.

And,  last night, we came together as a community:


Bridge: n. a structure allowing passage across an obstacle, v. to create understanding between people.

On the fifth anniversary of the 35W Bridge collapse, many of us gathered last evening at Mill City, as “a brave, strong, resilient and prepared community.”

With that, Vance Gellert, the visual artist whose project was expanded this spring to include other artistic partners, set the stage for what was in store for the audience gathered in the Ruins Courtyard on the riverfront.

A collaborative effort by the City of Minneapolis, the Mill City Museum, Nautilus Music Theater, The Playwright’s Center, and Rain Tax Review of Books brought us together to reflect on the 1-35W Bridge collapse on August 1, 2007. The following is taken from the chapbook of original poetry commissioned for and shared at BRIDGE: A Gathering last evening.


Inspired by the work of artist Vance Gellert, who interviewed and photographed the survivors, first responders, and others, all of the artists involved sought to capture how such a tragedy touches everyone in our community.

This is no easy task, for no work of art can ever make up for the lives we lost that day. Yet if we also lost hope in the aftermath of the collapse-if we also lost our sense of connections, our drive to find a way across any impediment in search of a brighter future-then the arts, as they have throughout all of history and in every society, have an important role to play whether as a respite from the routine, a refuge from the overwhelming, a container for sprawling emotions, or a way to commemorate what is truly important.  Grappling with the bridge event, the poets here offer examples of grief, solace, bewilderment, criticism, acceptance, resolve, and yes new hope-all elements of the human spirit that endure through immense challenge and heartbreak.  As long as we can respond, in all senses of the word, then we can surely cope.

All the poets join…in offering up this work, as one of the poems puts it, ‘for the survivors, for the lost, for the bereaved’-that is, for everyone.

Following the ceremony itself, we moved back into Mill City Museum to view Gellert’s “ Bridge, an Exhibition”- photos  of survivors, families that lost loved ones, first responders, caregivers and supporters.

This morning the Strib front page showed a picture of Paula Coultier, a survivor in the audience last night with eyes closed during part of the play “In the Water”.  I can only imagine what she was seeing in her mind’s eye, and the fear she was re-experiencing.  I also had my eyes closed through that play. The verbal imagery so realistically reproduced the sounds that filled the air after the immediate silence following the collapse, that I, too, experienced the horror of the moment.

And today, we hear of one more victory…as Andy Gannon a survivor of the collapse, returned last night for the first time to the bridge and was able to cross over for the first time in five year…into better times ahead.





July 26, 2012

Normally, you can find me in my office early in the morning as I generally work from 4 or 5am to early afternoon when my brain functions best.  But today, when I saw it was only 70 degrees with low humidity at 8:30AM, I had to take advantage of the break in the heat wave.  So by 9, I was off to the Heritage Trail.

As I headed over the Stone Arch, I realized it has been a while since I’ve come this direction…today, the river is almost calm, although not down to the level we normally see this time of year; no water pouring off Hennepin Island by the SAF Water Lab; and the secret falls on the East Channel, while still audible, have shrunk back to a small stream and will, most likely, soon disappear.   I dawdled a bit, leaning on the rail to imagine a Hennepin Island thinned of some of its trees and encircled with a walking path, and then continued on my way.

Residents and visitors to East Bank must have had the same thought as I did- get out and enjoy it while you can – for the trail and parkland were full….St. Anthony Main itself was not quite awake yet, but folks were walking all over, and there were no vacant outdoor tables or benches at Wilde Roast.

Eventually, I found a spot and started through a white paper on Empowered Organizations and Social Maturity I had stuffed in my bag at the last minute – so I would not feel too guilty about being out and about this early in the workday-but seven pages were all I could absorb with so many welcome distractions around me.  So I soon headed across the grass for Nicollet Island.

The chain of orange floats on the East Channel near the Merriam Street Bridge is still broken, I see, or was it allowed to float free because of high water under the low bridge?   

Heading off the bridge, I chose to delete my favorite “loop” – the walk around Nicollet Island- because busloads of people were descending on Nicollet Island Pavilion – with squads and foot police directing traffic.  That and a look at my watch to see I had already been out and about for an hour,  sent me up the hill and onto Hennepin Avenue  and those wonderful cooling breezes as I headed into the home stretch.

Off the Heritage Trail now, these last couple blocks are my least favorite.  I smiled to see mothers with strollers headed towards the fountain in Gateway Park, but my side of First along the Post Office Parking Ramp is always a downer.  Sometime SOON, we have to do something about that!

Returning to my office, I see it is 11AM and 79 degrees.  I’ve managed to use up 2 good hours of thinking time and before long, I’ll need to close out the sounds of the city and put the AC back on.  But no matter how many times I’ve been on that trail, it always works its magic.  It’s as invigorating as a mini-vacation!






July 26, 2012

This week, Senator John Howe, Republican, from Red Wing called for an environmental impact study regarding the frac-sand mines.  Instigated by witnessing the negative impact of what is happening on the Wisconsin side of the river, this is a powerful enough problem, to get Republican attention and bring them on board to protect the environment. 

Howe is emphasizing the economic impact on existing businesses and schools in Minnesota towns along the river; but I suggest we expand the impact study to include the Mississippi River itself.

We already know Lake Pepin is endangered by the run-off upriver and is not-so-slowly contracting; we already know the dead spot in the Gulf of Mexico  continues to grow; helped along by poisonous run offs from Minnesota farmlands.  Let’s not leave it to future generations to lament the further demise of the river and the growth of the dead spot – because we raced to incorporate a last-ditch effort via frac sand mines to maintain our dependency on oil deposits.  Especially when we see the auto industry moving more and move to hybrid and electric vehicles.

What will the impact be?  Can it be reduced in any way by understanding now and employing better methods?  And more important, are all the states bordering the Mississippi from Minnesota to Louisiana in agreement  that any potential long term damage to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico is offset by the short term gains upriver? 

This is a chance to THINK COLLABORATIVELY AND ACT RESPONSIBLY.  Please take the time needed to ensure we know the risks and what will be gained for taking them!



DOWNTOWN EAST wants a fix

July 3, 2012

I had planned on attending the input sessions last week regarding the development plan for the new stadium, but unfortunately I had conflicts for both meetings.  So I was relieved to see in the press coverage that Mayor Rybak  explained today’s vision includes using the new stadium and the Downtown  East lightrail station as a link to the Mississippi River, the West Bank, the University of Minnesota and Elliot Park. Although there are no detailed plans, per se, at least that is reassuring.

I certainly hope so.  I remember very well attending the Opening Twins Game the year the Dome was built.  Basically, the whole experience was a shock to the system.  Several hours of blah did not compare well to the wonderful ambience of the old Met in Bloomington.  I never went back to a game!  Oh yes, over the years, I was in and out of the Dome for one reason or another, but never a Twins, Vikings or Gopher game…just too much of a bad experience for me to bother…not even a World Series could tempt me. 

Not long ago, a friend took the train in from the burbs for a morning at Mill City Farmer’s Market and brunch.  Past experience told me I would not be successful explaining it was only a 2-3 block walk straight towards the river on Chicago, so I drove over and picked her up.   Even in light of day, the first couple blocks of that walk from the Dome to the river is almost downright scary! Yes, I walk it frequently, but the vast parking lots and decrepit street are pretty discouraging to a visitor!  Even I, who travel Chicago Avenue  frequently still have a negative reaction as I turn off Washington and head south through no-man’s land.

So from my perspective, ANYTHING would be an improvement.

Fortunately though, the need for a second “gateway” to the river and the need to develop the black hole between Washington and the stadium will keep me interested and involved. 

I am hoping more than me thought the discussion with Landry about building housing around the base of the place was intriguing.  That may not be the RIGHT answer, but I’m hoping it stimulates some good thoughts.  If you ask WHY does it have to be so ugly and such a barrier, it becomes easier to explore some of the innovative and creative solutions and then say WHY NOT.  That will, indeed, connect the Elliott Neighborhood to the river. 





May 31, 2012

Yesterday, as I walked the three blocks toward the Hennepin County Library to a seminar by MPRB, DID and the Downtown Council entitled “What’s Up with the Downtown Parks”, I realized I LIVE in a downtown park.  Fortunately, I had planned some extra time at the library to check out a couple books, because I started taking pictures-40 of them before I returned home!

Just outside my door, I enter the pedestrian /bike only portion of 2nd Street and walk under a canopy of trees that stretches from Marquette to Hennepin Avenue.  On either side, I am surrounded by well-kept wrought iron fences – which reveal the grand “backyard” of the Towers Condominium on one side, and their tennis courts on the other.   

At the other end, I emerge from the trees into the small Gateway Park –it’s dancing fountain  awakened from its winter sleep, and ready for its light show when the sun goes down.  Across the street, is a little-known and well-hidden great park at the Federal Reserve that connects to the Central Riverfront, but no time for that today. To the left, I pass the Nice Ride Station and head up the steps that lead me through the ING portico and down again to Nicollet Avenue. 

Across the street, is the Cancer Survivor Park. Of course, I pass it often, but have never explored it, so with time to spare, I walked through the grounds.  WOW!  I sat a few minutes on a bench tucked among the dense white birch trees, and watched the guys tossing footballs on the groomed lawn, then returned to the sidewalk along Nicollet to travel between the waterfall and the MPRB boulevard parks filled with poetry that reflected Nicollet Ave memories and dreams for the future-written by poets 3  to over 65 years old.  Yes, I have often walked by; but no, I have never taken the time to read the inspiring messages before yesterday. 

I was so engrossed, I almost missed the eyesore parking lot /bus terminal just north of the library building.  Perhaps because I know it is being considered as a site for the new expanded GATEWAY, and is part of my own Plan-it Hennepin vision, it no longer bothers me quite so much….instead when I look at it, I see my dream of an inter-cultural green gathering place that welcomes  residents, business, visitors and new immigrant populations. 

So with that, I walked into the Library, dropped off a couple books I just finished and then headed upstairs to hear about the greening of downtown Minneapolis and the planned updates and enhancements to Nicollet Mall, Loring Park, and other downtown parks along the way, as well as the status of the WaterWorks Park that will close the West River Road gap on the Central River Front.

Yes, as citizens of Mpls, we should be ashamed of the brown donut hole of downtown that is seen in aerial views of the city-surrounded by the green of a world-class park system focused on the lakes.  And for me personally, after rediscovering the Central River Front 25 years ago, it was encouraging to hear that the city has grown to understand that indeed, “ a RIVER runs through us”.

Returning home after the meeting, I came down Marquette between the towering skyscrapers, but even then, I detoured through the well-kept  grounds of 100 Washington Avenue that borders on my own “yard” at the Churchill. 

As I walked, I realized I had a pretty impressive FRONT YARD, but goodness, think of my BACKYARD!  I border on a 72-mile long National Park – the Mississippi River!

The river has been throwing a delayed “spring tantrum” this week.  The locks have even been closed to all traffic because of the turbulence. With little snow melt in April, we didn’t get quite the show we usually do, but this week, with all the May rain, it has been spectacular! Instead of budding trees and brown grass of past April shows, this year, the scene of the rough, constantly rolling river carpeted with whitecaps is framed by fully-leafed trees and a blanket of green on the ground.   No April walkers wrapped in coats and scarves shiver on the Stone Arch Bridge; instead smiling folks- occasionally feeling the cloud of spray hovering over the raging waters below-are enjoying the Power of the Falls! 

And the best-kept secret of the Central Riverfront and its Heritage Trail –the falls on the East Channel, peaking out among the greenery at the down river side of the Power Plant- is just amazing! In fact, I think it warrants my occasional use of the lower trail through Pillsbury Park to get a closer view– maybe an early morning walk tomorrow.

How fortunate I am to live where I do!

(The picture below is the “gentle” spillway, north of the Third Avenue Bridge-incredible!)