Given we live in Minneapolis, it’s not crazy to imagine a park that stretches across the whole city. In fact green features like the Mississippi National River & Recreational Area, Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Creek are part of what many of us love the most about our city.
But could Minneapolis do even better? Some Southside residents think so and are embracing a proposal to create a north-south greenway beginning downtown at Gold Medal Park and ending at Highway 62.
A greenway is a “high-quality linear park that attracts people biking and walking because it is convenient, fast and feels safe,” said Matthew Hendricks, a founder of Twin Cities Greenways, a group of people who have come together to promote the concept and identify potential greenway routes in the Twin Cities, including the proposed Northside Greenway.
Greenways take a variety of forms. For example, Milwaukee Avenue is a full street-to-park conversion in Seward. A similar concept is proposed for the Northside Greenway. An initial report on the Southside Greenway proposes three different types of facilities along the Southside Greenway route, including streets that are fully converted to parks, protected bike lanes and traffic calmed streets.
The idea for the Southside Greenway came about a few years ago when Hendricks and other Twin Cities residents interested in street-to-park conversions came together to promote the concept and identify routes where conversions might be possible. Last year, Twin Cities Greenways surveyed 162 Southside residents whose demographics roughly reflect that of the area. Their survey found 63 percent “love” the idea of a Southside Greenway and another 31 percent “like it.”
Erik Swenson is a resident of the Powderhorn neighborhood, one of the neighborhoods through which the proposed greenway would run. Swenson commutes to a job downtown, and he sees opportunity for the Greenway, especially around Powderhorn Park where he noted there is not as much demand for on-street parking as you might find in other neighborhoods. He said Portland and Park are efficient north-south routes, but he really doesn’t feel comfortable riding with his 3 and 5 year olds on these streets. A greenway on the other hand would offer “more adventure” for the kids, a safer and more pleasant commute and the opportunity to drive less. The proposed greenway could also help his children reach existing safe east-west routes to their school.
Amy Brugh is another Southside resident who is supportive of greenways primarily because she is a mother. Amy said she sees the need for car-free spaces “where I could truly feel that my kids are safe going by bike.” As a mother of 9 and 11 year-old kids, she pointed out that it becomes more challenging to be a biking family as children mature and ride on their own, instead of on their parent’s bikes. Brugh is also supportive of neighbors coming together and share ideas about making the places where they live better. “We need more dreamspace,” she said.
“This will by my first foray into more active participation,” Swenson said about getting involved in the proposed project. Residents interested in getting involved are invited to join the next Southside Greenway Council meeting to be held Wednesday, April 20. The Council has been formed to help develop the grassroots support identified through the 2015 survey.
Hendricks said the Council is looking for residents who want to get involved in shaping the design and route as well as residents who would be willing to act as local liaisons explaining the project to their neighbors. A one-year pilot version of the greenway is a next step identified in the Minneapolis Southside Greenway Exploratory Committee Report 2015. Similar to the proposed Northside Greenway pilot, the hope is to use a pilot to gather community feedback and test technical feasibility. With the Northside Greenway providing a prototype for public engagement and collaborative planning between residents and the city and Milwaukee Avenue as an existing street to park conversion in Minneapolis, organizers like Hendricks are hopeful that the vision of a north-south green corridor through central Minneapolis is possible.
Annie Van Cleve is a freelance writer, blogger and volunteer with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.
For more information, visit the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition website: www.mplsbike.org/southsidegreenway.