Happy trails on river road

Regarding Jack Maloney’s letter, “Shutting down river road” (Villager Inbox, February 3): No one is planning to shut down Mississippi River Boulevard. Between Marshall Avenue and Ford Parkway, River Boulevard carries an average of 4,000 cars per day at the north end and 3,200 cars per day at the south end. This is on a roadway that is between 24 and 36 feet wide. River Boulevard carries an average of 2,000-plus pedestrians and bicyclists per day, and considerably more than that in the summer. These 2,000-plus daily bicyclists and pedestrians use a trail and a single southbound bike lane that, combined, range in total width from 12 to 18 feet.

river boulevard
Rob Cullen of Minneapolis' Longfellow neighborhood jogged along Mississippi River Boulevard near Summit Avenue on a chilly afternoon late in the winter of 2008. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Since there is no northbound bike lane, bicyclists share the trail with pedestrians, joggers and dog-walkers. There are frequent conflicts caused by speeding bicyclists, dog walkers with long leashes, and joggers and walkers who wear earphones and can’t hear bicyclists asking them to move to one side of the trail. In his letter, Jack Maloney writes about elderly motorists, but there are a lot of elderly people who like to walk or bike. At peak times, the current situation is not enjoyable for anyone.

Bike and pedestrian use along this corridor has increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the city temporarily closed the southbound traffic lane between Marshall and Ford Parkway for a couple months last summer. It was enormously popular and caused only minimal inconvenience to drivers. Now some of us are looking for a long-term solution. Permanently closing the southbound lane between the bridges is one proposal, but there are other options. Many years back, the city considered widening the road slightly to add a northbound bike lane or create space for an additional, separated off-road trail. Perhaps this could be revisited. At least 12 feet of property on the east side of the road belongs to the city.

Mr. Maloney talks about how the Ford site development will generate more car traffic as an excuse for why we can’t reduce road capacity. This may be true, but the development is also going to generate hundreds of additional cyclists and pedestrians who will want to use Mississippi River Boulevard for recreation or travel. Union Park and other district councils are trying to start a conversation with neighbors and the city about how to make the corridor more comfortable for everyone.

Andy Singer, Co-Chair
Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition

Rethink removal of ash trees

Saint Paul officials have pledged themselves to strategies aimed at protecting families from the effects of climate change and implementing initiatives that reduce our carbon footprint. Given those commitments, I urge them to postpone the plan for clear-cutting every ash tree on a block, and instead remove only visibly distressed and dangerous trees in 2021. With the pressures of the pandemic and the 2020 rioting on city budgets, some of those dollars could be reallocated to meet pressing human service needs, or we could use the savings to replace trees already removed.

Given the raging climate crisis and Saint Paul’s ambitious plans to combat it, we would be better served leaving as many trees as possible to absorb carbon. Even an infected tree has three to five useful years before becoming distressed. Right now, we are pursuing only the cheapest option—removal of all trees. Is the cheapest option the best option? Why not consider staggered cutting, removing every third tree and immediately replacing it with a new one?

My neighborhood will be clear-cut in the weeks to come if all of the trees that are marked with green rings go down. Block after block will have no trees at all. This is bad for property values, bad for livability and bad for the environment. If you hope to truly combat climate change, eliminating our urban forest and not replacing it for three years is absolutely the worst possible option.

City leaders, it is time to pause and confirm that the path we are on is truly the best path for the future.

Teresa Morrow
Macalester-Groveland

Student rental limits threatened

Over the last six months, a city committee and then the Saint Paul Planning Commission have studied changing the definition of “family” that has been in effect in Saint Paul since 1975 to a new designation called “household.” It effectively greatly increases the number of people allowed to live in a single dwelling.

A home used to be limited to one family—a couple of adults and some kids. However, the Planning Commission has recommended a new ordinance that, if adopted by the City Council, would make a radical change to the student housing zoning overlay district that was established in 2012 around the University of Saint Thomas. The student housing overlay district seems to be mostly working well. However, allowing six undergraduate students in a household versus the present limit of four is going to be very bad for the neighbors living near college campuses.

Neighbors, please review the plan and contact all seven City Council members with your concerns about changing the definition of household in the student housing zoning overlay district. A public hearing on the proposed change will be held before the City Council on March 3. This meeting will be held online. You should send your comments to the City Council prior to the meeting.

For information on accessing the public hearing or to review the ordinance change and comment on it, visit
tinyurl.com/4b99r83u.

Scott Heiderich
Merriam Park

Corner Drug takes a shot at virus

Our hometown hero, John Hoeschen, is once again on the front lines of health care. His Saint Paul Corner Drug is among the first pharmacies in the city to receive and administer the COVID vaccine. Once again, it is our small businesses that take care of their communities.

Nearly 100 percent of the 2021 Medicare Part D plans available in Minnesota are owned and operated by pharmacy benefit managers—CVS/Aetna, Express Scripts/Cigna and OptumRx/United Healthcare. They are the largest payers and also direct competitors of locally owned pharmacies. Their mere existence is why prescription drugs start at about $500 for a month’s supply.

We need to reach out to our local and state representatives and demand that health care be brought back to our local communities. Saint Paul Corner Drug is a leader in health care. It cares about local residents. Let’s support it.

Sheilagh Lynch Johnson
Macalester-Groveland

A willful ignorance propels us

The January 20 issue of the Villager served as one more reminder of the negative turn our once-friendly and relatively clean American culture seems to be taking:

Taxpayers may now be forced to make reparations for crimes committed by others in centuries past. Half of the population is goaded to be perpetually angry and the other half cravenly guilty. Kids are to stay home from school, glued to their devices, lest they become ill or cause others to die of the monster virus. Whole sections of our cities look like war zones in a third-world country. Meanwhile, unborn children’s lives continue to be snuffed out wholesale. For all intents and purposes, our nation wants to be godless, and we are reaping the fruits of that intention.

We are not heading for a good place. When Russian author Aleksandyr Solzhenitsyn pleaded, “Wake up, America!,” to his sophisticated Harvard audience in 1980, he was met with jeers. He later commented that that moment caused him more suffering than all of his years as a prisoner in a Soviet gulag. How deep we have descended into depravity since then can only be measured by the willful ignorance that propels us along the same path with little or no concern for its ultimate, eternally destructive consequences.

God save us from ourselves.

Anne Collopy
Saint Anthony

 

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