Sunday Sketch– Flood Sketching and a Modest/Awesome Riverfront Proposal

Roberta and I did a lot of sketching of the flooding in Downtown Saint Paul. We wanted to document the changing landscape as water gradually replaced land. There’s a slideshow of our flood sketches at the PiPress.  Here’s one of the sketches I did from the Robert Street Bridge of the Port of Saint Paul’s Lowertown Landing submerged beneath the roiling Mississippi River:

!Ken_Robert_st_Breidge_6_25 copy

As I sketched the riverfront, I had a few observations; the riverfront is totally boring and closure of the Warner/Shepard Road along the river didn’t throw the city into chaos or cause much misery because is not a busy road and the parks along the river are not hugely popular (because the riverfront is boring). The I started thinking about how I would change the riverfront to make it an awesome destination and resistant to disruption by flooding.

The first thing I’d do is get rid of Warner/Shepard Road between the Upper Landing at Chestnut Street all the way down to the Lafayette Bridge. The “Law of Disappearing Traffic” will take care of what little car traffic there is. The next thing I’d do is wall up the underpasses at Sibley and Jackson so floodwaters cannot again threaten Lowertown like this:

!Ken_jJackson_st_6_25 copy

The next thing I’d do is divide the Mississippi riverfront into 3 sections and do the following:

From the District Energy power station to the Wabasha Bridge, I’d demolish the old West Publishing buildings and the old Ramsey County Jail with explosives (that’ll get a bunch of spectators) and replace them with an awesome amusement park:


Every waterfront amusement area has to have a Ferris wheel. Our Ferris wheel would give thrill seekers  the experience of being enveloped in a cloud of steam coming from District Energy. In case the steam is too  hot, there will be an artificial waterfall on the other side to cool off any scalded passengers. More awesome fun can be had by kayaking or watching other people kayaking down the falls. Next to the falls would be a sheer cliff that would be the tabla rasa upon which the awesome Red Bull folks would concoct awesome death-defying, thrill-seeking activities like the awesome Crashed Ice or the awesome Flutag. Throw in a ski/snowboard jump, a trolley and a funicular. For more awesomeness, build a castle into the bluff with a drawbridge and a moat etc. In the summer the summer, there could be medieval festivals and in the winter, the Winter Carnival Royalty can hold court – awesome! And weddings. There can never be enough venues in Saint Paul for people to get hitched in.

From the Wabasha Bridge to the Robert Street Bridge , I’d demolish the boring park on the bluff and the dumb road and the ugly parking lot that hardly anyone uses and restore the bluffs and create a nature preserve like the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary except with terraced steps for easy animal viewing and food trucks (not visible in this sketch because they’re behind the trees, trust me there will be food trucks):


On the other side of the Robert Street Bridge, there’s the Port of Saint Paul. Did you know that Saint Paul had a port? I sketched the Port of Saint Paul just before it sank beneath the muddy, manure-scented waves of the Mississippi River:


 Pathetic! Some boring lettering on the side of concrete wall isn’t what comes to mind when I hear the word “port”. This is what I think the Port of Saint Paul... no, the Port of Pig’s Eye sounds way more awesome. This is what I think the Port of Pig’s Eye should look like:


Ports have lighthouses and seafood restaurants and and fudge. And all of this awesome stuff would be built on a boardwalk way above flood level so the next time the river floods, people can flock down to the Pig’s Eye Port boardwalk and drink beer, listen to live music and eat saltwater taffy and watch trees float downriver – awesome!

So, c’mon Saint Paul, let’s use some of that FEMA disaster aid money to build an awesome riverfront!

Ken Avidor

About Ken Avidor

Ken Avidor is an illustrator, cartoonist and occasional courtroom sketch artist. Ken Avidor is an active urban sketcher and maintains a daily, illustrated journal. Ken is married to urban cartographer and talented sketch artist Roberta Avidor in the Union Depot in Lowertown, Saint Paul. Follow Ken and Roberta's sketching/bicycling adventures on their travel blog.

6 thoughts on “Sunday Sketch– Flood Sketching and a Modest/Awesome Riverfront Proposal

  1. David

    you are so right about the closed Sheppard/Warner road that was flooded. who missed it? i happen to live in Lowertown, and sure if i go to MSP or 494 i drop sibley by Union Station, but no biggie to detour from Kellogg down to Eagle. good riddance. way too much road capacity for current traffic demands.

    1. Kassie

      I miss it. I live on the East Side near Warner Road and Hwy 61. It is my route to everywhere West. It is so much easier to jump on Warner Road to get downtown than to take 3rd, and much more pleasant. The closure of the bike lane along side Warner for the past year has been extremely also, but that’s another issue.

  2. Froggie

    My experience with Shepard Rd is that there are a fair number of trucks that use it. Partly due to that big industrial facility off Warner Rd just east of downtown, partly due to the huge rail yards along 61, and partly due to it being the designated truck alternative for I-35E.

    Does it need to be 4 lanes? Debatable given traffic volumes (which seem to average around 15K). Should it be removed? No.

    And that steam wheel idea really is crackpot…

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