Muckraking on West River Parkway

A lot of magic can happen in nine months: A woman can create life. A child can pass through puberty (well, sort of). A Vikings team can win a Super Bowl. But to make West River Parkway safe again for traffic? Unfortunately it will take well over a year.

It wasn’t originally supposed to be so. News reports following the June 2014 rain-induced mudslide suggested that the road between Franklin Avenue and Fourth Street would likely remain closed, “for a few days until the debris can be cleared.” But the road, which carried 10,000 bicycle and car commuters a day from South Minneapolis to downtown, has remained closed, making original reports a bit humorous in retrospect.

The mudslide sent a 100-yard swatch of the hill below the University of Minnesota Medical Center onto the road, leaving it covered in six to eight feet of mud. In the weeks following, the buildings above were tested and found structurally sound. Authorities then said the road would be closed until the Fall of 2014. Then, it became Spring of 2015 and the parkway is still closed.

So, overcome with spring fever a few weeks ago, I sent my city council member, Cam Gordon, an email inquiry. No response. What did they find in them-thar mud-covered hills? Remnants of Cold War era biological experiments?

Then last week, the city put out a survey asking for citizen input into the design. Great! Except now, we learn that the work hasn’t even been bid out yet — and won’t begin until June. And, it’ll take about “three to four months,” or “until repairs are complete.”

I know. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And the ash on Pompeii wasn’t cleared in… ever? I’m just hoping the city/park board could find a way to create a narrow passage through this 100-yard stretch so that at least bikes and pedestrians could travel through this summer while work is being done on the hill above.

West River Parkway

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7 Responses to Muckraking on West River Parkway

  1. Andrew B March 31, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    Seriously they haven’t done anything yet? C’mon guys, go to Lowes, get some retaining wall block, done.

  2. acs March 31, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    Government efficiency at it’s best.

  3. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke March 31, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    I think everyone’s freaked out about this (http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2014/11/how_mayor_colemans_city_hall_tried_to_spin_the_deaths_of_two_children.php), which probably isn’t a coincidence given climate change, rainfall patterns, erosion.

    But yes, if Minneapolis is really trying to prioritize biking and walking, they should open a stretch of this to re-connect the valuable right of way along the river.

  4. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson March 31, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    Is this the city or the parks board that is paying to do this? Because the parks board seem like they need a top to bottom cleansing. Paying to acquire new property and deferring repair to existing community parks. Many others come to mind.

    • brad March 31, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

      If you click on the survey, you’ll see it’s the Park Board (which might also explain why Cam didn’t respond). In addition, you can read this, which might explain some of the lack of speed:

      “West River Parkway is part of the Grand Rounds, which is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Because the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is providing funding to assist with the repairs, the project is being reviewed under the provisions of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Public participation is an important part of the Section 106 process. FEMA, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will consider your input in the following survey when evaluating options for repairing the historic structures that were damaged during the mudslide including two mortared stone walls built in the 1930s and 40s by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). A 100 foot section of the WPA stone wall located along the base of the failed slope was completely destroyed. The limestone wall built on a bedrock outcrop and located at mid-bluff just upriver from the slide was damaged. In addition, two historic concrete piers supporting the metal guardrail along the river were knocked into the water.”

      • Paul Strebe March 31, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

        Thanks, Brad. I wasn’t aware of the guardrail being knocked out. I’m just surprised they couldn’t have put something in temporarily for bikes and pedestrians. The detour is pretty miserable.

        I took a walk up in that area where the WPA walls are. It’s all pretty underused and in disrepair. My concern is we’re letting our parks become untouchable museums that (in this case) can’t be enjoyed for nearly two summers.

        And as far as Cam Gordon not returning my email — I just assumed that he’d be in the loop on something like this that’s in his ward, even though it’s formally under the Park Board’s purview.

        • Ron April 1, 2015 at 9:04 am #

          I could imagine that it takes a long time to write careful, thoughtful emails responses in a time when every citizen with a question must also be considered a news reporter.

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