Reclaiming Mississippi River Boulevard

About Drew Ross

-writer, editor, researcher -19th century history, photography, Twin Cities -served 8 years on Union Park District Council, with interests in transportation and co-chair of Environment and Parks Committee

Articles near this location

31 thoughts on “Reclaiming Mississippi River Boulevard

  1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Reading this, I was really intrigued.. “what happened to the falls”?

    And knowing Saint Paul, of course the answer was…

    … a parking lot.

    Such a predictable let down.

  2. Lou Miranda

    Wow, what a neat way to present a story. Well told.

    Incredible when we look back at other stories and see quotes saying that 30 mph was a criminal speed in the city after the advent of cars, and here seeing that 8(!) mph was the speed limit and IT WAS ENFORCED.

  3. jf

    Fortunately the content and writing was good enough to make me ignore the obnoxious formatting. Scrolly-windows within a scrollable webpage is annoying design.

    1. Monte Castleman

      I agree. I enjoyed the article but it would have worked just fine as a standard WordPress page. I thought we had gotten beyond obnoxious, gratuitous web design when Myspace faded into irrelevance.

      1. Josh

        Why so bitter? This is a blog with tons of creative minds. Not CNN. The author might have made the presentation for something else and then edited it for us to read.

        Leave the negativity in 2018.

        Great job Drew

        1. sheldon mains

          A non-bitter response: I’m not bitter about the format, I just find it annoying. It makes it more difficult to read. It is a fun format for something with limited text but I don’t think it works well for something that has this much text. It was a good experiment (I’m always in favor of experimenting with formats) but I just don’t think it worked.

      2. PL

        I love how story maps actively engage readers with the content. Effective way to link maps, text and images.
        Really great project – thanks for the effort and thought. I’m looking at River Road in a new way…

  4. Jack

    Wow, what a beautiful presentation! Thank you, Drew, for writing/creating this.

    It is unbelievable that they paved over a waterfall and put up a parking lot! No pink hotels, but a swimming pool! This is outrageous.

    I have to admit, after an illness about two months ago, I started taking the River Road by car to work and back. It is such a lovely drive. (I assure you, we kept to the speed limit and got passed a few times). I’m back on the light rail, now and already miss the MRB.

    I hope it doesn’t become just another speedy way to get around town.

    I wish you could still see the falls.

    1. Amy

      When I lived in St. Paul, I had the best commute route–I took Summit Avenue over to East River Road, crossed the river at Marshall/Lake and then took West River Road. It was really beautiful, especially in the fall with the changing leaves. I miss taking that route.

  5. Jenny WernessJenny WernessModerator  

    Thank you for this excellent post, Drew. I really enjoyed how deeply you looked into the history of this area. The design was perfect for the before/after and for the annotations you provided, so useful to be able to scroll back and forth between them.

  6. Amy

    Wow, great article and post! Sadly, I’m not surprised that the falls and ravine were filled in. It seems like the common practice at the time–not one I agree with–but I was nowhere near coming into existence at that point in time. I wish they’d let them be!

    Also, I liked the design of the article and agree with Jenny, it was helpful to be able to go back and forth and note the changes in the landscape.

    1. Drew Ross Post author

      Thanks Amy. You have it right. The ability to scroll back and forth between the unmarked and marked images was the primary reasons for choosing this format. I felt it was a great way to go in-depth and allow the reader to do their own investigation of the landscape before seeing the marked up copy. In draft form of a regular document, before I put it in this format, readers found it difficult to see the markings on the photos.

      I’m impressed with the Esri Story Map platform in that it works on all devices. Its very adaptable. In this story, the comparison of image detail is easier to see on full screen of a computer.

  7. Amy

    One more thing–I do like to drive on the parkways (East and West River Roads) as a more relaxing way to go somewhere, so I do think of it as semi-recreational. I’ve noticed that people do drive EXTREMELY fast on it. I try not to go over 30 but even at that speed, I get tailgated, and that’s already over the speed limit. I wish people would SLOW DOWN! I know at night it can be really hard to see people even at the crossing areas and I’m keeping an eye out. One thing that COULD help–I noticed on West River Pkwy just north of the U of MN there are no lights directly above the walking path so it’s really dark. There are lights across the street but the range of light is limited. Did they intentionally not put any lighting directly over the path?

  8. Theo Kozel

    I don’t know what the word is that I’m looking for – perhaps ‘uncomfortable’ – but this article seems imply that Scott Spoo’s death is due to traffic design choices made on the parkway. That’s a little dubious as it was found that the lawyer who hit and killed him was diagnosed with a large brain tumor and due to that medical condition he was not charged. I’m not sure what design decisions can prevent people with brain tumors from running people over.

    I agree with others that the info about the waterfall is fascinating and quite new to me.

    1. John Holtan

      How about a curb, or planters or raised crosswalks? The least likely thing to have an impact would have been reduced speed limit signs.

      1. Theo Kozel

        Are you asking me if a curb or planters or raised crosswalks or even reduced speed limit signs would have prevented someone suffering from a brain tumor from hitting a jogger? I suppose some of those things possibly could and some of them would not have made any difference whatsoever.

        1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

          The problem is people using the river road as a commuting or travel-oriented street rather than as a slow-speed “parkway”. The Spoo case does have a lot of specific factors that make it hard to identify what is to blame, but in general cars traveling on the River Road should never be going at fatal speeds.

          1. Theodore Kozel

            I guess my point is that when someone’s death is involved we should be very careful not to use or exploit it and I think the point about the parkway could be made in a much, much better way that’s more respectful.

  9. Scott

    Fascinating post. So sad that the falls were filled in.

    What about speed bumps? We know they work, but they seldom get put in. Is it because of snow plows?

    1. Jack

      I think there were speed bumps in the downtown Minneapolis stretch of the parkway. This would have been 10-15 years ago? I don’t think they’re there, now.

  10. Sarah

    This is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read on this site! I walk or bike through this stretch of the gorge several times a week, and never really pondered how it’s changed over the decades until now. It boggles my mind that anyone would ever choose to trade the lovely sound of a waterfall in the background for a parking lot and a swimming pool…it’s incredible how much the 20th century got dead wrong. Thanks for your research on this piece – it’s fascinating, and wonderfully-written and presented.

  11. Suzanne O’Brien

    Really wonderful reporting – I liked the creative use of media. As MPB considers “improvements” to the Minneapolis side, this stands as a cautionary tale.

  12. Robert Zabel

    This is a fascinating article based on careful research!

    Is there any way to get a print copy?


  13. FF

    Wow… I rented one of the houses right next to Town & Country on Otis when I first moved to the area. Those falls must have been the backyard of that house when it was built (supposedly in the early 20th century). There is still a little wild strip between the parking lot/tennis courts and the houses, and I saw coyotes walking through there to get between the Golf Course and the river. Just a little north of the Pelham intersection there is any area that has a small creek piped under the road that almost always seems to smell of sewage.
    We tried using the river path on that stretch to walk on when we lived there, but felt it was dangerous for my toddler son who always wanted to get out of his stroller – but the path was narrow, bounded by a road with no barrier, and frequented by fast moving bicyclists and joggers (like me!) who were not really looking out for a wandering 2 year old. I’d love to see separated bicycle and walking lanes (as are present in many parts of the west bank)

Comments are closed.