Hey, do you remember a couple of years ago when that budget-Pixar animation company made a feature-length adaptation of The Lorax? Only it watered down the message of one of Dr. Seuss’ most depressing and dire tales about the inevitable result of unadulterated greed into “You can still consume things, but make sure they’re #green!” The one that came complete with product tie-ins for IHOP and a “Truffula Tree friendly” Mazda CX-5?
Because that’s what I immediately think of when I hear of the latest angle that the Kenilworth crowd is trying in order to stop the Southwest Light Rail. A Hail Mary appeal to “think of the trees” and postpone preliminary construction in case the federal funding doesn’t arrive. Lip service to an environmental cause to benefit themselves.
But wait! I’m not just going to drop an opinion and leave, I’m actually here to offer a solution. You see, I can’t make the assumption that the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association is acting in bad faith. Kenilworth is a neat example of taking an area that was once a rail yard and turning it into an urban oasis. The fact that we’re running the SWLRT through it is a decision that, while we’re stuck with it now, could have gone a different way if FTA transit requirements for funding had counted existing transit riders when considering projects for funding. So losing 1300 trees and a quiet respite in our city is something we shouldn’t take lightly.
Having said that, if we are going to take our commitments to stop climate change seriously, we need to expand our light rail system as soon as possible. Better and faster transit to our suburbs is especially important, given they developed in a post-streetcar reality, and the sort of dense transit-oriented developments we want to see in the future require a high-quality transit system in order to work. Stopping Southwest Light Rail over Kenilworth at this point is literally missing the forest for the trees.
So, here’s my solution – let’s close the Cedar Lake Parkway to vehicle traffic.
Here’s what we’re working with:
And here’s what could (dare I say, should) be.
I mean, it’s staring us right in the face. If we reclaim that roadway space, we’d have more than enough room to plant replacements for 1300 trees. Probably far more, even. It would turn that section of the Grand Rounds into a tranquil forest trail along Cedar Lake, especially once all those Land Rovers and Beamers aren’t able to use it as a substitute for the freeway anymore. It would be an incredible reclamation of natural space in our city, all for the cost of ripping up one road.
As far as I can tell, the road is entirely superfluous to the neighborhood. Traffic can be rerouted down Cedar Lake Road to France via Ewing. Given the size of Ewing and France, and that their exit onto Minnetonka is far more suitable for the traffic than Dean Parkway, it almost seems like this was the plan all along, and that drivers never should have been using Cedar Lake Parkway as a bypass in the first place. Of course, this route would be all but useless to Kenilworth residents, since they’d have to venture almost to St. Louis Park and backtrack through a busy part of Lake Street in order to use the Grand Rounds system as a traffic cheat code. But without traffic lanes, the trail should revert to a quieter area in general, adding to the atmosphere of the reforested North Cedar Lake Trail, which I’m sure they’d agree is way more beneficial to their community.
From my Google Maps surveying of the area, most of the homes that connect to Cedar Lake Road only do so as a secondary approach, either as a walkout to the lake or alternate driveway. In other words, a majority of those who have homes adjacent to the parkway wouldn’t be negatively affected. And if I missed a few… well, Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association is willing to sacrifice the benefits Southwest Light Rail would bring to thousands of area residents, so I’m comfortable sacrificing the convenience of a handful of this area’s residents in order to make this a reality. If Kenilworth’s residents love trees and quiet spaces as much as I think they might, they would also agree this is a noble tradeoff.
In conclusion, I think we can have our cake and eat it too. In order to replace the loss of the sanctity of the Kenilworth wooded area and the trees that called the corridor home, let’s close Cedar Lake Parkway to vehicle traffic, rip up the road, and start planting trees for a future natural respite from our city. Without the automobile traffic spoiling the corridor in order to save a few minutes on their commute, I think we could set the stage for a wonderful new Minneapolis amenity in the next few decades, and provide a way for Kenilworth to productively promote rewilding in their area without it coming at the cost of regional transit improvements.
And if this article appears like a Swiftian modest proposal, let me assure you that I fully believe what I’m writing here. It would be an unironic net win for Minneapolis if this proposal became a reality. So I look forward to hearing from the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association about my idea, and how they plan to use their influence in order to help make it a reality.