Bottineau LRT corridor: Wildlife oasis or mattress dump?

One Golden Valley resident is insisting that the swath of parkland selected by light-rail planners for the part of the proposed Bottineau light-rail route really is pristine.

Sara Payne, who lives across the street from the open space, took umbrage with the way Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat described it in my story from yesterday. Currently a freight-rail corridor, the transit route would skirt along Theodore Wirth Park and the Mary Hills Nature Area.

“I’ve actually ridden the corridor, and it’s not as beautiful and pristine as some might make it out to be,” said Opat. “The time I went through it, there was a mattress along the corridor.”

Payne sent us some pretty incredible nature photographs — of barred owls, snapping turtle hatchlings, and a morel mushroom. She said she took most of the shots from her backyard over the 18 years she’s lived on Bonnie Lane. Like many of her neighbors, she worries that the noise pollution and increased human traffic from the trains would “permanently destroy a place of refuge for both wildlife and humans.”





(Photos courtesy of Sara Payne)

Payne, who calls herself a “committed city dweller” from Minneapolis before she moved to Golden Valley, said her family supports light-rail and is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.

“It just has to be planned well and not disrupt the dwindling nature resources in the city,” she wrote.

The Golden Valley city council voted 3-2 last night in favor of a resolution offering its initial approval of the route. Light-rail planners will continue studying the alignment, including the potential effect on the environment.

The project would eventually seek another round of approvals the five cities touching the route, including Golden Valley.

Until then, expect the debate to continue.

  • I couldn’t believe Opat’s comments when I read them after coming home from the vote. I’m so glad you sent those pictures in Sara! Everyone go check out these parks before they are ruined by the noise and infrastructure.

    Mary Hills Nature Area is only a few hundred feet wide next to the current rail, and they are going to put in two more rails. How many trees will we lose to this project, how much wildlife will be killed crossing the tracks when a train is coming every 15 minutes?

    Light rail is only useful when it runs along dense transit corridors that have a potential for greater growth. It’s not progress to lose parkland to possibly two stations within Theodore Wirth.

  • Isaac

    I agree with the homeowner quoted in the article.

    If the idea is that light rail transit reduces the reliance on cars, shouldn’t the proposed rails be in the middle or on the side of existing roadways? Glenwood Ave and Penn Ave are two obvious candidates. The entire train need not take up more than a lane and a half of the road. Those roads are often four lanes wide even though it is a residential neighborhood.

    Why tear down more woodsy areas and cut off the movement of wildlife just because some commissioner saw a mattress there once?

  • Andy Guthrie

    I’m a little upset at how discussion to this point has ignored the fact that light rail will dramatically improve access to such an important piece of parkland for thousands of people who either cannot afford, cannot for medical reasons operate or simply choose not to have a car. The fact is that light rail will not seriously damage the park it is adjacent to (as I understand it, the plan is to build the line entirely within the existing 100′ wide railroad right-of-way, excepting the transition to TH-55). The trains will be more frequent than freight trains, but much quieter due to electric traction and continuous welded rail (no “clickety-clack”), no to mention much less frequent than the cars which continuously drive by on Wirth Parkway. Commissioner Opat is right to point out that light rail doesn’t have to look like Hiawatha does in industrial areas, and that many context-sensitive design options exist for integrating LRT into parkland without damaging it. I understand people’s fears of the unknown and general resistance to change, but most of the comments in opposition I’ve heard have a real elitist tinge to them–simply assuming that auto traffic on the parkway is acceptable, but light rail traffic near by is not and that providing everyone a way to reach treasured parks without choking them with cars and pollution is not an important goal from a social-equity and conservation perspective.

  • Andy, I understand where you are coming from, but there are major bus routes that already go to both of the proposed stops that come from downtown. I’m not against having a station that intersects the park, say at 55 where there is already a highway going through the park, but this current plan is running along all of narrow Mary Hills, and a large part of Wirth’s borders, and will sit within Wirth in possibly two places. Yes, the cars on the parkway cause noise, but now we are going to compound the problem with cars and frequent trains? Many people will need to drive to these stations to use them, causing more vehicle traffic on the parkway.

    Also, since you sounded like somebody who knows what they are talking about, I googled you and found these slides which I think are yours:

    Looking at slide 5, the disputed part of the route is going through a dead-zone of lacking low-wage population and jobs. How does the park-portion of the route advance the transit needs of anyone in the corridor? This whole line is basically connecting one high-wage population / high-wage job area to another and bypassing the neighborhoods between by putting these stations in areas where growth isn’t possible, because they are in the middle of parks.

    Just to preempt the cries of “Rondo!” that we opponents to D1 often hear, I’m not saying the route should go through North Mpls and tear down people’s homes, because I will continue to be a selfish GV resident to the end, and say it should go through the economic heart of Golden Valley, along 55 or 394 and up 100, where there is already plenty of room and proper zoning for future development. However, we’re not having that debate anyway and instead it’s become a matter of protecting our hard-fought parkland.

  • bsimon

    I fail to see how the light rail will disrupt snapping turtles or Morel mushrooms. Given that the route is an active freight corridor, I’m skeptical the owls will be significantly disrupted. I live in Minneapolis, by the creek & within audible range of the light rail. A snapping turtle has laid eggs in the boulevard in front of my house. We’ve had wild turkeys & a mink in the yard. Last year some merlins raised a family in the neighbor’s white pine. I’ve seen beaver sign in the area too. We get wood ducks, blue herons & kingfishers in the creek within sight of the light rail. I am often surprised at how much wildlife exists within the city, that has apparently learned to live with our noise and chaos.