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.”

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(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.