By Sara Payne
Sara Payne works in benefits for a Twin Cities corporation and is a source in MPR News' Public Insight Network.
In an MPR News story published last month, Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat described his perception of the proposed Bottineau light rail route. He said he had "actually ridden the corridor, and it's not as beautiful and pristine as some might make it out to be....The time I went through it, there was a mattress along the corridor. What people are failing to see is some of the improvements that could be made in terms of plantings, landscaping, buffering, and things that are not there now."
My family has lived on the corridor for 18 years and walked it and the surrounding parkland (Mary Hills and Wirth Park) most days. Here's a small sampling of what we've seen, much of it in our backyard:
Fox, mink, beaver, woodchuck, deer, wild turkeys (including a female with 10 chicks), raccoons, wood ducks, loons, kingfishers, eagles, barred owls (nesting next door at Deb's, but the chicks kept running around our yard before they had fledged), hawks, myriad songbirds, pileated woodpeckers, herons, egrets, snapping turtles, bats, toads, frogs, fish.
No amount of landscaping, planting and buffering will protect the habitat of these special neighbors. The noise pollution alone from the transit and increased human traffic will destroy a place of refuge for both wildlife and humans.
I relocated to Minnesota after a childhood in Los Angeles, Mexico City and Wales, followed by university studies in Vermont and Indiana. Thirty years ago, after extensive research, I moved to Minnesota with no job, no home and knowing one person because the Twin Cities offered what I was looking for: the cultural and economic advantages of a metropolis with easy, local access to nature and tranquility.
The environment has changed considerably in 30 years. I welcome the increased diversity in our population and the development of public transportation, but I am not willing to support an LRT project that threatens an ecosystem that once gone cannot be recovered.
I believe it is this perspective that truly takes into account the future of Minnesota and the bigger picture that Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris claims to be considering. We must be stewards for our environment.
Yes, LRT is a viable and important part of moving toward reduced carbon use and cleaner living, but it needs to be located where it will serve people needing it most and will do the least damage to our natural resources. My voting family of three adults will not be supporting any of the City Council members or the mayor who voted for this proposal last month.
There's a renewed rumbling in the neighborhood, and it's not the trains.