I’ve talked quite a bit recently about how incremental change to encourage active transportation is very much dependent on working to improve existing poor development that can’t just be blown up with a do-over.
I offer today a tale from close to (my) home of good intentions gone awry.
Blaine, Minnesota has been a fast-growing burbclave for some time, with continued addition of new housing units. As part of some development, land was set aside to create a new city park. After last year’s opening of Lakeside Commons Park, it became wildly popular. It’s a pretty nice park — there’s a beach, there’s a splash pad, there are picnic shelters, you can rent canoes for the lake. Very pleasant.
This year, Blaine is trying to address the problem of parking at said park — there simply isn’t enough. One of the reasons is because it is next to impossible to get from one piece of Blaine to another. In the entire suburb, there are limited sidewalks. Crossing MN65 is a horror. Many major streets lack sidewalks, sidepaths or shoulders, and tend to roll in the 40 mph+ zone.
Per the local paper, even the more conservative parking lot extension plan amounts to about half of Blaine’s parks development funding budget for 2011. Half. All on more parking spots.
If you don’t live in the development the park is located in, or one of the developments along Radisson Road, which offers a shoulder and a sidepath along a 55mph roadway, it is nearly impossible to get there via bike. I’m an LCI, an experienced cyclist, and I’ve ridden on roads that would make some people need new pants, and I’m challenged to come up with a route from my house to this park — and I can’t do it if I have the Chariot or Trail-A-Bike along, frankly. They extend my total length such that at some points where I might otherwise use natural elements and medians for protection, I am unable to do so, and at some risk to my kid. Bad plan.
Blaine does know that the ability to walk and bike is an issue, and it’s addressed in the city plan. I don’t know that how to fix it or pay for it is addressed. I’m fairly certain that the Parks Development budget cannot be used to improve ways to cross MN65 or deal with all the streets that an experienced adult would fear.
So there goes $400,000 to build another sheet of asphalt, encouraging pollution and issues with run-off… so that people can enjoy a beach and walking paths. It makes no sense, but there’s your reality.