Letters to the Editor
Summit Ought to be Cherished
Permit me to provide some outside perspective on the proposed Summit Avenue Regional Trail and the destruction of trees. I’m from Rapid City, where my backyard is essentially the Black Hills. Around here we cherish every tree in this magnificent forest and appreciate the widely understood connection between trees and climate change.
I get to Saint Paul a few times a year to visit family who live in the Summit Avenue neighborhood, and over the decades I’ve come to love this street, which is redolent of history and aesthetics and one of the most beautiful urban stands of trees I’ve ever seen.
I’ve also come to appreciate the progressive atmosphere that practically defines the cultural and political environment of this community. Which is why I’m shocked at the willingness of many Saint Paul residents to destroy those wonderful trees on Summit Avenue, especially in an era when trees are the embodiment of our communal fight against the ravages of climate change.
Enigmatically, the biking community, which comprises people who are probably among our strongest advocates for clean air, is turning its collective back on the need to keep our trees. The sight of these wonderful, clean-air enhancing trees being destroyed brings tears to my eyes. It casts a pall on the entire community, which will be setting a horrible example for the rest of the world as it demonstrates its indifference to the role of trees by chopping them down and paving the land on which they were growing.
Although not a member of the biking community, I have many wonderful friends who are avid bicyclists. I’ve always admired their dedication to a healthy lifestyle and believe that there should be plenty of room for them to function in an urban setting. However, we may be at a time when we have to accept the fact that there are certain neighborhoods where the history, aesthetics and environmentally friendly environment just cannot be ceded to bicyclists, particularly in a city like Saint Paul, which has made numerous changes to its infrastructure in order to accommodate the needs of bicyclists.
I implore the city of Saint Paul to leave one of the most magnificent neighborhoods in the United States alone, and ask the biking community to join in a communal effort to retain a beautiful, historic example of an urban environmental stronghold.
Preserving Summit’s Trees
I hope all Summit Avenue residents who are passionate about saving their street’s iconic tree canopy are watering the boulevard trees, especially the younger ones. This action would do more to preserve Summit’s drought-stricken urban forest than would blocking construction of the proposed bike path. Drought is causing tree loss throughout Saint Paul. It reduces the trees’ tolerance for other stresses, such as construction work. By contrast, the bike path, if implemented with appropriate tree-protective measures as planned, should cause little tree loss, provided the adjacent trees are not already in critical condition. To avoid harming nearby trees, the bike paths can be deviated inward by narrowing the adjacent buffer strips.
Is St. Paul Leadership Building a City That People Want to Live In?
Recent census data shows that St. Paul’s population decreased by 2.7% from 2020 to 2022. Downtown businesses are still not returning to in-office work requirements, putting small businesses at risk. Property taxes went up by almost 15% last year and now they want to increase the local sales tax by 1%, making St. Paul the highest taxed city in the state.
Over the last five years, the City’s budget has increased by over 40% to $801M. The Parks & Rec portion of the budget has increased 26.9% over the same period to $68.4M yet per Director Andy Rodriguez they have a $100M maintenance backlog. Over the same period the Public Works budget has also increased by 26.9% to $177.6M. Puzzling is how an annual budget of around $26M for street maintenance was cut by 50% to $13M in 2023 and that this coincides with the poorest road conditions that people ever recall.
Altogether, it appears that the efforts of the current city leadership are counterintuitive to population growth. Why would people choose to move to a city that has the highest taxes in the state and isn’t able to take care of existing infrastructure? Pushing new capital projects exacerbates the City’s failure to keep up with existing maintenance. Approving projects like the Summit Avenue Regional Bike Trail that threatens the historic, mature tree canopy, while this year the city is facing the loss of 4,000 ash trees to disease, is unacceptable and reveals how pet projects prevail over what is in the best interest of the community.
How is this building a city that will attract new residents? Please vote for candidates who will represent the concerns of the people, rather than special interest projects, when you choose in November.
David vs. Goliath on Bike Trail
One clear takeaway on the multimillion-dollar Summit Avenue bicycle trail (“Met Council begins its review of controversial Summit bike trail,” MyVillager, July 12): Attorney Robert Cattanach is a true bulldog. But it’s a Goliath versus David fight, and the big guy is going to be the winner. The city and its progressive bureaucrats want the bike path. So do the entrenched politicians who call the tunes. And the bicyclists will never settle for a less famous route.
What of the folks living on Summit and the majority of those who will pay for the bike paths? They aren’t relevant in the final analysis. The left has all the say and power in Saint Paul and throughout Minnesota. The voters will be loyal to them in the end, and they know it. They like government and the bigger the better.
Summit Trail Endangers Trees
In “Met Council begins its review of controversial Summit bike trail” (MyVillager, July 12), reporter Jane McClure is inaccurate when she writes, “The two bike paths would be constructed largely within the existing curb lines on both sides of Summit between Mississippi River Boulevard and Kellogg Boulevard.”
The city of Saint Paul’s plan for the Summit Avenue Regional Trail proposes to increase the paved areas of Summit’s two divided roadways by 6 feet between Mississippi River Boulevard and Fairview Avenue and between Snelling Avenue and Lexington Parkway. It does this by taking out the existing curbs and expanding the roadway by 18 inches on each of the four sides. This will severely impact trees along those 2 miles of Summit either by directly cutting them down or killing them via root damage. A further loss of trees will occur due to new curb bumpouts along the entire 4.7 miles of Summit.
Let’s Fix What We Already Have First
As a lifelong year-round cyclist I don’t support an elevated or separate bike trail on Summit Avenue. I wish everyone would ride a bike but the reality is most people will continue to drive.
Summit Avenue is not a continuous right away like the Gateway, Greenway orRiver Road trails where you have minimal street crossings, which are always conflict points. Do we really expect cars or bikes to stop at approximately 40 crossings and look before proceeding?
The newly paved bike lane from Lexington to Snelling is perfect, and it would be a waste to recreate an elevated trail. If the elevated bike trail takes away the bike lane, I’ll most likely avoid riding down Summit Avenue altogether.
Meanwhile our street infrastructure is in such poor shape as we witnessed this past spring. The city simply put temporary patches in the potholes but they’ll certainly be back next spring.
Let’s get our priorities in order and fix what we already have to the benefit of everyone.
Bike Paths Will Ruin Summit
As I looked down Summit Avenue recently, I felt a knot in my stomach thinking of the proposed destruction of this beautiful and historic street and neighborhood. It is an unbelievable gem in the middle of our city.
The owners of many Summit Avenue homes pay more than $15,000 per year in property taxes. They must abide by stringent regulations if they wish to make changes to their properties because they live in a historic district. The view with concrete replacing hundreds of mature trees should make any rational person reconsider the whole idea. The minds that conceived this plan certainly were not prioritizing climate change.
The city process for destroying this street and historic neighborhood has not been transparent. Neighborhood residents should be able to vote on this extremely consequential plan. When I think about how this regional trail is being forced down the throats of Saint Paul residents—particularly Summit Avenue residents—it seems there just might be a private agenda behind the scenes. Money? Connections? Maybe both.
Safety keeps appearing as one of the arguments for the bike trail. I do not recall a study about the number of bicyclists who use Summit Avenue year-round or the number of bicyclists injured or killed using the current road and bike lanes. And if bicyclists have been injured or killed, were they wearing helmets? Were they riding single-file or side by side? Did they stop for stop signs and red lights as a bicyclist must when he or she is sharing the road with automobiles?
The entirety of this proposal needs public transparency before proceeding. Better yet, put it on the ballot and let the public vote. Choice is one of the pillars of American democracy, isn’t it?
As a lifelong commuting bicyclist I find the bicycle lanes on Summit Avenue entirely adequate. All that is needed is repaving the street and repainting the bike lane lines. There is more than enough room in the existing lanes to bicycle safely. Bicyclists and motorists can share the road. It is a daily experience in most of the world, and most countries have much narrower roads than we do.
This reconstruction of Summit Avenue will destroy a beautiful and thriving city neighborhood that can never be replaced. Remember Rondo?
No Place for Families to Bike
It has been 25 years since I last wrote a letter to the editor of MyVillager, but the ill-considered Summit Avenue bike trail moves me to do so again.
Imagine three bike rides from the western end of Summit Avenue at Mississippi River Boulevard. The first curves northwest via bike paths to the Guthrie Theater—about 5 miles with two road crossings. The second goes south and then east on the same bike path, forming a large “U” as it hugs the river, ending below the Science Museum of Minnesota—10 miles with four road crossings. The third goes east on Summit to the University Club. This one is 4 miles but has 32 road crossings.
I’ve made all three of these trips scores of times over the past 20 years. Cyclists on off-road bike paths are oblivious to cars. Motorists next to the off-road bike paths rarely see the adjacent bikes. The 32 crossings on Summit will become scenes of tragedy with the proposed off-road bike paths.
I’m a huge, life-long fan of bikes and bike riding, but a street with that many crossings is no place for constructing a family-oriented bike trail.
Summit Should Be Protected
I read Jane McClure’s recent articles about the proposed Summit Avenue bike trail. I agree with using Portland, Grand or Jefferson avenues as an alternative. The trees and historic character of Summit Avenue should be protected.
Rootless in Mac-Groveland
I could cry. Saint Paul seems determined not to have a history. It won’t leave historic Summit Avenue alone, even though bicyclists are currently using it, and it’s attempting to raze the Hamline Midway Library, though it has been designated a historic building.
For those too young to remember, the city was hell-bent on tearing down Landmark Center in the early 1970s to build a parking garage—the building that is now the jewel in the crown of downtown. If one woman hadn’t fought City Hall with an army of like-minded preservationists, we’d now have a dilapidated parking garage facing Rice Park.
I was in awe of the buildings I saw five years ago in England which are still in use as homes or public buildings, serving meals and libations to travelers as they did in the time of Shakespeare. I’m sure those buildings didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity, yet they have been preserved as evidence of a proud history.
We need to preserve our precious historic places.