A green experiment on Irving

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Green space nestled in the heart of an urban city was landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland’s vision, who in 1883 designed Powderhorn, Loring and Farview Parks laced with lush green parkways linking them like jeweled necklaces. In 1883 it was a novel idea to connect people with green spaces that have since become the gems of our park system. Our parkways, like Victory Memorial Drive, are a network of walking and biking paths shaded by lush canopies and luxurious landscapes in our Camden Community.

A Northside greenway was first proposed by the City and presented to the community a few years ago. They offered several routes with options and surveyed neighbors who voted to have a greenway all along Humboldt – but the City decided to divert the a major part of greenway from Humboldt to Irving.

Last year the City tried to test this project with a temporary greenway along Irving from 3000 to 3500 to give residents a taste of how a permanent greenway would affect them. Temporary barriers were placed at the end of the streets banning cars, turning the streets over to pedestrians and bicyclists to show residents how the greenway may work, and its benefits and disadvantages.

During the experiment signs sprung up on the front lawns of homes along Irving — a public expression of residents in support or opposition to the proposed project. This very American display of opinions speaks volumes, and even though the year-long experiment ended at the end of May their voices are still heard.

If approved by the City the proposed project would convert these streets into a continuous greenway reserved for bikes and pedestrians. Even though Minneapolis has an established history for preserving/carving green spaces, this project takes it a step further because it impinges on residents’ own space; where they chose to live and raise their families.

While the North Greenway project may promote healthy habits, such as biking and walking, it has not been enthusiastically received by all residents. If the project is implemented and converts Irving into green space opened only to bicycles/pedestrians it would be an adjustment for residents. They would no longer have the option of parking in front of their homes and their visitors would park at designated spaces. “Stop the Greenway,” a movement of concerned residents, has raised this issue. The proposed greenway would not only change the physical landscape of their neighborhood, but also how it would affect their daily lives.

This issue has sparked a conversation among residents and how they want their residential space used. Where do the borders of their lawns end the greenway begins? To some, the lines of ownership are blurred.

Gwen and James Burnett live with their children on the 3500 block of Irving. Before the experiment Gwen said she was against the greenway but now that the year has ended her opinion has changed. She said before the experiment the traffic was “loud and obnoxious” but during the last year with no cars dashing down the street she has reveled in the quiet. She said the downside was lack of parking for her visiting friends/family, but other than that she felt it brought neighbors closer and was safer for her children.

In June, in an effort to get a better sense how Irving residents fared during the experiment, surveys were mailed. The survey results will be available in August. Sara Stewart, from the Minneapolis Health Department, said the survey would provide, “useful conclusion from residents and feedback of their perception how the project impacts them.” The City wants to know how the experiment from the last year impacted them, and as they move forward, how they want their neighborhood to look like.

Cars have returned to Irving and are once again the sounds of vibrant urban living; but what remains are the lawn signs, a vocal reminder that Irving residents’ opinions are still at odds with each other; a clash of quiet dissent which is at the heart of the proposed project.

Questions/info on the project go to minneapolis.gov/health/living/northminneapolisgreenway