Saturday, June 28, 2008

Restoring the Riverfront

My brother has a place on the river near downtown St. Paul. We all got emails from him earlier this week within minutes after he received an email warning him, as a nearby homeowner, that he might care to take precautions against fine art crashing to the floor when Xcel demolished the 570-foot chimney next to the High Bridge. The chimney came down as a part of Xcel's conversion from coal to natural gas at the plant. Carolyn, my parents and I took him up on it. We arrived well before the 7:30 am appointed time, and were not disappointed. If I could figure out how to load the video, I would have some nice close footage. As it is, I am posting a picture of the chimney, as it looked before, as it loomed before over the growing neighborhood on the lowertown flats of St. Paul.

My brother and both remarked how oddly sad it made us to see the chimney go - it was a part of our youth and formed a classic intersection with the High Bridge, that provided scale and humility to the human constructs on the riverbank. It posed an x-axis, with the High Bridge being a y-axis, and third and fourth eternal and timeless axes flowing through, the Mississippi. The River flows through high embankments at this place, and eagles often cluster by the dozens in the trees across from Tom's condo. I have watched brilliant white banners of pelicans flapping away down the river at eye-level from the condo balconies. The River has flooded this area before and will again, but I hope not to the level of the condo, which sits on an artificially raised plateau, well above historic high water marks. I heard that the old power plant site is being completely demolished and that green space will replace it. The picture at left was taken from the Riverfront Corporation's website, and shows what was planned for the site at some point. The green space is meant to be a buffer between the power plant and the adjacent housing. In the rendering, I see a lot of lawn which usually means a lot of chemicals, which would perhaps go immediately into the river.

I hope that what actually happens with this land is more thoughtfully planned, with an eye toward providing an amenity for plant workers and as wildlife habitat. So much of the riverfront environment is degraded with invasives like buckthorn (the extensive and expensive Shepard Road plantings have been neglected and so have been lost to those and other noxious plants). I hope Xcel can do for this site what General Mills has done at its corporate campus in the western suburbs. General Mills created a wetland area that immediately started drawing migratory and resident wildlife, as well as neighbors and employees for recreation. While this space isn't suitable as wetland, it could be planted as prairie that would hold up to the strong winds that push through the river valley, with some young oaks, representing Xcel's long term investment in the community. Oh, and it would be cheaper than lawn to maintain, too.

After the big event, we went back to Tom's place and Carolyn and I made breakfast for the group. I was reminded about how difficult it is to do things using unfamiliar tools and equipment. Not our fry pans, not our turners, not our stove. Not our best effort. But everyone was gracious and complimentary and kind.

After taking Carolyn home, I went down to the Guthrie to pick up tickets for Mom and stopped in at the Mill City Farmer's Market. For less than $20, I got the elements for these three bouquets.

I like to keep flowers on a little table outside our front door. It is a tribute to my ikebana teacher, Vesta Harrison, who did the same at her apartment in Portland. Her flowers were done in stunning ikebana form. Mine are thrown in a vase. I guess it would be more of a tribute if I used the skills she taught me.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing, watching funny movies. I got a lot of knitting done on the kinomo vest, and am jazzed to start the Colinette tank. Late afternoon, Carolyn got word that an operating fund gift had been restored to the non-profit with which she is involved, which was a boon in many ways to the organization. We ate leftovers all day and drank tea.

Kitty slept all day long on the skirt I had draped over the ironing board. Occasionally she would get up to eat, chase the ribbons I had tied to a stick and ask to be let out into the hall for a little run. She had no complaints.

It felt like we were on vacation. A great day, in all.

1 comment:

twinsetellen said...

Very funny comment in re: Ikebana. The day sounds wonderful - I'm so glad you got to have it!