The birthplace of St. Paul, the Mississippi River, needs your help. It cannot protect itself. According to Mayor Chris Coleman at a 2014 press conference, “Quite frankly, developers are salivating”. https://youtu.be/2FcWRzicIZw Don’t just take our word for it, go to minute 9 and see for yourself.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is revising 40-year-old rules governing building heights, slope and scenic view protections, vegetation management, wildlife habitat, parks and trails, protections for areas of cultural and historical significance, and other things.
The name for the area under DNR protection is the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA). It is a migratory corridor for 40% of North America’s waterfowl and shorebirds, home to one of the largest urban heron and egret rookeries in the Midwest, and habitat for much wildlife, including the Blandings Turtle, a threatened species. http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/turtle_poster.pdf
The MRCCA has another name, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA). It is a National Park. https://www.nps.gov/miss/index.htm
Within the MNRRA boundaries are also city, regional, and state parks. Thus, the National Park was established as a partnership with other implementing agencies. The federal government did not set up additional regulations, trusting that the DNR would protect this area as a natural resource of critical importance to the city, the state, the region, the nation, and the world.
Anyone can comment to the DNR before July 6, 4:30pm.
For more information and to see how you can comment go to http://dnr.state.mn.us/input/rules/mrcca/index.html
We suggest you comment before June 22 and copy your comments to the City Council and Mayor of St. Paul. Their contact information can be found at https://www.stpaul.gov
Tell them you support strong protections for the river.
The City Council will be voting on a resolution at their meeting on June 22, 3:30pm, City Council Chambers, 3rd floor City Hall, 15 Kellogg Blvd. W. in St. Paul. If you can attend, your attendance would show city leaders that ordinary folks are concerned about how the future of the corridor will be shaped and if current protections will remain in place (and let’s not forget, you are the taxpayers paying their salaries).
For instance, under the DNR rules building heights are currently capped at 40′ in much of the river corridor from Desnoyer Park (north of Marshall Avenue) to Hwy 35E. With the proposal before the DNR, that would change. Heights of 48’+ (upwards of 48′ are allowed with a conditional use permit) would be the minimum standards at Marshall Avenue and just south of Shadow Falls Park at Summit Avenue.
Heights of 65’+ (higher with a conditional use permit) are proposed from the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers all the way to Pig’s Eye Regional Park and beyond. This includes the bluffs along Shepard Road on the north side of the river and the bluffs above the West Side on the south side of the river.
It also includes Lower Landing Park and a section of Pig’s Eye Regional Park. We are asking the City Council and the DNR to change this designation for parkland. It seems like an error and needs to be corrected. 65’+ higher buildings in parkland isn’t even logical.
The section of the Ford Site that is within the Critical Area (not all of the site is within the area, therefore not all of the site is subject to these rules) is proposed at 48’+ and 65’+ heights.
We suggest there hasn’t been enough public input on the district designations from Desnoyer Park all the way to Pig’s Eye Lake and are asking the DNR to reconsider the districts. The 65’+ height district seems to have been quite overused in the plans for St. Paul.
Tell the DNR, the City Council, and the Mayor that you believe St. Paul has done a great job protecting the Critical Area and want to see current protections continue. Ask them to resist the temptation to weaken protections. Opening the area up to “salivating developers” may look good on the bottom line in the short term but would have long-term negative impacts, not just for humans but also for the animals and birds that call St. Paul home.
These rules impact everything from recreational enjoyment of the corridor (scenic views and safe water), air quality (buildings are currently limited to within the tree canopy but under the proposal would be allowed to jut well above the trees, thus limiting their potential to filter our air and cool our urban heat island), healthy water (many cities get their drinking water from the river), healthy people (studies show time and again that the enjoyment of the outdoors increases longevity, boosts mental health, and builds community bonds), historic, cultural and spiritual meaning (the confluence of the rivers by Fort Snelling is sacred to Native Americans and Fort Snelling itself is an historic site) to equitable access (luxury condominiums and apartments would be awesome for the rich few who could afford them but not so great for the masses who could not), economic growth (people want to recreate and live near green spaces, thus protecting natural resources actually increases economic value) and tourism (eco-tourism is a growing market and this summer the first river cruise line is coming to town with ongoing talks for the second cruise line).
It is hard to believe that we have such easy access to nature right here in a major metropolitan area. Equity. What is it if not equal access for all? Therefore, it is our responsibility to protect our natural resources right here where we live. Requiring folks to go “up north” to enjoy nature makes it inaccessible for most.
We are not opposed to development. We are opposed to inappropriate development. Building too high, too close to the water, and on slopes that should not be built upon is not good development.
Our quality of life is wonderful here in St. Paul, what Mayor Coleman has dubbed “The Most Livable City in America”. Let’s keep our protections and our slogan intact.