River Talk

More on Visions for the central Minneapolis Riverfront

Isn't this always how it goes?  Just after I posted my blog entry Monday about our student work on the Minneapolis riverfront, I open up the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and there's a story about the students and their project.  Jenna Ross wrote a nice piece that captures the heart of the matter:  students developing idealistic, hopeful visions of "design moves" that make the riverfront more accessible to the community.

But in some ways, the comments that the story attracted were as interesting as the story itself.  The 40 (at last count) comments were generally, "positive" in that they recognized the value of having people set for new visions of what's possible.  Some went so far as to say that the park Board should all see these ideas, which is a very gratifying affirmation of the work. 

A couple of "nay-sayers" spoke up, and questioned why the city would be interested in spending public money on such stuff.  And those comments, in turn elicited reflections that we have access to the rivers and lake fronts that define the city largely because of the vision and courage of previous generations; it's time for us to do our part.

It is indeed time to do our part, and the visions of the waterfront that our students put forth can be vary valuable conversation starters.  I already know some people will find them too "hard scaped" and "urban" with not enough of the "green heart of the city" vision.  Others will feel quite differently, that the city riverfront needs to be much more "people-oriented," and that the future of the riverfront is as a broadly-accessible social space.

To me, the truth is "both/and," not "either/or" and our challenge as public agency staff, education/program specialists, or advocates, is to engage in a robust, respectful, public debate that has our shared goals in mind.

I am hopeful that our discussions will be able to go beyond the polarizing, name-calling that passes so often for public debate these days.  The river deserves the best thinking we can give it.  

  The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.