As you’ve probably already noticed, sometimes I’m really good at starting fires.
Usually this happens by accident.
Right now, there’s a tempest in a teapot happening in the comments to “1938 All Over Again?“, because I had had the temerity to republish an article highlighting the similarities between the Sudeten Crisis of 1936 and the Crimean Crisis of 2014. I frankly didn’t think anyone would be interested but me.
But sometimes the fires happen on purpose.
There’s a fight taking place in the city of Minneapolis and at least one of its western suburbs—a fight which I set up to happen about 25 years ago. I’m as long gone as an arsonist who left a time-delay fuse at the site of a blaze, but I made the conflict happen… and I’m proud of it.
It has to do with the building of bike and pedestrian trails next to active rail lines. It hadn’t been done before. There were lots of rails-to-trails conversions happening all over the country in the late ’80s, but rails AND trails?
Before I turned my attention to juvenile justice reform, I spent 15 years creating parkland in rail corridors which had been abandoned by some (but not all) active freight lines around Minneapolis. One of these corridors was land which was purchased by the Hennepin County Rail Authority for an alignment for future light rail (commuter) traffic linking downtown Minneapolis with distant Eden Prairie, about 12 miles southeast of the city.
(This alignment is designated as “F” in the map to the right.)
Now the authorities have put the money together and want to build their commuter rail line, but they’re having trouble at one choke-point: the Kenilworth Corridor, where one small rail line continues to operate its freight trains next to bikers and pedestrians in a natural setting which mimics a piece of wildness in the heart of the city.
I distinctly remember dreaming up the strategy of getting people to coexist with active rail lines. I thought, “Get the people to see rail lands as parklands, get them using the land as parks, and the politicians will never be able to take the corridors away from the people—no matter what jurisdiction owns the land for whatever purpose.”
I was surprised at the time that we got the rail authority to go along with this scheme, but I learned that politicians are short-sighted and eager to give the voters “bread and circuses” if it doesn’t cost too much money. Light rail was a distant goal, and putting an obstacle or complication in its way was something that someone else would just have to figure out. Now that time has come, and the politicians know that something will have to give—but as I had predicted, the people will not tolerate the loss of their trails.
Now the puzzle has been “elevated” to the level of a children’s show in the Twin Cities, and has been called a conundrum. This just really slays me. The younger generation is even being involved.
This is a conflagration I set up years ago, and I can’t even smell the smoke.
Groove of the Day