Citizens

Last minute decision: attending a one-day Lee Likes Bikes skills clinic

Mountain Bike Geezer - 10 hours 10 min ago

I pulled the trigger last night on attending a Lee Likes Bikes one-day skills clinic in Wisconsin this weekend. (Sunday is sold out but if you’re reading this on Thursday, there are still a couple of slots open on Friday.)

I bought Lee McCormack’s book Mastering Mountain Bike Skills back in 2012 when Chance Glasford recommended it to me.  I’ve been regularly blogging about the ways it’s helped me ever since (see all my posts tagged with Lee Likes Bikes) so I’m psyched to attend one of his clinics.  Someday, I hope to take one at the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder CO where he regularly teaches.

  

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The post Last minute decision: attending a one-day Lee Likes Bikes skills clinic appeared first on Mountain Bike Geezer.

Categories: Citizens

What’s Blooming: Arb Edition

My Northern Garden - Mary Schier - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 11:00am

Things are — not surprisingly — slow to come up and bloom this year. My neighbor’s crocus is in bloom and the crocus bulbs I planted last fall have foliage but no blooms yet. My Siberian squill is also blooming, but that’s about it.

I visited the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum yesterday to attend a super-informative program on pollinators, the threats they face and what gardeners can do to help. (More on that later this week at Notes from Northern Gardener.) Before the conference, I checked out some of the grounds to see what was blooming. A few daffodils where blooming near the entrance drive to the arboretum and the foliage was up for tulips, more daffodils, peonies and lots of other early summer bulbs and plants. Blooms? Not so much. I did find this beautiful grove of forsythia in full bloom, one small stand of Iris reticulata and lots of the pretty blue squill. There was also a wild turkey, strutting around the garden.

Is anything blooming in your northern garden yet?

Related posts:

  1. Scilla in Bloom The Siberian squill or scilla in my front yard is...
  2. Another Bulb in Bloom These sweet little Iris reticulata are the second bulb to...
  3. Thank You for Blooming I’m feeling grateful toward this pot of forced tulip bulbs...
Categories: Citizens

CARS – Last night in La Crosse

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 10:24am

Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS) held a meeting last night in La Crosse, WI, to discuss the proposal to build a second rail line in the middle of La Crosse.  It was packed, over 300 people, standing room only.  The comments of those attending shows the level of concern over   The rail company, BNSF, claims a second line is necessary due to increased traffic.  We’ve seen the increase, I’ve experienced it here in Red Wing, watching the trains rumble through the heart of town.  Well, folks, it’s time for us to rumble!

Residents express concerns over new rail line

Rail expansion prompts worries about dangerous cargo, unsafe rail cars

STrib article about the unsafe rail cars:

Failure rates raising new fears over use of aging oil tankers

And more on the La Crosse proposal:

Local group tries to stop train

New tracks could cause change to local golf course

 

Categories: Citizens

Pasqueflowers

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 9:51am
On the dry southeastern faces of the prairie hills, the first native flowers of the spring, the pasqueflowers, were in bloom... Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year
I biked out Hall Avenue with the wind in my face, down the narrow rumble-stripped shoulder of Highway 19, and down the loose buff-colored gravel of Canada Avenue to the far entrance of the Lower Arboretum. At the entrance to the Arb, I locked my bike, swallowed some water, and headed east down 320th St. W. My goal was McKnight Prairie, a little over five miles away, and the pasqueflowers.Pasqueflowers always remind me of the late Minnesota writer Paul Gruchow, who describes them so beautifully and with such care in his first book, Journal of a Prairie Year (1985). He explains how the pale pastel flowers serve as solar collectors, rotating to catch the sunlight, trapping heat and attracting insects who sometimes shelter at night inside the closed petals.
He was a newspaperman in Worthington, Minnesota, when he wrote that first book, but in the late 1990s he was living in Northfield, teaching at St. Olaf, the author of half a dozen books of essays about making a home in rural Minnesota, about belonging to a place. This was something I thought a lot about in the 1990s, when I was staying at home with the boys, baking my own bread, beginning to explore Northfield, learning to love a landscape that was so different from the Finger Lakes where I grew up.  I came here because this is where my wife got a job. How could I make this place my own?
One morning, Paul Gruchow invited me to his house on Lincoln Street for coffee, an invitation somehow arranged by a mutual friend. We talked about writing and fresh-baked bread and old-growth forests. About how in the forest west of the river wild ginseng once grew, and how there used to be pitcher plants in the low marshy places between Manitou Heights and Heath Creek. About things that were gone, and things we could try to hold onto.
He showed me a framed broadsheet of Thomas McGrath’s poem “The Bread of This World”:
On the Christmaswhite plains of the floured and flowering kitchen tableThe holy loaves of the bread are slowly being born:Rising like low hills in the steepled pastures of light—Lifting the prairie farmhouse afternoon on their arching backs...
Like McGrath, Gruchow had grown up on an Upper Midwestern farm where his family grew wheat, milled it, and baked it into bread. In his own essay “The Transfiguration of Bread,” Gruchow wrote about how the labor that went into a loaf of bread connected his family to the land and brought a sense of purpose to their lives: “Our souls depended in ways we had not anticipated upon the sanctity of the labors that brought bread to our table...Making bread was a critical element in the purpose of our lives, and one of the ways by which we were literally joined to the land. It was at the center of our culture, a civilizing force.”
Out on Sciota Trail, where it crosses Alta Avenue and bends away from the Cannon River, I stopped for a moment on my walk to look at the old Sciota Township Hall, which was built in 1860 as a one-room schoolhouse. In 1854, Charles Lewis selected this land along the Cannon River as a town site, and in the following year had it surveyed and laid out as a town, which he called Lewiston. Within five years, there was a bridge across the river, a mill, a blacksmith shop, a carriage shop, a post office, a hotel, private residences, and this little schoolhouse.
Within a couple of decades, the land bubble collapsed and speculators could no longer profit from town lots in Lewiston, and the town began to disappear, until the little schoolhouse was the only thing left.
From the old township hall, it’s a straight shot east to McKnight Prairie, a little more than two miles away past broad flat fields overarched with irrigation systems. Before long the prairie came into view—the long brown camelback reclining under a pale blue sky. This is virgin prairie, never broken by the plow, still rich with native grasses and wildflowers. Prickly pear cactus grows in a sandy patch on the west side of one of the hills, and at this time of year, there are pasqueflowers—hundreds of pale purple flowers in the dull brown grass on the top of the hill, opening bright yellow coronas to the sun.
On the hilltop, braced against a stiff wind from the north, I remembered the scientific name for pasqueflowers: anemone patens. Exposed windflower.
Aldo Leopold wrote that pasqueflowers “endure snows, sleets, and bitter winds for the privilege of blooming alone.” But to Paul Gruchow there was something more sociable in their character:
Pasqueflowers bloom at an inhospitable time in a quirky season. They carry the impression of wit and grace. If a pasqueflower were a person, one would want to have it come to dinner at the first opportunity. Surely, that would be the occasion for much laughter and bright conversation.

Before heading back home, I sat for a while among the pasqueflowers, thinking about things that have been lost and things that remain. Lewiston erased from the map. Paul Gruchow, dead of a suicide in 2004 after he had finished writing his last book, a book about living with depression. But here still, returning year after year, are the pasqueflowers. Here is this little patch of virgin prairie.

The walk: 11.29 miles on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 (Earth Day)
Categories: Citizens

Dayton bellyflops into the frac sand fracas

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:06pm

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was the “Green Chameleon,” but Gov. Mark Dayton doesn’t even pretend to be green.  Today, he showed his true colors, delivering a harsh undercutting “rebuff” of a statement just prior to petitions being delivered to his office, petitions with 6,000 signatures, obtained with a lot of effort from a lot of citizens, requesting he enact a moratorium to stop new frac sand mines in Southeast Minnesota.  To deliver this message in the way that he did says a lot for his regard for his constituents and their concerns.  How hard would it have been to meet with those delivering the Petitions, to graciously accept them, and at least consider the request, take it under advisement?

I sure hope everyone is talking about our Governor.  WOW!

6,000 signatures… how many does it take for a recall election?!?!?!?!

Here’s his statement:

“During the 2013 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton strongly supported a moratorium on frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota. Unfortunately, that proposal was not supported by the Minnesota Legislature. Legal Counsel has advised that, absent legislative enactment of the moratorium, the Governor lacks the authority to unilaterally impose his own moratorium.
 
“However, local jurisdictions, such as counties, cities, and townships, have authority under existing Minnesota Statutes to declare moratoriums on frac sand mining and processing within their jurisdictions. Citizens living in those areas should urge those local officials to enact the measures they favor.
 
“Last year’s law did greatly strengthen state agencies’ authority to impose stringent requirements on any frac sand mining in that region. The Environmental Quality Board, DNR, and MPCA are all actively engaged in establishing and enforcing those restrictions.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As for the “Critical Areas Act” as the basis for a moratorium, well, I’m not so sure about that…  There are a few steps that have to happen before it goes to the Governor.   Minn. Stat. 116G.06.

Here’s where you can tell him directly what you think of his treatment of concerned Minnesotans:

Contact Form

Telephone: 651-201-3400
Toll Free: 800-657-3717

mark.dayton@state.mn.us

The report on MPR:

Dayton says no to frac sand moratorium

The report in the STrib:

Dayton says no to frac sand moratorium in southeastern Minn.

Says he lacks authority for the southeastern Minnesota ban sought by mining opponents

March 7, 2012: A lightening rod for recent protests about sand mining is this 50,000 ton pile of sand, referred to as “Mt. Frac” in downtown Winona. The Winona County Law Enforcement Center is in the background.

 

Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he can’t personally block the frac sand industry from expanding in southeastern Minnesota, rebuffing a group of mining opponents who delivered a moratorium petition to St. Paul as part of an Earth Day rally at the Capitol.

Bobby King, policy program organizer for the nonprofit Land Stewardship Project, said a rarely-used statute called the Critical Areas Act allows the governor to engage the state’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB), without action by the Legislature, in a process that could lead to a two-year moratorium against frac sand development.

The area they seek to protect is the ecologically sensitive limestone and bluffs region stretching south of Red Wing and inland from the Mississippi River.

But Dayton’s spokesman, Matt Swenson, issued a statement saying the governor “lacks the authority to unilaterally impose his own moratorium.’’ Swenson said the position was based on the advice of Micah Hines, the governor’s legal counsel.

Swenson said Dayton supported a moratorium on frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota during the 2013 legislative session. The proposal died, but lawmakers passed a bill that gives local jurisdictions authority to declare their own temporary frac sand bans. In addition, any company proposing to mine frac sand near a trout stream in southeastern Minnesota must obtain a special permit from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), as well as meeting other regulations.

Meanwhile, the EQB, DNR and state Pollution Control Agency are developing air quality standards, land reclamation standards and revisions to the environmental review process for frac sand mining and processing in the state.

King was part of a group of 80 to 90 citizens who rallied at the Capitol, calling on Dayton to issue a moratorium. The group’s petition, started in mid-January, carried more than 6,000 signatures and was delivered to the governor’s office.

“We want the governor to use all the tools he has,’’ King said. “We believe he has the ability to act.’’

 Tony Kennedy • 612-673-4213

Categories: Citizens

Let’s win $33,000 for the Cottage Grove Bike Park

Mountain Bike Geezer - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 9:35pm

 

I blogged twice last year about the development of the Cottage Grove Bike Park.  I’ve been following it closely since A) it’s relatively close to my house (45 minutes); B) it’s huge; and C) it’s been the passion of Chance Glasford, fellow MORC Board member and the guy who taught me how to pump.

 

The park is a finalist in the Midwest region, competing for a third of the $100,000 grant offered by Bell Helmets in conjunction with IMBA. The winner is determined by popular vote going on now through May 4. 

This is not only a big deal for the Cottage Grove Bike Park, it’s a big deal for all off-road cyclists (mountain bikers) in Minnesota, especially the Twin Cities metro and southern MN. All ages ride in bike parks like this one, from 2 year-olds to geezers like me.

See this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAo5p5ZSTKc

and then:

  • Go to: http://bit.ly/BELLBUILT
  • Select Cottage Grove Bike Park
  • Enter the info required to make your vote official
  • Remember to confirm your vote. You will receive an email from Bell that will contain a confirmation link. You must click this link to make your vote count.

Here’s the MORC press release:

Bell Helmets is giving away $100,000 in a trailbuilding contest, and we’re a finalist! Vote for us to make this dream a reality.

Do you support healthy active recreational opportunities for Minnesota youth? Of course you do and that’s why we’re seeking your support! The Cottage Grove Bike Park is among 4 finalists in the region, competing for a third of the $100,000 grant offered by Bell Helmets in conjunction with the International Mountain Bicycling Association. The winner will be determined by popular vote occurring between April 21 – May 4.

Cottage Grove Bike Park, located within West Draw Park (7050 Meadow Grass Avenue), has already received great community support and has been constructed by volunteers via partnership of Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists & the City of Cottage Grove. The ?nal vision of the park will contain a 4X race track, two pump tracks, a tot track, slope-style course, mountain bike skills course and dirt jumps.

Supporting this great project is easy, simply visit the below website between April 21st and May 4th to cast your vote! www.bellhelmets.com/BELLBUILT

And here a PDF of the Bell Built IMBA April Special e-Newsletter about CGPB that was sent out today:

  

To keep tabs on my blog, you can subscribe to my free weekly e-newsletter and/or  follow @MTBikeGeezer on Twitter.

The post Let’s win $33,000 for the Cottage Grove Bike Park appeared first on Mountain Bike Geezer.

Categories: Citizens

Launching an Online Literary Review: Jan Rider Newman & Jessica Roach Ferguson of SWAMP LILY REVIEW

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 8:22pm

Have you ever fantasized about becoming a publisher? Most writers have. Here’s an interview with two talented and successful writers who teamed up to make the dream a reality.

Jan Rider Newman is a native of south Louisiana. Descendants of Acadians exiled from Nova Scotia, Spanish and French soldiers, Choctaw Indians and a lone Irishman, her family spoke Louisiana French as a first language. She grew up surrounded by rice fields and gravel roads, which she roamed all summer. Those landscapes, those people, their accents and voices, permeate her work.

Jan earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing after studying with Robert Olen Butler and John A. Wood. She has published short stories, poetry, and nonfiction and earned prizes for her work as well as grants from the Louisiana Council of the Arts. In another professional life she was a paralegal.

Jan publishes and co-edits the online literary journal, Swamp Lily Review (swamplily.com). She is working on a novel about the Acadian exile. Her website is janridernewman.com, and she blogs at “Beyond Acadia: Reading, Writing, & Living Well” (blog.janridernewman.com). She is a member of the Bayou Writers Group, She Writes, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Jan Rider Newman

Jessica Roach Ferguson, born and raised in Texas, is also a long-time resident of Louisiana, is co-editor of Swamp Lily Review, A Journal of Louisiana Literature & Arts and writes for Southern Writers Magazine. She is the author of The Last Daughter, a novella available on Amazon. She worked as assistant editor/writer/photographer for The Times of Southwest Louisiana, and her work has appeared in magazines and newspapers in Louisiana and Texas. She is also the founder of the East Texas Writers Association in her hometown of Longview, Texas; a past president of Bayou Writers’ Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana; and  founder of their annual Gator Bites publication. Find her blog at http://jessyferguson.blogspot.com.

Jessica Roach Ferguson

You each had separate plans to launch an online literary review, so how did you decide to combine your visions?

Jan: My teacher and friend, Leo Marcello talked about printing a literary journal back in the late 1990s. The idea excited—I’d almost say infected—me and never went away, like a virus, only a good one.

Jess and I have been friends for many years, and used to belong to a critique group offshoot of our writers’ group. One day Jess mentioned someone’s idea to start a journal for publishing work from the group. Our reaction was that we were both interested in publishing a literary journal, but not for the group—for ourselves with wider submission policies. I actually have to give a lot of credit for the idea to Jessica, because she said she had been entertaining the idea too. So we dared to say . . . should we? Could we? Our writing styles are very different. We even work in different genres, but our editorial tastes run along similar, though not identical, lines.

Jess: I didn’t have actual plans, I just had the fantasy of owning a literary magazine. As far as I was concerned it was just that—a fantasy. It was a nice “place” to visit when I wanted an escape from my writing. I wouldn’t have pursued it if Jan hadn’t hopped on board. Once we shared our dreams, we prodded each other to actually create Swamp Lily Review. There’s something about having a partner that keeps one on the path to success. And, I do consider Swamp Lily Review a success.

Describe the dream: what did you set out to achieve?

Jess: I’m sure we both had different goals for Swamp Lily Review–our own personal goals. Jan comes from a more literary background while I’ve been known to chase the markets (something you’re not supposed to do), but we share a lot of the same likes.  We both appreciate submissions that are well edited and grammatically accurate. I think we’ve each achieved our goals as far as the physical online journal itself.

I’d love to publish poets, fiction writers, memoirists for the very first time–give them their start. Every time a writer sees his or her name in print, it adds to their confidence as a writer. It’s affirmation that they’re on the right path with their writing. In a nutshell, I set out to help others get published.

Jan: Between us, Jess and I have a lot of writing and publishing experience and have developed our own sensibilities. As we state on our website:  “We are diverse – we are creative – we are Louisiana. This diversity and creativity is what Swamp Lily Review wishes to celebrate and publish in two issues per year: what sets Louisiana apart from the rest of the U.S., and what makes us a part of this country.”

We wanted an online site where writers of all experiences felt welcome as long as they had good work to offer. Starting out regional, we hoped, and still do hope, to showcase Louisiana writers and visual artists. We have expanded, though, to include work from writers everywhere.

What was the learning curve like? How much time does it take to create two issues a year? Have your roles as publishers affected your work as artists?

Jess: I’ll be the first to admit, Jan does all the work. She created our website. When I moved to Oklahoma for sixteen months, she became the first reader on top of everything else she does. She really is Swamp Lily Review. She put a lot of effort into learning how to make SLR look professional.

I had a problem learning how to respond to those who submitted to us. Sometimes they’d have a beautiful poem that was ruined by one stanza. Or they’d send a short story that missed the mark because they didn’t delve deep enough. I have a bad habit of wanting to critique or go into detail in my rejections. Being a writer with my own share of rejections, I definitely identify with everyone who submits. I can visualize them waiting for a reply and how they must feel if and when we reject them. I hate rejecting anyone. The only time I get frustrated is when they don’t read our guidelines–and it’s very obvious when they don’t. As an artist, I always study guidelines and read samples of what other magazines publish. As a publisher, I’m learning to identify with other publishers.

Jan: Oh, the learning curve! It’s still on the rise; at least, I hope it is. At first, for me, it was learning how to put together the website physically so it looked professional and attractive. That took a long time for someone who had never even tried such a thing. I learn new ways to present the site with every issue. However, the best thing I’ve learned is to keep it simple and showcase the work itself. Deciding what to publish from the stories, poems, and visual art submitted is a developing art in itself and a balance of respect for submitters and submissions and what is and isn’t right for SLR—a humbling task.

I’ve had fun, too, with a submitted story or book review that needed some tweaking and editing to make it publishable. Editing is a delicate dance between editor and writer, and I had the good fortune of working with two receptive reviewers for the last issue of Swamp Lily, writers who knew when to yield to my judgment and when to stand their ground.

If my writing has been affected by the role as editor, I think it’s made me more aware of what sort of stories are being told and poems are being written now. My style is often not “in step”—which isn’t bad, just challenging. I also have a better sense of how my work is being viewed on the receiving end when I submit.

Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?

Jan: I don’t think I would. We did what we had to, just blundering ahead with our eyes on the prize, hope as our guide.

Jess: I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I’d learn how to create a website. That might come in handy.

What goals–and dreams–do you have for SLR now?

Jan: My goals are to get better as an editor and a user of websites in general. For Swamp Lily I dream of nominating an author for a Pushcart Prize. I’d love to see more fiction, creative nonfiction, and book reviews. Side note:  I’ve been shocked to find out many authors don’t know what book reviews are. We get unsolicited books, queries about reviewing authors’ books for them, or offers to send reviews of their books, i.e., they think we will publicize their work.

Jess: I’d like to see SLR grow–get bigger and better. We’ve yet to receive any creative nonfiction so I’d definitely love to receive some great stories. Your own story, Leslie, “The Damages”, read so much like creative non-fiction to me, I would have argued it was true. That’s exactly what I’d like to see in creative non-fiction submissions: true stories that tug at the reader’s heart, teach them something and stay in their memory for months and years to come, stories that leave a trace of sadness behind, but also an understanding that there could be no other resolution or outcome. But on the flipside, I love to laugh too!

What are your thoughts on the relative merits/disadvantages of print vs electronic reviews? Electronic versus print publishing in general?

I have a novella out now as a digital book. Breaks my heart that I can’t hold it in my hands in print form, but electronic everything is here to stay whether I like it or not, so I’m jumping on board. There are a lot of opportunities in the so-called e-world. Sadly, I have writer friends who have given up their writing because of how the publishing world has changed. I hate that for them. I don’t understand most of what’s happening in this electronic age. I’m certainly not where I can format my own ebook, or take on SLR if Jan ever walked away from it. I have a tenuous hold on my writing future. I’m hanging on though… and having fun.

I hope your readers will connect with me on Twitter @jessyferguson, on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. We can all encourage each other.

Jan:  Electronic publishing has the merit of being a new, wide-open medium where anyone can publish, which is also its disadvantage. But it isn’t a much different experience from walking into a bookstore whose shelves are crammed with books and magazines and sorting through the mass for something you like. The expense of paper publication is off-putting and would make publishing a little journal like ours prohibitive. On the other hand, I do, like Jess, love holding a hard copy book or magazine in my hands. We live in a world where we can access our reading material on our home computers and go out to a library or bookstore. What’s not to like? I leave wiser, more experienced writers to comment on the effect of electronic publishing on authors’ rights and royalties.

Thank you both so much for taking the time to answer these questions!

 

Cypress Knees, Sam Houston Jones State Park (photo: Leslie Schultz)

NOTE: The next issue of Swamp Lily Review is due out in June 2014. Check out their back issues here. I can attest to the literary skillfulness of both these authors. Intrigued? Take a look at Jess’s romantically eerie mystery new Kindle novella, The Last Daughter, and Jan’s deeply felt and beautifully short story collection, A Long Night’s Sing both on amazon.com!

Thank you for reading this! If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them. And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone!

Categories: Citizens

Failures of Connectivity: Third Street and Armstrong Road

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 9:26am
In an earlier post, I mentioned that the opening of Highway 3 in 1963 effectively split Northfield in half. Here are two pairs of photographs showing Third Street before and after the construction of Highway 3. In each, you can see that before Highway 3, Northfield’s downtown effectively straddled the Cannon River, with buildings and busineses extending continuously along Third Street up to the tracks of the Great Western Railway.

For over half a century, starting in the 1880s or so, you could walk up Third Street to one of Northfield’s three train depots and hop on a passenger train to Minneapolis, Chicago, and points beyond. Then, in the 1950s and 1960s, came the expansion of the U.S. highway system, which eventually led to the end of passenger rail service in Northfield. Personal automobiles and the state highway system became Northfield’s connection to the outside world. Northfield’s remaining train depot, the depot of the Milwaukee Road (or Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul), stands derelict, and with no traffic control or marked pedestrian crossing it’s dangerous, and often impossible, to cross Highway 3 at Third Street.
For a brief moment, the traffic on the highway is held back by the lights at Second and Fifth Streets. I look both ways, and run.
Highway 3 also divides the city’s third ward. Our polling place is in St. John’s Lutheran Church, on the west side of Third Street. There is no direct pedestrian access from the east side. A 2009 “modal integration” study concluded that there was no warrant for a traffic light at the intersection of Third Street and Highway 3 because the volume of through traffic on Third Street did not meet the necessary threshhold.
Pedestrians evidently weren’t considered in making this determination.
Along West Third Street I pass the Northfield Arts Guild theater, St. John’s Lutheran, the former home of Northfield Bank Raid hero Joseph Lee Heywood, and Longfellow School (the site of the school district’s early childhood programs). Past Longfellow, the street bends to the south and becomes Forest Avenue.The former home of Joseph Lee Heywood on W. 3rd St.
A plaque from the Northfield Historical Society is affixed to the
rock in the foreground. Before Forest curves south to become Armstrong Rd. and meet Highway 19, I cross the street into Odd Fellows Park. The woods here are a remnant of the Big Woods that at the time of settlement covered the land west of the Cannon River. On the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board there have been discussions of moving the city dog park from Babcock Park to Odd Fellows Park, fencing in part of the woods and leaving dogs and their owners to trample the bloodroot I find blooming in the woods.Bloodroot blooming in the Odd Fellows Park woods.I come out of the woods at the northeast corner of the intersection of Highway 19 and Armstrong Rd. Again, the 2009 modal integration study examined the possibility of a traffic light at this intersection, and again found that traffic volume did not currently meet the necessary threshold. Oddly, though, there a crosswalk on the west side of the intersection, despite the absence of a sidewalk along Armstrong Rd. on either side of the highway. The only sidewalk runs west along the highway for about 300 feet, away from the city.Sidewalk to nowhere. The northwest corner of the intersection
of Highway 19 and Armstrong Rd.From the intersection of Highway 19 and Armstrong Rd., it’s less than a mile (0.8 miles) to the west entrance of Sechler Park (the site of most of Northfield’s youth baseball games). There’s no sidewalk, the shoulder of the road is narrow, and the road is often lined with semis and traveled by truck and cars taking yard waste to the city yard waste and compost site. Ironically, because of an underpass under Highway 3 in Riverside Park and the Prowe Bridge over the Cannon River, Sechler Park is now more easily accessible to pedestrians from the east side than from the west side. It can’t be reached from the west side without crossing Highway 19.
As I’m walking along the narrow shoulder of Armstrong Rd., again feeling that I don’t belong, I imagine a controlled crossing at Highway 19 and a green corridor, including a pedestrian and bike trail, connecting Odd Fellows and Sechler Park along Armstrong Rd. What a beautiful gateway to the city that would be! How amazing it would be to connect three of the city’s parks—Odd Fellows, Sechler, and Riverside—in a continuous greenbelt.
But it’s just a daydream.
Categories: Citizens

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A Play A Day & Lysteria - Brendon Etter - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 5:24pm
Early Names and Impairments of the Band that became Def Leppard

SWELLD GAZZELLE - bruising, edema

CHAFEN ELEEFANT - rashes (idiopathic)

BLUDD SLUTH - puncture wounds

SPINT OXX - vertigo (mild to severe)

BLIND AWESALOT! - inability to see creatively

DED DONKEE - feedback-related lung collapse



Categories: Citizens

DEIS Meetings for ITC Midwest’s MN/IA line

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 3:24pm

This week we have three days of DEIS meetings, that’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the uninitiated.  The schedule:

Fairmont Tuesday, April 22, 2014 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Knights of Columbus Hall 920 East 10th Street Fairmont, MN 56031   Jackson Wednesday, April 23, 2014 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. National Guard Armory 108 County Road 51 Jackson, MN 56143   Blue Earth Thursday, April 24, 2014 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Hamilton Hall 209 South Main Street Blue Earth, MN 56013

This project is important because, well, look at the red line in the map above that represents this project.  It connects on the west to the Split Rock-Lakefield Jct. line from a decade ago, and then goes east, and drops down into Iowa, to become part of a web headed toward Chicago.  The red and green on that map constitute MISO designated MVP3, and to the east, the orange and blue are MVP 4, and further to the east, 1/2 of which is Badger Coulee, is MVP 5.  Important to note that there are 17 MVP projects, and all 17 must be built to offer the benefits touted, the modeling included all 17.  Not only that, but cost apportionment also included costs to states beyond just the percentage of the one project under review, i.e., there are claims of benefits of MVP 3, but those benefits require MVP 4 and MVP 5, and in fact, ALL the 17 MVP projects.  Costs to Minnesota ratepayers are “just” a portion of MVP 3, but there are also costs to Minnesota of MVP 4, MVP 5, and I think ALL of the 17 MVP projects.  So the benefits that are reliant on all the 17 projects being built must be balanced against the costs attributable to Minnesota for all 17 projects!  See, that wasn’t so hard, was it!

Here’s the DEIS from the Commerce ITC MN/IA DEIS page, it’s easier to cut and paste, though it’s a good idea to download because you never know when links will be changed or disappear:

Draft Environmental Impact Statement Text

Appendices

 

Categories: Citizens

Northfield's Boulevard Trees

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:31am
“Northfield is a city rich in trees,” Harvey Stork wrote. “Looking eastward from Manitou Heights, one sees in summer a green grove broken only occasionally by the steeple of a church, the tower of a school, or the roof of a commerical or factory building. It seems hardly possible that this forest shelters a population of five thousand people.”
In July 1948, Stork counted “2,426 trees of 48 different species growing in the parking between the sidewalk and curb;” in other words, boulevard trees. Of these, the most numerous species in 1948 was the American elm: Stork counted 993 of them. Sixty-one years later, few of those elms remain. Most fell victim to Dutch elm disease, which was just beginning to make an appearance in Minnesota when Stork made his inventory.
Since Professor Stork wrote The Trees of Northfield in 1948, the population of the city has grown fourfold, but Northfield is still sheltered by an urban forest. In February 2014, forester Katie Himanga completed an Urban Forest Asset Management Plan for the City of Northfield (available here as part of the February Environmental Quality Commission packet), in which she inventoried 15,308 boulevard trees in Northfield. Of these, the most common species are maple (4292) and ash (3196).from K. Himanga, CF, "Urban Forest Asset Management Plan."
City of Northfield, Minnesota. February 3, 2014.Maple and ash are both attractive, relatively fast-growing species native to this part of Minnesota. Unfortunately, all varieties of ash are, in Himanga’s words, “susceptible to emerald ash borer (EAB) and are likely to become infested in the coming decade.” As was the case with Dutch elm disease, the emerald ash borer infestation will undoubtedly change the shape of Northfield’s urban forest.
Sibley Drive from the west.On the east side of Northfield, Sibley Drive is a pleasant, well-shaded residential street that connects with Maple Street directly opposite Sibley Elementary School. There is no sidewalk on either side of Sibley Drive, and nearly all the boulevard trees are either maple or ash.  In the photograph above, you can see how the trees (mostly ash on the right-hand side of the street) appear to be planted exactly along the path of a possible sidewalk. It’s as if the street were designed to discourage foot traffic, including children walking to the nearby elementary school.  On the other hand, there is a good trail through Sibley Swale Park that runs roughly parallel to Sibley Drive, providing connectivity for pedestrians and bikers.
The high density of ash trees on Sibley Drive remains a significant problem, as it does on many of Northfield’s streets. In her report to the city, Himanga recommends a program of removing ash trees on boulevards and city parks (at an estimated cost of $1.8 million) and replanting of disease-resistant species (at an estimated cost of $340,000).

Related post from five years ago (April 25, 2009): The Trees of Northfield
The sound of spring peepers in Sibley Swale:



8.39 miles on Tuesday, April 15, 2014The route:
Categories: Citizens

Signs of Spring

My Northern Garden - Mary Schier - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:31pm

Siberian squill ready to bloom

Sunday’s gorgeous weather had me outside at last, flinging caution to the wind and raking a few spots in the lawn, cleaning out some of the beds I can reach from the sidewalk and looking for signs of life.

The Siberian squill, which have long been one of the plants I measure spring by, are just one day away from blooming and the miniature cabbage heads of sedum can be spotted under the leaf-mulch. I’ve been looking for them, but there’s no sign yet of the Iris reticulata that is usually the first plant blooming in my yard. Perhaps it is a victim of the long winter. It may still appear yet. Last year, it was April 22 when I first spotted them. They’ve bloomed as early as March 25 in the past.

With the forecast calling for decent temperatures and occasional rain this week, we could see a burst of bloom by next weekend. Here’s hoping!

 

Related posts:

  1. A Few More Signs of Spring Griff Wigley over at Locally Grown Northfield has had it...
  2. First Blooms The warm temperatures we had yesterday brought out kids, walkers,...
  3. First Bloom, More Phenology, and a Couple of Concerns Today I spotted this lovely Iris reticulata, which has always...
Categories: Citizens

Postcard: April 21, 2014

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 8:03pm

Categories: Citizens

Minnesota’s Next Gen Energy Act unconstitutional

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 8:21am

.

 

Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued an order yesterday declaring Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act unconstitutional because it “constitutes impermissible extraterritorial legislation and is a per se violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.”

I finally found a copy of the decision, I was looking in all the wrong places.  Here’s the Order (thanks to the STrib for posting it):

April 18 2014 Order – Next Generation Energy Act Suit Minn. Stat. 216H.03

It’ll likely be appealed, but I wouldn’t bet on any success.  The impact of this decision will be what I’ve been expecting — dreadful — the doors are open for even more coal plants (note the discussion of surplus capacity in the decision) and with CapX mostly built, we’ve got the infrastructure for 50+ years of coal generated electricity exports across Minnesota to market, and 50+ years of mercury for our fish, and all those emissions for us to breathe.  Great, just great.

 

Categories: Citizens

Naomi Mitchison, "The Triumph of Faith"

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 7:47am
Naomi Mitchison, “The Triumph of Faith,” in When the Bough Breaks and Other Stories. London: Jonathan Cape, 1924.
Naomi Mitchison (1930).For those who have never heard of Naomi Mitchison: she was born into a prominent Scottish family in Edinburgh in 1897, married a future Labour MP, and enjoyed remarkable success as a novelist in the 1920s and 1930s as the author of historical novels set in the ancient Greek and Roman world. The novelist Winifred Holtby considered her work of Nobel Prize caliber. She would later become one of the first women to publish science fiction with her 1962 novel Memoirs of a Spacewoman. She was also a socialist, a feminist, an advocate for birth control and free love, and in her sixties travelled to Botswana (then the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland) and became an honorary member of the Bakgatla tribe. She died in 1998 at the age of 101, and according to her friend Isobel Murray remains “one of the great neglected writers of our time.”
The New Testament scholar John Court called “The Triumph of Faith” “an imaginative tour-de-force.” In the novella, Mitchison re-imagines the Letter of Paul to Philemon (the third shortest book in the Bible) as a Roman comedy. The characters includes the family of Philemon, the recipient of Paul’s letter and landowner of Colossae: his hot-tempered and sanctimonious son Archippus; his wife Apphia; his daughters Phoebe Martha and Dorcas; his steward Onesimus; and his slaves Charope, Artamo and Chet. The other characters are Philemon’s neighbor, a pagan philosopher, and his steward Balas, a worshipper of Mithras. The action is divided into two acts, each divided into six scenes with different narrators.
The plot itself unfolds like a Roman comedy:* Phoebe Martha, the daughter of the Christian father, is in love with the pagan philosopher; slaves carry letters back and forth; Archippus blusters; there’s poison; there’s a happy ending—at least for some of the characters. In the midst of these Plautine flourishes, Mitchison touches on serious issues of faith, religious intolerance, and the status of women.
In her note on her sources, Mitchison wrote: “Not unnaturally one always used to take sides with the barbarians against Rome.” And she reserved special sympathy for “the fair-haired slaves” from the North, her own “possible ancestors,” who found themselves oppressed and powerless in an alien land. This sympathy almost certain had its roots in her own experience as a girl who was denied many of the opportunities open to her older brother. In “The Triumph of Faith,” Phoebe Martha addresses a remarkable speech about her status as a girl to Chet, her father’s Scythian slave:It’s so hard being a girl! Here I am, just the same as a man, really, and no worse than my brother anyway—I’ve got all same eyes and hand and ears and everything else that matters! But because of two or three silly little differences I have to be treated as if I was an animal, ordered about, not allowed to decide anything for myself! I’m shut up, I’m watched, I have to do what men tell me—nothing’s my own, money or husband or religion—I have to take what they give me and say thank you! Oh, it is unfair—haven’t I got a soul every bit as good as theirs? When she exhausts herself with this outburst, Chet says quietly, “Yes, I understand.”
Both Phoebe and Chet are outsiders, and feel a stinging sense of the difference between their inner potential and their external powerlessness. In one of the most richly imagined scenes in the novella, Chet goes into a trance and calls on his Scythian gods to work powerful magic—but in the next scene, he finds himself tied to a post, waiting to be whipped. There’s a gap between his imaginative power and his real power—a gap that Mitchison, as a woman, understood all too well.
As a little girl, Mitchison attended the Dragon School in Oxford with her older brother, but when, as she puts it, “the awful thing happened,” she was taken out of school to be taught at home. The “awful thing” was her first period. Until she was twelves, she had been “for all practical purposes a boy,” but puberty changed everything.
The beginning of puberty, menarche, provides an important recurring theme in Mitchison’s fiction. In “The Triumph of Faith,” when Phoebe Martha runs away from her father’s house to the house of the pagan philosopher, she’s clutching a bunch of roses the philosopher has sent to her. Her father’s steward Onesimus follows her, and tells us in his narration: “Every here and there were red rose petals, shaken loose from Phoebe Martha’s flowers: they reminded me of trailing a wounded deer...”
The name of Phoebe Martha’s intended husband is Menarchus.

Parts of this post are excerpted from a longer essay I’m writing about Naomi Mitchison.
*Mitchison may perhaps also have had in mind Pierre de Marivaux's 1732 comedy The Triumph of Love, which was set in one of her favorite historical places, ancient Sparta. 
Categories: Citizens

Crazy for Comets

My Musical Family - Joy Riggs - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 6:32pm
I confess, I did not get up early the other morning to catch a glimpse of the “blood moon” lunar eclipse. But I followed the news coverage with interest, and I have also followed people’s excitement about the event with interest. No matter how much we learn about the universe, and no matter how much our technology changes and evolves, it hasn’t taken away the sense of wonder that comes from looking up at the sky at a natural phenomenon that only happens once in a blue – or red – moon.

One of the cool moon photos I saw online was this multi-exposure photo taken by Star Tribune photographer Brian Peterson that shows the progression of the eclipse – the first total lunar eclipse visible in the continental United States since December 2011.

The images in this Star Tribune photo were taken between 1 a.m. and  2:46 a.m. on April 15, 2014.With thoughts of celestial bodies already floating around in my mind, I was surprised yesterday to discover – in the midst of researching my great-grandfather’s connection to Tacoma, Washington – that in the spring of 1910, people in the United States were going crazy for comets.

I will explain. But first, a bit of background. I have been working on a scene in my book about G. Oliver’s experience in Tacoma, the one time in his career that he failed to successfully organize a band. To try to make sense of what happened and why he failed, I spent some time last weekend reading Tacoma newspaper clippings in the Riggs family scrapbook. Most of them are dated and are from the Tacoma Daily News, but they are not pasted in the book chronologically, which makes it more challenging to trace the sequence of events.

Tacoma had a handful of newspapers in 1910, as most cities did back then, and yesterday I discovered that old issues of the Tacoma Times can be accessed for free online through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website.

I spent several hours paging through the newspaper online to see if it had also covered the band situation. I realized right away that the Tacoma Times, founded in 1903 by Edward Willis Scripps, had a much different feel than its rival, the Tacoma Daily News. It seemed geared more toward a working-class audience interested in labor issues. Disturbing crime-related headlines were often splashed across its front page, and it contained many eye-catching illustrations and editorial cartoons.

Through my reading, I learned that the time G. Oliver spent in Washington state coincided with the appearance of not just one, but two comets.

In mid-January of 1910, while he held the job of director of a city band in Grand Forks, North Dakota, G. Oliver traveled to Tacoma to meet with businessmen in that city. He proposed to organize a new concert band of up to 50 members that would help promote the growing city and would provide entertainment for residents. The Tacoma Daily News reported on Jan. 20 and 21 that local businessmen were meeting with a “bandleader of considerable reputation in the east” but did not disclose his name. The article did not explain how long G. Oliver was in the city, but it probably was not more than a few days, because he would have been missed in Grand Forks.

The Tacoma Times mentioned nothing of this, but a few days later it printed its first of several articles about the sighting of a comet. The front page article, “Many Tacomans Saw Comet,” said, “A comet was visible for half an hour above the western horizon about 6 o’clock last night. Its size and brilliance caused many to think that Halley’s Comet had arrived ahead of schedule. The comet is a fast traveler and soon disappeared below the horizon, leaving a luminous trail in its wake. The heavenly visitor has been reported ‘seen’ from all parts of the country during the past few days.”

The comet coverage in the Times continued: the stories described the comet as a crimson-orange color, noted that people in California were planning their suppers around the timing of the comet, and quoted an astronomer as saying that the huge comet, which later was called the Daylight Comet, “is the largest foreign body ever in the solar system so far as is known since the art of writing was discovered. ... This comet is magnificent beyond all powers of description. We are now making history that will endure for the ages.”

I am not up on my comet history, so I did a quick search and discovered that, indeed, the comet that appeared in January 1910 is one of the greatest comets recorded in history. So far. (If you’re interested in reading more about the Great Comet of 1910, check out this blog post.)

The appearance of this comet whetted people’s appetites for what was yet to come in May – an appearance of Halley’s Comet, which had not been seen since 1835. Many people looked forward to the event with great excitement, although there were some people who worried it would bring about the destruction of the earth.

Halley’s Comet inspired songs, including this one by Harry Lincoln.Some of you might already know about Mark Twain’s connection to Halley’s Comet. He was born in 1835 shortly after the comet appeared, and in 1909 he said:

I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.

He died on April 21, 1910, and within a week, the comet was close enough to be seen with the naked eye.

By the time of Twain’s death, G. Oliver had quit his job in Grand Forks and had been in Tacoma for three weeks, trying to organize the new band. He received the support of the businessmen and many musicians, but others took offense to the idea of an outsider from a smaller eastern city coming in and taking charge. G. Oliver’s attempts to stir up support, including an April 17 concert in Wright Park – exactly 104 years ago today! – attracted a large crowd and did get a brief mention in the Tacoma Times.

An article about the April 17 band concert in Tacoma’s Wright Park.But what really got the Times excited was feeding people daily information about the coming Halley’s Comet, due to arrive on May 18. Even the newspaper’s society columnist, Cynthia Grey, contributed to the coverage. One of my favorite research finds yesterday was her lengthy article about how one could plan a comet-themed surprise party for the evening of May 17.

It included this description:

The guests gather in a circle just before the time we are supposed to begin our bath in the comet’s tail, and write their wills. Reading the wills is funny, as each would will each something to fit his peculiarities. The one who writes the cleverest gets a copy of the Essays of Marcus Aurelius, the stoic, done up in an asbestos package as a prize.

Suddenly, the light is turned down. The hostess whispers, “The comet is coming!” and in bursts a figure (daddy or little brother) clad in a sheet smeared with phosphorus. If he can’t get this paint he can flash pocket electric lamps under his covering of thin cloth. The comet runs into everybody and everything, kissing the girls and slapping the men, and runs out.

Grey suggested that guests come dressed as Greek gods, and her recommended menu included stuffed egg salad on lettuce, punch and two kinds of cake: angel food and devil’s cake.

“The person enacting ‘the comet’ proposes the toast of Epicurus, ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,’ she wrote. “Of course, if anybody seriously thinks the world’s coming to an end, he might not care to attend such a party. But most of us think we’ll still be alive May 18 ... whatever happens we all want to stay up to have the experience that will be historic under any circumstances.”

The approaching comet also caused some people to reflect upon the changes that the United States had experienced during the previous 75 years. In a May 16 piece in the Tacoma Times, the writer wondered whether the comet would recognize the place. “... What changes the railroads made! Then came the telegraph, the telephone; then wireless, automobiles; and we are now learning to fly! What will the earth be like when Halley’s Comet comes back in 1985?”

The top half of the front page of the Tacoma Times from May 18, 1910.May 18, 1910, came and went, and people survived (except for Mark Twain). But the band effort did not have a happy ending for G. Oliver. When it became clear by early June that Tacoma was not an environment where his directing star could shine brightly, he left – just like a comet – and returned to the Midwest.

I am sad to say that I don’ t remember doing anything special the last time Halley’s Comet was visible in the United States. It happened in 1986 (not 1985), when I was a senior in high school. Fortunately, I have lots of time to get ready for its next appearance, in 2061, when I will be 93 years old. I plan to have a huge party, and you are all invited. But be advised, it’s BYOP – Bring Your Own Phosphorus.


Categories: Citizens

Bakken BOOM and rail safety

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 3:48pm

There are more and more aspects of rail safety coming into question as people learn about life with the many Bakken oil trains rolling through our communities.

What about the greatly increased air emissions due to the increased rail traffic?  Locomotive emissions are regulated:

EPA Control of Emissions from Idling Locomotives 420f13050

The short version, from the EPA:

General Information

That regulates individual locomotives, but how are the cumulative impacts of so many trains addressed, particularly in the Mississippi River Valley, the “land of inversions?”

There’s continued talk about the new DOT111 rail cars, but how will that address the problem of volatility, that the Bakken crude contains a much higher level of gas than other crude, and that although regulators have said that the Bakken crude should be degasified before it is shipped, whether by rail or pipeline, this is not yet incorporated into standard practice.  And it bears repeating — this is an issue for Bakken crude in pipelines!  Pipelines are not a miracle cure for the Bakken crude volatility problem!

1-2-14 DOT Rail Safety Alert

It can happen here.  It has happened here.  It will happen here.  What do we do to protect ourselves?

This is a train incident in September, 2013 just across the river in Hager City, WI:

And in Red Wing:

A Wisconsin town’s fire chief was part of a discussion with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind recently regarding rail safety.  The station is one block from the river and the railroad tracks.  Congressman Kind asked the fire chief what the impact of a Bakken oil wreck would be on his community, if the fire unit could respond, and the fire chief said, “I doubt it, we’d be vaporized.”

If a Lac Megantic level explosion occurred in Red Wing, presuming that buildings two blocks from the explosion would be leveled, and maybe three blocks, it would reach to Main Street, and perhaps the block beyond:

This is how it is in all the communities along the Mississippi River, a disaster waiting to happen for us, for the River.

There’s a reason it’s called the “Bakken Boom.”  BOOM!

And in the La Crosse Tribune:

Meeting set on rail expansion plan

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

Some people worry that a planned Burlington Northern track expansion in La Crosse will greatly increase oil tanker traffic through the area. These cars were rolling through Sioux City, S.D., this week.

5 hours ago  •  BETSY BLOOM bbloom@lacrossetribune.com (7) Comments If you go

WHAT: Public meeting on rail line expansion in La Crosse, organized by Citizens Acting for Rail Safety

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Commons room, La Crosse Central High School, 1801 S. Losey Blvd.

FOR MORE INFO: Email railsafety@gmail.com or go on Facebook to CARS, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety

The prospect of more rail cars carrying crude oil and other flammable liquids through the region has prompted a public meeting Tuesday to air concerns about BNSF Railway Co.’s plans to add a second, parallel line on La Crosse’s east side.

The expansion would eliminate the rail company’s last segment of single track in La Crosse County and reduce train delays in La Crosse, BNSF officials said.

But Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, or CARS, contends the second track would raise the risk of a serious rail accident in a residential area or a major spill in the La Crosse River Marsh and other nearby waterways and sensitive habitat.

About 60 trains a day use the BNSF line in La Crosse, which now narrows to a single track from its yard near Gillette Street in north La Crosse to just south of Farnam Street. U.S. rail traffic has increased in recent years, primarily triggered by the surge in Bakken oil being shipped from North Dakota and Montana to refineries in the east and south. U.S. railroads were expected to haul 400,000 carloads of oil in 2013, almost 40 times the number seen in 2009.

That rail surge has come at a cost, though, with at least four major oil train explosions in North America in less than a year, one of which killed 47 people in Quebec in July 2013.

The region has seen three derailments and spills within about 90 miles of La Crosse since February, CARS members said.

“They’re shipping hazardous materials through La Crosse,” George Nygaard said, “and it’s in containers not made for hazardous materials.”

The rail industry has persisted in using outdated tank cars known to be more prone to puncture or rupture in an accident to carry the more volatile Bakken light crude, he said.

CARS members maintain the increased traffic also produces more noise, vibrations, diesel emissions and other effects on air quality along the line.

The city, too, faces a substantial cost — perhaps six or seven figures — to adjust road and trail crossings and the Forest Hills Golf Course to accommodate the second track, said Mayor Tim Kabat, who lives less than a block from the BNSF line. He plans to be at the meeting along with other local legislators.

The city council recently approved funding for a title search to determine whether BNSF really does own the strip of Forest Hills land where it wants to install the new line.

The potential for some type of accident was highlighted in February when a malfunctioning Canadian Pacific Railway tanker dribbled more than 12,000 gallons of crude oil along a stretch of tracks near Winona, Minn., with some falling into area waterways and trout streams.

“There’s some real concerns — what if it happens in La Crosse?” Kabat said.

Categories: Citizens

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