Three game tables soon to be installed on Bridge Square

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EQC member George Kinney stopped by my corner office at GBM this morning and asked me if I knew what was going on with the concrete truck on Bridge Square. I went to investigate and learned from Streets & Parks Supervisor TJ Heinricy and Councilor Dave DeLong that the three concrete pads will soon have game tables on them.

After a visit to NYC a year ago, I suggested here on LoGro that the City should put some game tables in downtown Northfield, and that the money should come from the Streetscape Taskforce.  I have no idea if A) anyone paid attention to my suggestion; B) where the money for the tables came from; and C) how much the project costs.

But I’m guessing someone will enlighten us.

Update 9/14:

The three picnic  tables were installed yesterday. Each has an inlaid backgammon and chess/checkerboard.

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Downtown’s new recycling bins are a win for taxpayers and a lesson on collaboration, persistence, and civic problem-solving

Front: Arlo Cristofaro-Hark, Helen Forsythe, Antonia Cristofaro-Hark, Cliff Martin student welders Eco Gardens co-owner Howie Holt, welding coach student welder student welder

Last week, members of Northfield Transition Youth/YES (Youth Energy Summit) who worked on welding downtown’s new combination recycling/trash bins stopped by my corner office at GBM for a photo.  And they brought a few photos of themselves welding the bins with Eco Gardens co-owner Howie Holt.

In the photo on the left (L to R) are high schoolers Arlo Cristofaro-Hark, Helen Forsythe, Antonia Cristofaro-Hark, and Cliff Martin. Not pictured: Avery Swearer.  Behind them are two of the many adults who were involved in the project: George Kinney and Mary Jo Cristofaro. 

Back in July, I blogged about the arrival of the combination recycling/trash bins downtown.  Three commenters to that post told the story of how the project came to be. Northfield Councilor Betsey Buckheit wrote:

Betsey BuckheitNorthfield Transition Youth/YES developed the project to build recycling bins for downtown because, as Griff has complained, the plastic wheelie bins chained to the trash receptacles weren’t very attractive (and then they disappeared) and to encourage recycling. I believe they had a design competition, but their first design made of wood did not pass muster with the HPC. George Kinney was helping develop the project in its design/initial attempt, but I believe this was as a private citizen and not an EQC project.

The Downtown Streetscape Task Force was moving ahead to buy receptacles much like what has been created, but they cost $1500 apiece. Streetscape was willing, but that’s when Howie stepped in to say — Hey, we can do this cheaper here. I can teach kids to weld, we can cut apart old trash containers and “stretch” them with similar-looking slats. A bit more back and forth on this — keeping recycling dry is a big deal because wet paper, according to Joe Stapf, spoils the lot, so ensuring there were lids on the containers was critical. TJ Heinricy helped by providing old trash receptacles for creating a prototype. Streetscape Task Force worked out the details and is paying for the containers.

And, now they’re beginning to appear on the street. I understand from Howie that he’s got some great youth welding talent, too. The Transition youth, Mary Jo Cristafaro (another adult assistant), and Howie deserve a round of applause for their idea, persistence, and execution. Looks great; saves money.

NDDC’s Ross Currier wrote:

Ross CurrierBetsey, in addition to the much-deserving Joe Stapf and T. J. Heinricy, I think thanks, by name, are due to Bob Will, Chair of the Streetscape Task Force, Steve Edwins, Member of the Heritage Preservation Commission, and Betsey Buckheit, Second Ward Councilor, for walking down to Eco Gardens and checking out Howie’s prototype. They all went the extra mile (okay, maybe it was only half a mile) to give the local option a chance.

Although having a decision-making rubric is a great idea (it can promote fairness and efficiency), it would appear that sometimes it’s a good idea to add a little “common sense” or, for a lack of a better term, subjective valuation to the decision-making process. The decision had been made according to the proper policy/procedure and the process/organization was moving toward timely implementation when Howie basically asked, “Could you give it another minute or so?” and Joe, T. J., Bob, Steve, and Betsey said, “We can give it another minute or so”.

Understandably, it would be a challenge to municipal efficiency (in terms of time and, sometimes, money), if we essentially second-guessed every decision made by a public sector group or entity. However, in this particular example of a sometimes stumbling (or seemingly inefficient), and admittedly stop and go process, reviewing the decision, particularly double-checking both the explicit and implicit values likely to be used by the community to judge the results, before taking irreversible steps to implement the plan, resulted in a better outcome.

City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney wrote:

George KinneyWell deserved credit goes to the stalwarts of Transition Youth/YES, Mary Jo, and Mera Colling, who worked on quite a few designs over the past year and a half or more — lots of prototypes, many false starts, and I think we are so happy that the final design received everyone’s approval. TJ and Howie really came through for the group — helping to find solutions and getting the process moving. It wouldn’t have happened without their help. The group received additional support and encouragement from Northfield in Bloom and Curt Saffle of Waste Management.

As far as the EQC is concerned, we’ve been pushing for permanent downtown recycling options for probably close to 10 years, with Suzie Nakasian being the champion for several years on EQC (and then Planning Commission).

Happy to have had a hand in it.

In August, Jordan Osterman at the Northfield News did a story: Northfield youth group leads the way on recycling in parks, downtown

Thanks to the leadership of a group of Northfield High School and Arcadia Charter School students, along with the help of the community, city workers are now in the process of installing what will eventually be 28 new recycling/garbage bin combos in the downtown area and parks where no recycling bins were previously available.

In October, high school student Logan Regnier produced a video about the project and it’s up on Northfield Patch: Youth, City Collaborate on New Recycling Bins

Recycling bin video by Logan Regnier

Combination recycling/trash bins debut downtown. Nice!

recycling/trash bins in downtown Northfield recycling/trash bins in downtown Northfield recycling/trash bins in downtown Northfield  members of Northfield Transition Youth/YES (Youth Energy Summit); Earth Day 2011 photo
I’ve been whining about the ugly recycling bins in downtown Northfield for two years (here and here). Last week two classy-looking combination recycling/trash bins made their appearance on Division St., one by the Northfield Library, the other by the Armory.  More bins are coming.

Props to members of Northfield Transition Youth/YES (Youth Energy Summit), City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney, Northfield Street and Park supervisor TJ Heinricy, Eco Gardens co-owner Howie Holt, and members of the Downtown Streetscape Task Force.

City compost site opens this weekend on a limited basis. Food scraps and non-recyclable paper composting coming later in April.

City of Northfield compost facilityI got an email from Northfield Street & Park Supervisor TJ Heinricy yesterday with the news that the City of Northfield compost site will be open this weekend and then on a limited basis until the official April 10 opening.

Open: Saturday, March 31; Sunday, April 1; Saturday, April 7 (but closed Easter Sunday, April 8).

Saturday hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays: noon to 5 p.m.

TJ said that they won’t be ready for accept food scraps and non-recyclable paper until later in April. See this Nfld Patch story by Mary Schier, Northfield Compost Program Expands to Include Organics:

Most folks who keep a compost pile at home know the rules: No bones, no meat, no dairy, no paper plates or napkins unless you want to attract rats and other unpleasant critters. Those rules won’t apply when the City of Northfield embarks on a new organics-recycling program at the city’s compost site near Sechler Park this spring.

Beginning April 10, when the compost site opens for the season, residents will be able to bring food scraps, including dairy and meat, as well as non-recyclable paper, such as napkins and paper plates, to the compost site for recycling. Residents must use special recycling bags, available at Just Food Co-op, and place their food waste into a lockable bin at the compost site.

Downtown street signs upgraded. Is it the work of the Streetscape Task Force?

Last Friday,  I got this email and photo from Steve Wilmot:

downtown street sign removal photo by Steve WilmotGriff,

We may have some confused tourists today as all the street signs for Division Street appear to be in the back of this City truck.

Thought you would find this interesting.

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I took these photos over the weekend, assuming that the signage replacement was part of the Streetscape Task Force‘s downtown beautification efforts. The brackets used to hold up the signs appears to be consistent with the the other iron work used for the wayfinding signs, for example.

But maybe not. In the March 2 Admin Memo, TJ Heinricy, Streets and Parks Supervisor reports:

Staff has been preparing street identification signage that will be installed soon. These signs are part of the ongoing street signage replacement project.

City Parks Department cuts down noxious trees in the stormwater ponds

noxious trees cut down, Hidden Valley Park, Northfield noxious trees cut down, Hidden Valley Park, Northfield noxious trees cut down, Hidden Valley Park, Northfield
I’m not sure when it happened exactly but some time in the past few weeks, a crew from the City of Northfield Streets, Parks & Facilities Divisions mowed down all the noxious trees at the south end of the pond in Hidden Valley Park. There were hundreds of small trees there, blocking the view of the pond for those of us who live on the south end.  The trees also inhibit the pond’s stormwater function.

A tip-of-the-blogger-hat to Street & Park Supervisor TJ Heinricy and his staff for doing this at several parks.

This big red pickup is poking TJ in the eye

As you may remember from my Oct. 18 blog post, Northfield Street and Park supervisor TJ Heinricy had a Compact Cars Only sign installed at the corner of 3rd & Division in downtown Northfield.  I wrote to TJ about how big the stall was and he replied:

TJ HeinricyGriff: I saw your recent post about the newly installed compact parking stall signage near the intersection of Division Street and 3rd Street.

The new signage was installed after a large amount of citizen requests to resolve a sight issue when going West on 3rd Street onto Division Street. The issue is being able to see oncoming traffic when trying to enter Division Street from 3rd Street.

The stall is planned to be shortened when the City of Northfield contracted paint striper is back in town.

Ever since, this big red pickup truck has been regularly seen parking there. I took photos of it a week ago in this spot. It was there again yesterday morning.

Yes, the parking stall has not yet been downsized so it’s somewhat inviting to those with big vehicles.

But the owner of this big red pickup truck (MN license plate 422 BXL) doesn’t even bother to stay within the boundaries of the stall, making visibility even more of a problem for vehicles descending the 3rd St. hill and turning onto Division.

Red pickup truck in Northfield, MN license plate 422 BXL DSC05303

Anyone know who owns it?

Getting the DJJD banners hung at no cost: TJ to the rescue

TJ Heinricy, Brad Ness, Hayes Scriven TJ Heinricy

In recent years, the downtown DJJD banners were hung by city street staff with no cost to the DJJD committee. But with the 2010 Community Events Policy, this changed. Community groups requiring support services from the City must pay for them.

So to save money this year, DJJD’ers found someone to donate the use of a boom truck. And last Sunday morning at 6 am, City of Northfield Streets and Parks Supervisor TJ Heinricy took off his staff hat and put on his volunteer hat to put up the DJJD banners with Hayes Scriven and Brad Ness. Nice.

What’s your reaction to the four new ‘Don’t Feed the Wildlife’ signs on the Sesqui Plaza?

'Don't Feed the Wildlife' signs on the Sesqui Plaza DSC07918
A month ago, I attended a Parks and Rec board meeting when the issue of geese droppings was discussed. I wrote:

There was also discussion about the pros and cons of an ordinance that would prohibit the feeding of ducks and geese, as that’s seen as a contributing factor to the problem on the Sesqui Plaza. In the meantime, the City will place some “Don’t feed the wildlife” signs there.

The signs are now up. Four of them. Some people aren’t happy. Nfld News’ Suzy Rook published an online column yesterday on the issue: Please don’t feed the animals:

Suzy RookA few people, I’ve heard, aren’t happy with the signs the city posted along the Cannon River asking downtown visitors not to feed the wildlife. But there are good reasons for the request, said city Streets and Parks Supervisor T.J. Heinricy…

While the signs, he said, are getting the point across, he’s gotten complaints from those who want to bring their children to the river to feed the ducks and geese. And while Heinricy understands how much fun it can be for a kids to interact with wildlife, he’s asking that we all do our part to keep Northfield tidy and safe: Don’t feed the animals. We’ll all be better off for it.

Erosion control proving to be a challenge along the East Cannon River Trail

Last Thursday, July 21, a contractor started laying erosion control blankets along the East Cannon River Trail and other areas of construction from the Babcock Park Lift Station & Interceptor Sewer Project.

Erosion control blanket installation, East Cannon River Trail silt fence, East Cannon River Trail silt fence, East Cannon River Trail silt fence, East Cannon River Trail
When biking the trail, however, I noticed that the silt fence, washed out in more than a dozen places a week earlier by the heavy rains (5 inches?) on July 15, had not been fixed. With thunderstorms in the forecast for the weekend, I wrote to City street/engineering staffers Sean Simonson and TJ Heinricy:

Sean/TJ, I noticed yesterday that the silt fence along the East Cannon River Trail has been washed out in many places since last Friday’s heavy rains.  I see the contractor is putting down the erosion blankets rather than repairing the silt fence.   And at the south end of the trail, there’s no silt fence at all along the unpaved section of the trail, with several places where they’ve just pushed dirt up to the river’s edge. With the probability of more thunderstorms this weekend, what’s the plan to remedy this?

I got this email back from Brian Hilgardner, Senior Project Manager, for Bolton & Menk, an engineering consulting firm that works with the City:

Griff, Sean is out of town on vacation, however, I was made aware of your concerns for potential erosion control along the Cannon River Trail.  The Contractor replaced much of the silt fence along the entire corridor approximately three weeks ago.  Obviously, the heavy rains took its toll on some of the silt fence.  The Contractor wasn’t able to get any equipment onto the site to make repairs earlier this week because they would have made conditions worse because the soil was still wet and soft. 

They are currently placing seed/mulch and erosion control blanket to stabilize the entire site.  They will also be repairing silt fence today.  The erosion control blanket is actually a much better and preferred erosion control Best Management Practice (BMP’s) according to the Minnesota Stormwater Manual, and as indicated in my training for Erosion and Stormwater Management Certification.  In fact, silt fence is one of the least preferred, yet still most commonly used because of its lower cost. 

By the end of the day, everything should be stabilized again.  Please call me if you have any further questions or comments. 

I replied to Brian:

Thanks much for your detailed, quick response, Brian. Good to know that it’ll be stabilized by day’s end.

Will that include along the south, unpaved end of the trail by the old Village School?  There’s no silt fence there at all and it doesn’t appear that that section will be ready for erosion blankets for a quite a while… probably until after it’s paved, right?

Brian:

I did instruct the contractor to get silt fence installed on that end today.  You are correct, that end will not be fully stabilized until it is paved, hopefully sometime next week if the weather remains decent.  I appreciate your concern for these issues and please feel free to contact me in the future if you have any comments or questions.

The contractor did fix the silt fence by the end of the day on Friday. I was thrilled. The weather did not "remain decent" however; we got nearly 2 inches of rain in about 30 minutes on Saturday morning. I rode the trail to see the results.

silt fence, East Cannon River Trail silt fence, East Cannon River Trail silt fence, East Cannon River Trail silt fence, East Cannon River Trail
As you can see from the above photos, the silt fence along the unfinished south end of the trail did its job.

Erosion control blankets, East Cannon River Trail Erosion control blankets, East Cannon River Trail Erosion control blankets, East Cannon River Trail
And with a few minor exceptions, the erosion control blankets did their job.

Erosion, East Cannon River Trail Erosion, East Cannon River Trail Erosion, East Cannon River Trail
But on all the inclined areas where the contractor had not placed blankets, the straw/seeding just washed away.  In most places, the repaired silt fence caught the runoff.

I wrote to Brian yesterday:

Brian, Nice work!  The erosion blankets did their job during Saturday’s deluge, with a few minor exceptions.  And the silt fence at the far south end did its job. But all the slightly inclined places where erosion blankets were NOT used, the straw was just washed away/ruined. What’s the plant to fix that?

Brian:

We are actually driving the site right now. We will likely have them overseed the entire project and mulch again. I will keep you posted.

Kudos to Brian and City Hall for the handling of a challenging situation.

Do you know the people on the City of Northfield Park & Recreation Advisory Board?

I attended a meeting of the City of Northfield Park & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) last week because of my interest in two items on their agenda: A) seeing what could be done to get a campground (tent and RV) in Northfield; and B) what to do about the goose poop problem. See my notes (campground here; goose poop here).

Do you know who’s on the PRAB?  I didn’t know everyone there so I thought I’d post these photos of not quite all of them (Eric Hong and Neil Lutsky were absent) sitting around the table in the Library meeting room.

City of Northfield Park & Recreation Advisory Board City of Northfield Park & Recreation Advisory Board
PRAB members: Grace Clark, Erik Hong, Nathan Knutson, David Hvistendahl, Dick Johnson, Dale Gehring, Neil Lutsky. City staff Liaison: Lynne Young.

Also in the above photos for the meeting: City of Northfield Streets and Parks Supervisor TJ Heinricy, Northfield Public Schools Community Services Recreation Coordinator Erin Mayberry, City of Northfield Recreation Manager Allison Watkins, City of Northfield / Maintenance Facility Administrative Assistant Barbara Thompson.

The deep street hole at 6th & Division: the government was involved

I was walking downtown just after noon yesterday when a Federal government employee (postal worker Tom Kotula) asked me if I’d seen the deep hole in the street at 6th & Division.

deep street hole at 6th & Division deep street hole at 6th & Division deep street hole at 6th & Division Repairs to deep street hole at 6th & Division

Repairs to deep street hole at 6th & Division Repairs to deep street hole at 6th & Division deep street hole at 6th & Division Repairs to deep street hole at 6th & Division
When I arrived to take photos, a City government worker was directing a private contractor (who had been hired by City government Streets and Parks Supervisor TJ Heinricy) to dig up the hole to, um, get to the bottom of it.

According to a story on Nlfd Patch (the Northfield MSM—Nfld Patch, Nfld News, KYMN—had been alerted to the issue via email by City government Administrator Tim Madigan) the hole likely opened up after a Federal Government National Guard vehicle drove over the street.  (Nfld Patch has patch photos. Heh.)

After excavation, City government workers filled the hole and tomorrow will investigate how storm water (created and unleashed by a non-governmental source but rerouted by City Government) caused the hole in the first place.

Where would we be without government?

Let’s use a Border Collie to solve the geese problem now

shoreline, Ames ParkI optimistically blogged about the Canada geese (AKA ‘sky carp’ or ‘flying rats’) in Ames Park last December: The sky carp problem in Ames Park: the City’s tactics appear to be working.

And then in April, I took this photo of workers removing the fencing along the west side of the Cannon River in Ames Park. I sent this email to City Engineer Katy Gehler-Hess:

Hi Katy, I see the fencing along the Cannon River downtown was removed this morning. The plantings didn’t grow? What’s plan B??

I never got a reply but she evidently forwarded my email to Street/Park Supervisor T.J. Heinricy who wrote:

The fence in Ames park was removed per the recommendation of Bonestroo Inc.  They were the contractor hired to do the install.  I asked them this Spring about the fence removal.  The gentleman that did the install did a very detailed inspection.  The planting’s are doing just fine and are thriving.  That was their assessment.

Alas, the problem is now worse than ever.

geese in Ames Park shoreline, Ames Park shoreline, Ames Park shoreline, Ames Park
I took these photos last night.  The geese use the canoe ramps and the bank next to the Ames Mill fence that’s not city property to enter and exit the river. And the plantings are NOT thriving everywhere as Bonestroo contended. There are many spots that look like this:

shoreline, Ames Park

Nfld News:

City Administrator Joel Walinski said it will take time to see the full effect of the new shoreline, which looks much better than it did two years ago, he said.

I’m extremely doubtful that the current solution will work in two years.  The Nfld News editorial mentioned using dogs, specifically Border Collies. Lots of businesses doing this (example, here) and even the Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese recommends using Border Collies:

Border Collies (BC) are specially trained herding dogs that are extremely effective for keeping geese out of areas where they are considered a problem.  Border collies are the method of choice for large open areas such as golf courses, airports, parks, school ground recreation fields, corporate parks, etc.

Results are immediate. Usually requires aggressive initial use (several times a day for 1-2 weeks) until geese get tired of being hassled and stay away. While the wolf-like gaze of Border Collies is incredibly frightening to geese, these dogs will not harm them or children.

Tearing down the Ames Mill dam might solve the problem but that project appears to be stalled.

So why not get/rent a Border Collie and solve the problem NOW, before DJJD?  Couldn’t the Park & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) could take the lead on this initiative?

Update 7/16 8:30 am:  Geese feces on the Mill Towns Trail between Riverside Park and Babcock Park:

Geese feces on the Mill Towns Trail Geese feces on the Mill Towns Trail Geese feces on the Mill Towns Trail

Update 7/18 7:15 am: Geese feces on the Sesquincentennial Plaza:

Geese feces on the Sesquincentennial Plaza Geese feces on the Sesquincentennial Plaza Geese feces on the Sesquincentennial Plaza

Recycling bins and newspaper vending racks: a project for the Streetscape Task Force?

Recycling bins downtown Recycling bins downtown newspaper vending racks downtown
City Administrator Joel Walinski writes in the June 4 Friday Memo:

Downtown Recycling Cans, Oh! They’re so ugly! 20 temporary recycling containers were put in place Friday June 4, 2010 along Division Street. Street Supervisor TJ Heinricy has been working with Waste Management staff to develop a test-recycling program for the downtown area over the past several months.

Our interest is in the assessing the recycling waste stream and how much use there is or could be. This information will be used in the cost analysis and consideration of the return on investment for allocating future dollars on more permanent (eye-appealing) recycling containers in the downtown area.

Seems like downtown recycling bins and newspaper vending racks should be a project for the Streetscape Task Force.

Recycling bins, Montreal Missoula recycling bins  Flash Forward recycling bin, Toronto
Left: I like the ones used in Montreal near McGill University.
Center: the ones in Missoula, Montana aren’t bad
Right: even better are ones in Toronto that serve another purpose – Art:

Continue reading Recycling bins and newspaper vending racks: a project for the Streetscape Task Force?

New pile of screened compost now available

TJ Heinricy, Streets & Parks Supervisor, reported in the Aug. 21 Friday Memo that "The City compost site has been busy with the annual compost screening. This project entails the screening of two or three year old compost."

 Dakota Wood Grinding's compost screening equipment screened compost pile
I took the left photo a week ago when Dakota Wood Grinding’s compost screening equipment arrived. I took the right photo today showing that a huge mound of compost is now ready for citizens to use, first come, first-served. See the city’s yard waste page for more, including this compost site PDF.

Emerald Ash Borer: coming soon to your neighborhood

Emerald Ash Borer collector Emerald Ash Borer sign Emerald Ash Borer - City of Northfield
We picnicked at Sakatah Lake State Park last weekend and I noticed that they’ve set up a collector/detector gizmo on an ash tree for the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).  In the June 19 issue of the Nfld News, Speedy beetle mistaken for tree-killing relative,

“It’s right in our backyard now,” (Streets and Parks Supervisor TJ Heinricy) said. He estimated up to 30 percent of the trees in Northfield are ash, and said he would initiate insecticide-spraying on the bark of vulnerable trees downtown.

Resources:

A color change for downtown pedestrian light poles

IMG_2670 City crews are replacing many historic-looking pedestrian light poles downtown on Division St. The lights glow white, in contrast to the orange color of the light poles installed last year on the Water St. parking lot and Sesquicentennial Legacy Plaza. I know zilch about street lighting and even less about smart streetlights but in this week’s Friday Memo, TJ Heinricy, Supervisor of Northfield’s Streets & Parks Department, writes: (continued)

Continue reading A color change for downtown pedestrian light poles

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