Check Out the Parks Plan

familyride.jpgNorthfield’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) recently completed a process that resulted in a Parks, Open Spaces, and Trail System Plan. The Locally Grown crew was asked to help raise awareness of the plan among Northfield citizens.

The plan has six sections. They are Community Input and Values Statement, Vision and Policy Plan, Parks and Greenway System Plan, Trial System Plan, Natural Resources and Stewardship Plan, and Implementation Plan.

There are also two appendices, Park and Trail Development Considerations and Summary of Findings from Public Process. There’s a rather fascinating (at least to me) matrix called “Potential Cost for Park and Athletic Facility Development”, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the dramatic conclusion.

I would say that the overall purpose of the Plan is to project the needs and/or wants of Northfield over the next fifteen to twenty years and to suggest strategies for meeting those needs and/or wants. The Plan’s overview strongly suggests that these elements help promote a high quality of life.

Of particular interest to me was the “Overview of Mill Towns Trail Routing Options”. If you’re interested in Bike Trails, Walking Trails, Parks, Sustainability, The Greenway, Ecological Systems, and/or Athletic Facilities, you should connect to this Plan.

You can’t say, “Nobody told me” three months from now, ’cause I just told you.


  1. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Ross and Tracy – can you give a little analysis of how the Park Master Plan, especially in section 4 with its detailed descriptions of trails types, intersection designs, and “complete streets” policy aligns with the new Comprehensive Plan? Thanks

    January 4, 2008
  2. Tracy Davis said:


    I don’t know the answer to your questions yet – I haven’t read both documents carefully enough. But thank you for asking – the new Comprehensive Plan isn’t finished yet, so there’s still time to make things consistent between plans (and City departments).

    I have the draft Comp Plan and will be posting it in the next couple of days.

    January 4, 2008
  3. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Tracy, Since I haven’t seen the full Comp Plan draft and also haven’t read the Park Plan carefully AND am involved with the Transportation Plan now under development as the Park Board/Non-Motorized Transp Task Force rep (with Ross from the PC), I don’t have answers yet either. So partly I’m pushing you folks who may have some information to think about the intersection of planning efforts.

    But mostly, I have a sense that Northfield’s plans are converging on a strong policy for liveable development and I’m excited. Perhaps the various plans will need fine-tuning to ensure that they correspond, but I’m looking forward to seeing a unified set of planning tools which make a clear statement about sustainable development which enhances our neighborhoods (including downtown) and makes our streets attractive and efficient links and our parks great places to gather and play.

    I hope the Planning Commission, City Council and citizens will agree and help make it happen.

    January 5, 2008
  4. Frederick Kettering said:

    Thanks for the heads up, Ross, but I’m unable to find or to download the Mill Towns Trail routing options that you mention. It seems the City site has separated Section 4 of the report into three PDFs. Part 1 runs up to page 4.14.
    Part 3 begins around page 4.22 (if I recall correctly). Part 2, however, doesn’t seem to exist on the site. Instead there is a faux Part 2 (called “Part 11”) that actually yields the same download as Part 1.

    To make this perfectly clear: pages 4.15 through 4.21 of Section 4 apparently are missing from the site. The routing options you mention, however, are said to be found on page 4.18. Can you help?

    January 5, 2008
  5. Gabriel Rholl said:

    I think this is absolutely fascinating! Thanks for posting it. It’s something I’ve been very curious about and I’ve been frustrated for a while that it seemed that nothing existed to shore up Northfield’s parks. Last summer, while looking for any map of our park system, I went on a wild goose chase all over town, being particularly let down by City Hall (City Hall? Come on, they have to be organized, right? Right?) I finally found one, but only after doing a Google search and clicking about 7 pages in.

    One thing that piqued my interest was the preferred route of the mill towns trail. I thought that it was going to go down the bike lanes that they painted on 4th St. (In fact, the Mill Towns Trail website still says that.) Apparently now it’s going to go past the Crossings development into the Carleton Arb. Does anybody know what’s going on? Does preferred mean “in an ideal world we’d do this BUT we don’t live in an ideal world?” Perhaps if I read the entire document I’d know more, but I was immediately drawn to the maps on the first few pages and I never got very far after that.

    Although I think it’s great, I think that the plan to put in more East 4th Street-esque bike lanes all over town might draw some disdain from drivers. Maybe I should keep that a secret so I get my way…

    January 6, 2008
  6. Holly Cairns said:

    I wonder– what is the diff between “On-street bike trail” and “bike lane”. I see Woodley and Cedar are “On-street bike.”

    There’s no room on Cedar or Woodley for biking, really. No shoulder to speak of, and narrow lanes. If you plan to bike on either of those streets– bike in a HUGE group of bikers, and don’t be last. Parents with kids should have the kids IN FRONT, not last.

    (As you might know) My mother Lynne was riding her bike on Woodley, near the edge of town, when she was struck and killed by a truck. Our family was nearly destroyed over the incident, and the man that killed her also greatly suffered. (SIde note– that man just died, and I’ll tell you it was a strange feeling to read about his death. And yes, I feel sorry for the family).

    My opinion is that we don’t do “on street bike” any place unless roads are reworked for the biker, or unless the road is bike ready. Neither Cedar or Woodley are bike ready.

    IMHO, too many people think that roads were made for motor vehicles, and for motor vehicles, only. Drivers who think like that don’t want to be slowed down, and they don’t give bikers three feet when they pass (or wait to pass if needed.)

    I don’t live in the city of Northfield and I don’t like my kids to bike AT ALL. But, hey you people who live in town and love a biker– read the plan and have a say? Does it look safe to you?

    January 6, 2008
  7. Gabriel Rholl said:

    Holly- Have you seen what they did to 4th Street? It used to be similar to Woodley; there was parking on both sides and cars would drive by at 40 MPH. A few years ago they took out parking on the north side and put in two bike lanes. Ever since it’s been safer for bikers and cars have driven slower. I’m sure they could do the same to Woodley. I’m sorry to hear about your mother, that’s a horrible loss. It’s the kind of thing that should have prompted the city to take more action to protect bikers, but it never seems to happen.

    You’re right, there is an incredible prejudice against bikers. I just don’t think that enough people understand the idea of biking as a transportation method: I don’t even have my driver’s license and it’s crucial that I have the ability to bike around town safely. On several occasions, I’ve been verbally abused by passing motorists simply because I haven’t chosen to get a license (or haven’t enough money to afford insurance, a car, gas, etc.) It goes with the territory, I suppose, but it doesn’t seem like something I should have to tolerate.

    January 6, 2008
  8. Holly Cairns said:

    Hmm, 4th Street. That’s right, it is bike friendly, isn’t it… until it starts to wind out of town to the cemetery (It’s a little funky down by the curve where it starts to head out of town).

    Yes, more like 4th street! Any plans w/street signs should be on bike friendly roads, only. Bike Friendly like 4th Street!

    Good for you, Gabe, for biking. 🙂

    January 6, 2008
  9. John Thomas said:

    If 4th street is the example and standard we are setting for a community, we are in serious trouble.

    I do not want to start the argument all over again, but I would much rather ride down 5th with NO bikelane, than I would in that 2 foot wide strip on 4th street they are calling a lane.

    Paint fades, and I hope that the 4th street bikelane goes with it. It is just not as safe as it could be.

    I would propose a slightly wider one way bike lane on 4th westbound toward downtown on the north side of the street, and a eastbound one way bikelane on 5th on the southside of the street. This would allow for a lane on one side away from parking and opening doors, as well as tying in the pool to the bikeway system.

    Another path could run from Maple and Woodley, down Nevada to Carelton College. Users could use the sidewalk on maple to get all the way to the soccer fields, or use the Sibley School area path system to head over to the Middle School.

    It is all about connecting this city with pathways that are SAFE for pedestrians and cyclists. Safe Routes to Schools, safe routes to downtown, safe routes to get around… Leave the car at home.

    January 6, 2008
  10. Ross Currier said:

    John, I agree with Gabe, 4th Street feels much safer to ride on than non-lined (or non-laned) streets. I ride my bike to work (unlike Jerry Bilek, only when there is no snow…call me a wimp) and the addition of the bike lane made 4th Street my clear choice for the commute. Perhaps it’s because there are so many other bike riders, like Gabe, using the same route.

    January 7, 2008
  11. Betsey Buckheit said:

    A few technical comments:

    I’ve emailed Brian Erickson at the city to try and get the missing section of Section 4 on the website (currently, as Frederick Kettering pointed out, the links to parts 1 and 2 both link to part 1) – so let’s hope that is available soon with its information about the Mill Towns trail.

    BIKEWAY is an umbrella term for any road, street, path, etc. which is designated for bicycle use whether by signage, street striping or a separate facility.

    On street BIKE ROUTES are shared roadways (no separate bike lane) indicated by signage and, we hope, planned to consider the traffic, road width, connections to other bike routes and bikeways.

    On street BIKE LANES

    January 7, 2008
  12. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Ooops, hit enter too soon.

    BIKE LANES are striped (and perhaps median-separated) bike-only lanes on streets. 4th street has a bike lane, but it is extremely narrow and seems to strand cyclists in the middle of traffic. Still, the width of both 4th and 5th (and relatively few stop signs) makes these streets good potential bike routes.

    Holly, I have often thought of your mother (although I never met her, nor knew her relation to you) as I bicycle out of town on Woodley – our family calls this section of Woodley the “Death Zone” not only because of your mother’s tragic death, but also the number of near misses we have experienced. You’re right, it’s not safe. Looking ahead, however…

    The City Council is considering the final striping of the Woodley improvement tonight and providing for a bicycle lane would be a step in the right direction.

    January 7, 2008
  13. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Betsey,
    The Death Zone. Don’t let your kids ride last.

    My point is that the ROAD needs to change– just adding a bike lane isn’t going to work. The road is too narrow, and when they did the recent road construction, there was no shoulder added (on Cedar the project was described as “adding a shoulder”. That wasn’t done and the road has white line and then one foot or less on the other side.)

    Look at the curve on Woodley near the new Jefferson as you head out of town. Put a bike lane there and you make is SEEM safe, but the road is too thin, and if another car is coming from the other direction, there’s not enough room to pass and give the biker three feet.

    Of course, I take the law to mean that there should be three feet of space between the biker and the car when you pass. That would mean that the road needs to be wide enough for a car, a bike, and three feet between the car and bike.

    Okay, so, if you hang a sign up about biking, it seems like it is a bike safe area. But is it? Even with striping? The road has to be wide enough.

    What’s this you’re saying, John? I know there’s two bike lanes on 4th, but are they going in diff directions? So a bike would ride on what is technically the wrong side of the street for a bike?

    January 7, 2008
  14. Bill Ostrem said:

    I was about to go into the details of the Woodley St./CSAH 28 plan, but then I realized that has been done in other comments for this blog last fall. I don’t know if the plan has changed any since then. You could search for that discussion on this site. From my own perspective of what’s good for biking and walking, the current plan has advantages and disadvantages.

    Thanks to Betsey for providing the definitions of some of the relevant terms.

    January 7, 2008
  15. This plan seems to be a major step in the right direction in terms of overall park/open space/trail system planning. I like most of what I see very much, especially the incorporation of the Greenway Corridor System.

    Minnesota design standards call for five-foot bike lanes on roadways with a 30 mph speed limit, and the 4th St. bike lanes do not meet these standards. The roadway is wide enough that they could, however. (It might take somewhat narrower traffic lanes, which would have an added traffic calming effect.)

    I was extensively involved in the City Council Follies concerning Woodley St. redesign this past summer and fall. I’ve walked and biked in and around Northfield since 1967, and lived at 1109 Woodley (right on the curve by the golf course) as a kid until my folks moved in 1984. I fully concur with the Death Zone designation of this stretch of road, and think of your mother every time I head out of town on this road on my bike, Holly.

    I advocated long and hard for safe, well signed and striped five-foot bike lanes both east and westbound on this stretch of Woodley, but ultimately to no avail. County and City staff stonewalled, and the plan currently calls for an eight-foot off-road shared (biking/walking/strollering/skateboarding/rollerblading/dog-walking/what-notting) two-way trail. This is fine for mom or dad and their kids biking along at five miles an hour, but is UNSAFE when you mix in experienced transportation and recreational cyclists traveling at 15 to 25 mph, with fourteen crossings between Prairie and the eastern city limits. People are gonna get hurt.

    It is ironic that the new plan calls for on-road bike lanes on Woodley all the way from Highway 3 on the west to Prairie on the east, then changes to a bike “route” (no lanes; just signs) from Prairie to the eastern city limits…

    Tonight’s City Council meeting ( agenda includes “final design directions for Woodley Street from Prairie Street to Jefferson Parkway for the preparation of plans and specifications.” The links to the Woodley St. packet addenda didn’t work, but I contacted City staff and have received a PDF of the final striping. The on-road bike facilities are a four-foot “shoulder” that is actually mostly curb and gutter. Unfortunate, to say the least, from my perspective.

    January 7, 2008
  16. Tracy Davis said:

    I spoke to Joel Walinkski at City Hall about half an hour ago, and he told me that they had reformatted and re-uploaded the problematic parts of the plan on the City website. The updated version should be ready for download by the end of the day today.

    January 7, 2008
  17. Holly Cairns said:

    Thanks for the info, Bruce and Betsey.

    Thanks for the hard work, Bruce.

    I’m trying to get across the point that if there are bike signs or lanes– or literature which promotes bike traffic, there is intended usage, and implied protection. Bikes SHOULD ride here. “More and more bikes here” type of thing.

    But, Is the road safe? Is it a good to direct bike traffic here? If we hang up a sign are we appeasing someone, instead of protecting someone?

    I like people biking to work (not my people, but others)– and I think that marks on the road seem more inclusive and suggestive. But, why put marks/signs/etc. on the worst roads in town? Cedar? Yikes! Woodley? Yikes! It’s safer to bike on Hwy 3 than either of those roads, in my humble opinion. Hwy 3 has a huge shoulder.

    Faster cars on Hwy 3? Nope. Cedar signs are 50 mph. Woodley signs are, what, 40? I believe they upped the speed right after my mother was killed. So, when I go out there to see what is going on, cars are speeding by at more than 40, and are heading out to the country, and I know it feels like a good spot to hit the gas.

    Well, that’s it for me. I could work tirelessly on this, but I can see I am biased, and I had to go “identify” my mother (won’t go into detail but you can imagine), and so the images still sting, and so I can’t really advocate well on this issue. I’m still stuck on the idea of letting my kids bike at all… yes, I do know accidents can happen and life is about taking risks.

    Good luck and hopefully what happens will be for the good… Future families/kids/bikers will benefit from thoughtful thinking.

    January 7, 2008
  18. Holly, I understand where you’re coming from. I agree, it makes no sense to designate the most hazardous roadways as bikeways.

    Woodley from Prairie east IS going to be widened significantly this summer (from its current 24 feet to what many feel is an excessively wide 44 feet); the sidewalk on the south side and shared eight-foot path on the north will be huge improvements over the status quo in most respects.

    I simply feel (and bike/ped experts concur) that it is safer to have experienced cyclists on a well-designed on-road bike lane than on an eight-foot shared use path that crosses 14 intersections in 0.7 miles. The potential for bike/bike, bike/pedestrian, and bike/motor vehicle accidents is MUCH greater with the design we’re getting than it would be with safe on-road bike lanes. (For more on this, see page 27 of

    January 7, 2008
  19. Jerry Bilek said:

    Ross said:
    “John, I agree with Gabe, 4th Street feels much safer to ride on than non-lined (or non-laned) streets. I ride my bike to work (unlike Jerry Bilek, only when there is no snow…call me a wimp) and the addition of the bike lane made 4th Street my clear choice for the commute. Perhaps it’s because there are so many other bike riders, like Gabe, using the same route.”

    Snow tires Ross.

    I have felt safer on the redesigned 4th, though I would like to see the bike lane widened. I don’t know if it is safe for my daughter and what happens after Prairie through the curve.

    This is from
    What becomes clear is that, as numbers of cyclists increase, the rate of fatalities decreases. This inverse relationship is borne out by a 2003 report entitled “Safety in Numbers” by Peter L. Jacobsen, a public-health consultant in Sacramento, California. Studying cities of varying sizes from California to Scandinavia to the United Kingdom to the Netherlands, Jacobsen found that collisions between motor vehicles and people walking or bicycling declined with increases in the numbers of pedestrians and cyclists, partly because motorists in foot- or bike-prone communities are themselves more likely to walk or bicycle occasionally, and thus give greater consideration to others who are doing it.
    Jacobsen’s fundamental conclusion: “A motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking or bicycling if more people walk or bicycle.”

    full article:,6610,s-3-12-16651-1,00.html

    and more good articles:,6610,s1-3-12-16637-1,00.html

    The piece titled Broken is tough to read. The Judge Judy video is from a case in Northfield.

    January 7, 2008
  20. Griff Wigley said:

    A tip-of-the-blogger hat to Victor Summa for alerting me that

    tonight’s City Council meeting agenda has an item related to bike lanes:

    11. Approve final design directions for Woodley Street from Prairie Street to Jefferson Parkway for  the preparation of plans and specifications

    See pages 36-39 of the packet for details.

    The 3 Addenda to the Woodley packet with striping details is not currently working. I’ve alerted Deb Little, city clerk.

    January 7, 2008
  21. John S. Thomas said:

    That was my point. A wider bike lane on fourth.

    I am so frustrated with the whole Woodley project at this point. The city is doing exactly what they want to do, and not listening to its citizens.

    Once the speed surveys are done when this project is completed, the speed will go up, not down. The speed is set to 85% of the average speed taken over the survey period. So, with the increased lane width, and increased speeds, its almost a given.

    Increased speeds will also make it more difficult to get the stop signs put in at Woodley and Prairie as well.

    So frustrating…

    January 7, 2008
  22. Jerry Bilek said:

    I agree John. Bruce presented a very reasonable compromise to the city about woodley.

    January 7, 2008
  23. Griff Wigley said:

    Is there anything in the Parks plan (I confess, I’ve not yet read it) that takes into consideration the points made by Jay Walljasper in last Sunday’s Strib Opinion section titled: Hibernation discouraged; Cities need life on their streets — even in the most frigid days (and nights) of winter. Here’s how to make it happen.

     Danes aren’t any hardier than the rest of us, notes Gehl; it’s simply that Danish cities over the past few years have created or refurbished many great public places — plazas, parks, lively shopping streets, waterfront districts– where people want to hang out even when it’s freezing. “Climates differ all over the world,” he says. “But people are the same. They will gather in public if you give them a good place to do it.”

    January 9, 2008
  24. Ross Currier said:

    Griff –

    I think that it’s important to have an unpaid emerging photographer on the streets of Northfield day and night, taking pictures of people enjoying outside activities during the winter, and posting them on a website.

    So, get on it, will ya?

    – Ross

    January 9, 2008
  25. Tracy Davis said:

    Thanks for the link, Griff, it was an excellent article. If Minneapolis can learn from St. Paul, maybe Northfield can learn from both of those (pro and con). My favorite quote from the article: “A lack of imagination — not wind chill, early sunsets or deep snow — is the biggest problem facing winter cities,”

    In Northfield, I see many of our problems as:

    1. Lack of imagination
    2. Lack of a cohesive plan when there IS imagination
    3. Lack of leadership (time, skills) in obtaining funding and doing project management.

    But I digress, as I am wont to do. Thanks for the link.

    January 9, 2008
  26. Bill Ostrem said:

    Figure skating somewhere in or near downtown, with lights for nightime skating, would be a good idea, but where might it be done? Ames Park? Riverside Park? Modify a street or parking lot?

    January 9, 2008
  27. Ross Currier said:

    Mary Rossing’s most excellent idea (in my personal opinion) for a bandshell in Ames Park has as a downside potentially causing the geese to poop someplace else. A skating rink, created by flooding this floodplain-like area, would also have this potential downside.

    However, I (in my personal opinion) think it’s worth the risk. Let’s give it a go and try a skating rink in Ames Park.

    If we can pull it off in the next thirty days, maybe at the “dedication” of the skating rink next to the historic Ames Mill Malt-O-Meal would provide hot cereal…and Paul Niemisto could provide a brass band.

    January 9, 2008
  28. Anne Bretts said:

    Bring the kids over anytime. There are a couple of very shallow, very safe ponds in our our neighborhood — along Jefferson Parkway — and the neighbors have shoveled one of them as a skating rink. Parents and little kids play out there and it’s quite charming. It might be a good place for skaters to meet and test out the idea before a larger rink is available.

    January 9, 2008
  29. Holly Cairns said:

    Is one of those parks a skateboard park?

    Or should we just switch it so the kids can skate downtown… I like the latter, better, although the boards do rip up the concrete a bit.

    if you ask me, kids skating all over is a sign of a healthy community. Sorry.

    January 9, 2008
  30. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh yeah, and Anne– one of those ponds over by Superior and Abbey is a spring? The water continually moves, or so I heard from one of the mothers that lives near the pond.

    Do springs freeze well enough to skate on…? Probably, but just asking.

    January 9, 2008
  31. Anne Bretts said:

    Good point, Holly. There are several ponds in the neighborhood, and some might be springs, but parents have been using one of them successfully for skating for two winters now and it doesn’t seem any kids have gone missing. I’m sure the outdoor experts could confirm which ones are the safest, I’m just suggesting that until we can build rinks, Mother Nature might have some inexpensive (free) alternatives.

    January 9, 2008
  32. I’ll third Ross’ second of Bill’s suggestion of an Ames Park skating rink. I have fond memories of freezing my toes numerous times while receiving regular thrashings as a member of the Northfield Bantams hockey team back in roughly 1971-1973. We played all of our home games outdoors on the Ames Park rink, and the adjacent figure-skating rink received lots of use as well.

    I even have foggy memories of skating on a city-maintained rink ON THE CANNON RIVER above the dam when dinosaurs roamed the earth back in the pre-global-warming days (perhaps the winter of 1968-1969)? Any photos of this or earlier such adventures on the Cannon in the Historical Society archives???

    One of my neighbors, old Johnny Westerlund, a retired phy-ed instructor and occasional substitute teacher when I was a kid, would regale us with tales of skating on the Cannon from Northfield to Dundas and back.

    January 9, 2008
  33. Ross Currier said:

    Bruce –

    Speaking of photographs, how about some of the fading glories of the Northfield Bantams in Ames Park?

    – Ross

    January 9, 2008
  34. Griff Wigley said:

    Here are five photos, courtesy of executive director Hayes Scriven at the Northfield Historical Society, of the skating rink on the Cannon River above the Ames Mill dam. Click to enlarge. (Photos open in a new window/tab.)

    skating rink above the Ames Mill dam skating rink above the Ames Mill dam skating rink above the Ames Mill dam

    skating rink above the Ames Mill dam skating rink above the Ames Mill dam

    January 9, 2008
  35. Ross Currier said:

    Peggy Prowe, Queen of the Mill Towns Trail, sent me the following notice:

    The Northfield Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will be holding an Open House to obtain public input concerning Northfield’s Parks, Open Space, and Trail System Plan.

    Tuesday January 29, 2008
    Northfield City Hall
    City Council Chambers

    January 10, 2008
  36. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News: Parks plan open house is Tuesday.

    The draft document, available on the city’s Web site, considers the future of the city’s parks, open spaces and trails and is based on the Greater Northfield Greenway Corridor System. It also includes an inventory of the area’s natural resources, completed in 2005.­

    January 26, 2008
  37. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve put up the transcript of the fall 1997 online community forum on the Parks Plan.

    Participants included:

    • Randy Distad, Parks & Recreation Director
    • Scott Neal, City Administrator
    • Peg Prowe, Council member, liaison to Park Board
    • Char Carlson, Chair of Park Board
    • Chris Robbins, Planning Commission member, Cannon River Watershed Project
    • Gordon Kelley, Planning Commission member

    The forum focused on the following issues:

    • Development of a long-term master plan for city parks, trails, and open spaces
    • The land along the city’s waterways: Cannon River, and the creeks (Heath/Rice/Spring). Pros and cons of buying the land to preserve it; process used to acquire.
    • The new city Parks and Rec dept under new director Randy Distad: programs, parks, staff, responsibilities, budget, etc.
    • The city’s need for more/bigger sport/recreational complexes (hockey, soccer, swimming, etc.)


    January 26, 2008