Category Archives: Life

Northfield’s new park could include a mountain bike / pump & jump park and save the city $280,000

Northfield’s acquisition of the Fargaze Meadows subdivision for a future park comes with an eyesore: a huge mound of dirt. In the May 28 Fbo Daily News: Northfield gains 40 acres from Rice County for parks and trails:

But converting the land will neither easy nor cheap. A giant mound of dirt lies on the north part of the land, which not only makes for a poor view, but also causes a lot of problems for the homes in the neighborhood. County engineer Dennis Luebbe estimated it could cost up to $280,000 just to move the dirt.

Eagan Pump and Jump Bike parkDavid DeLongBack in May after a downtown parking management meeting, I was chatting with Ward 2 Councilor David DeLong about my mountain biking adventures and mentioned to him that many municipalities are building bike parks (pump and jump parks) as an amenity for their citizens of all ages. Eagan has one that I regularly use (left photo), Maple Plain has one, and Cottage Grove starting building a big one this week.  Others are in the works for Duluth, Maple Grove, and Cuyuna and probably many more. When Dave learned about the cost of removing the big dirt mound at Fargaze, he emailed me, wondering whether some of that dirt could be used for a bike park. I replied:

The type of dirt used to build the features for these parks matters, as the jumps, berms and rollers deteriorate quickly if it’s not hard-pack dirt.  I’m guessing that mound of dirt at Fargaze is black dirt.

He replied:

Griff, I don’t know what the dirt is but I think there must be more than black dirt. If it was most likely there would have been greater erosion. Amateur opinion. The quietness and growing popularity [of bike parks] along with the age range of participation does intrigue me. Thanks for the links and following up.

Last night while riding my around-town bike in the area, I decided to take a closer look.  I was shocked to not see black dirt. So today I went back, took photos, and dug (heh) a little deeper. It appears that Councilor DeLong’s amateur opinion was correct.

First, some perspective:

Fargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking westFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking southFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking northFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking north
The mound of dirt looking west, south, and north. Far right: looking north from atop the mound.

Fargaze Meadows outlined  - Google EarthFargaze Meadows dirt mound - Google Earth
Left: My markup of the Google Earth view of the Fargaze parcel. Right: satellite view of the neighborhood with the pond and the mound.

Fargaze dirt cutFargaze dirt washoutFargaze dirt mound showing dirt cuts/washouts - Google Earth
Left and center: two of several dirt cuts/washout areas that indicate that the mound is not made of black dirt. Right: the dirt cuts/washout areas viewable from Google Earth’s satellite.

Access point to Fargaze dirt moundFacing east at the bottom of the Fargaze dirt moundFacing west at the top of the Fargaze dirt mound Facing northwest at the top of the Fargaze dirt mound
Primary access to the dirt mound is at the corner of Ford St E and Brogan Dr. (left). Once on top, it appears that the mound is big enough to locate a significant portion of a bike park on top of it.  The dirt could easily be moved to build the bike park adjacent to / south of where the mound is. Or both.

Griff Wigley, no trespassing signtruck: City of Northfield's Public Works DepartmentAn apologetic Griff Wigley
While I was there, a couple of thugs helpful staffers from the City of Northfield’s Public Works Department pulled up in a city truck to inform me that I was trespassing in a place that was given by Thermo King. I politely thanked them and profusely apologized, promising to never do it again. (Consider this paragraph to be one of these.)

As for the type of dirt needed for a bike park, a guy I know who’s working on the bike park in Cottage Grove wrote to me:

You want to be able to make a dirt ball, like a snow ball out of it. If it holds together, maybe bounce it a little to see how it holds up. If it does, that’s good. Also look for that reddish brown color. That is mineral soil.

Soil in the Fargaze dirt moundSoil in the Fargaze dirt mound Moistened soil from the Fargaze dirt mound
I scraped some some dirt from the side of the dirt cut, brought it home, mixed it with some water and made a ball. It split apart when I dropped it from a height of about a foot so it may not be perfect.  I put it in the sun and it was baked into a hard rock by day’s end. So it’s definitely promising and probably worth the money to have a company drill soil samples of the dirt mound.

I’ve begun having conversations about all this with Nathan Knutson, Chair of the Park & Recreation Advisory Board, City Administrator Tim Madigan, and Joe Stapf and Jaspar Kruggel from the Public Works Department.

Eagle ID bike park 1Eagle ID bike park 2Eagle ID bike park 3Eagle ID bike park 4
The photos above are from a profile of a bike park in the city of Eagle, Idaho that was built by a company called Alpine Bike Parks. It has some similarities to the location and height of the Fargaze dirt mound here in Northfield:

Once the community was ready to develop the park, they reached out to Alpine Bike Parks to develop the full-service public bike park facility. Mechanized construction included slopestyle downhill trails, skills development areas, and competitive mountain cross and dual slalom courses. These trails raised the public profile of the project and assisted in developing capital for future project phases, including additional skills areas, and competitive BMX and mountain bike race courses.

  • Duration of Construction: Two months
  • Scope: Master planning, trail design, trail construction, community outreach.
  • Methods: Excavators, tracked loaders and skid steers, hand shaping
  • Budget: $130,000
  • Client: City of Eagle, Idaho

Curious as to what a pump track is all about? Like swinging higher and higher on a swing with no one pushing you, it’s going around and around the track on your bike without pedaling, a foundational skill that makes mountain biking even more fun. Watch this video of instruction for a high school mountain bike team:

httpv://youtu.be/7Vl80yZ0O-g

Lastly, I realize that neighbors in the area may have concerns about having a bike park adjacent to their property. If you’re a neighbor and reading this, please attach a comment or contact me.

MPR’s Molly Bloom visits Northfield for their ‘Get Out There’ segment

More than a few Northfielders got this email recently from Molly Bloom, Public Insight Analyst for MPR News and their Public Insight Network:

Molly Bloom, Public Insight Analyst, MPR NewsI’m writing today because you’re a source in our Public Insight Network and you’ve told us that you live in Northfield. We’re working on a series of stories that we think you might be able to help us with.

MPR News is been doing a series of stories called “Get Out There,” in which we profile Minnesota towns (you can see them here). We want to find the places, eateries, and activities that might be hidden gems. So we’re coming to you to see what you think people should see, do or eat when they’re in Northfield. If friends were visiting from out-of-town, where would you take them? Please tell us here.

Griff intrudes on Almanac tapingMolly heard from 35 Northfielders and graciously let me follow her around yesterday while she visited some of the recommended "hidden gems."

I promised that A) I wouldn’t make any suggestions on where she should go; and B) that I’d try not to get in the way like I did the last time a public media journalist visited.

Chip DeMann, Molly BloomChip DeMann, Molly BloomMolly Bloom, Hayes Scriven, Brad Ness
Her first stop was the Northfield Historical Society where Chip DeMann, Hayes Scriven and Brad Ness tried to impress her with, what else, lots of old stuff.

Molly Bloom at the NAGMolly Bloom at the NAGMolly Bloom at CakeWalkMolly Bloom at CakeWalk
After a quick couple of photos at the NAG, she bought a cupcake at CakeWalk and forced me to eat half of it.

Catherine Dominguez and Molly BloomMolly Bloom and Nathan NelsonMolly Bloom at the Weitz CenterMolly Bloom at Chapati
She chatted with Catherine Dominguez at GBM and took a photo of Nathan Nelson reading newspapers there, a quaint activity that they probably don’t see much of any more in the public media empire. After a visit to the Weitz Center (alas, closed for the summer), she had lunch at Chapati, and then ventured–no further stalking by me–to the Brick Oven Bakery and the Northfield Farmer’s Market in Riverside Park.

Molly Bloom, Victor Summa, Paul HagerShe also was witness to how much I get abused by the citizenry on a daily basis, courtesy of Victor Summa and Paul Hager.

Her story should appear on the Get Out There blog on Thursday, at which point, I invite y’all to chime in here with your suggestions on the other places/hidden gems of Northfield that she should also have profiled.

Flooding wipes out Mill Towns Trail bridge, slices Armstrong Road, undermines railroad bed

Another (100-year?) rainfall ‘event’ has brought me out of my blogging hiatus.

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I took these photos early this afternoon on Armstrong Road near the Northfield compost facility where runoff from this morning’s torrential rainfall cut through the road, washed away the Mill Towns Trail bridge, and completely undermined the railroad bed.

More photos to come? Probably.

Update 7 am, July 14:

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More photos to show the size of the washout on Armstrong Road.

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A construction crew evidently arrived yesterday and has begun work on the railroad bridge. My friend used to do water damage repair in Los Angeles and is on the work crew.

Update July 18:  A few more of my flooding-related photos below. See Rob Hardy’s comprehensive listing of links related to the flooding on Northfield.org.

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R.I.P. Dan Freeman

Dan Freeman

From Suzanne Freeman, posted to Dan Freeman’s Caring Bridge page last night:

Around 7:30 this evening, my dad died.

As you all can imagine, while we knew it was coming, no one expected it so soon.  I arrived at noon to relieve Cynthia and he was about the same as yesterday – groggy but awake.  The hospice nurse had asked to speak with me and told me she’d seen a marked decline since her visit Saturday, but I knew that.  She said the nurses would continue checking on him more frequently which they did. 

He was pretty restless most of the day and very confused, but we watched a movie for a bit and he grooved to the Les Mis soundtrack in his wheelchair before asking to go outside for a while.  I had a nurse help me with his oxygen and we went to sit in the shade in the courtyard.  When he was ready to go back inside he didn’t want me to leave and get a helper, so the two of us somehow managed (mostly me) to get his wheelchair and oxygen tank inside the door, promptly after which he started feeling very ill.  The nurse helped him calm down and gave him some medications and a nebulizer, and he seemed relatively stable for a while.

Brett Reese called right around that time and then asked if he could stop by for a few minutes; meanwhile I was trying to communicate with everyone I could who was asking about his status today.  Brett arrived just in time to give me a shoulder to cry on.  Duane Everson came by to check on Dad and sang to him (as did some other friends earlier). 

Dave Topp and my brother Jeff arrived when Dad was feeling particularly antsy, and though he had a ton of meds in him he couldn’t settle into sleep.  Whenever one of us suggested he lay down he said, "No."  A couple of times I was successful in convincing him to rest, but then he’d sit up again and just rest his hands to his side or his head on his hand.

Sondy Berg Jensen came by to relieve me and help me schedule his helpers over the next several days (and to bring me some much-needed snacks), and soon Dave came out to where we were sitting to tell me that the nurse said I should get back to his room.  A few minutes later Dad took his last breaths.

My mom, Nate and Jeff (who had just left and had to turn back around from Richfield) and I gathered in Dad’s room, had some Brandy Dans with Nate and Jeff’s respective significant others, and cried a massive amount of tears.  Brett arrived for a visit and was as shocked as we were to find Dad no longer alive. 

Dad expressed his wish that the funeral take place at Valley Grove Church, so I’ll be contacting them tomorrow to find a day and time available this week.  That will likely be a private service since the church is so small.  We decided that we’ll have a public visitation and what I hope will be a big blow-out memorial event to honor my extraordinary father.

When we’ve decided on plans, they’ll be posted in the Northfield News, here, KYMN, Facebook and pretty much everywhere else we can think of.

Thank you to everyone who sent their good wishes, visited Dad, cared for him, and generally loved him. 

I’m rather numb as I write this, but I’m going to miss him more than I know right now.

Now raise a glass to Mr. Northfield, a rather spectacular guy.

Photos: Lynne Young and Liz Wheeler retirement reception

Lynne Young, Scott Neal, Liz Wheeler20130430_162251DSC09625DSC09626
I went to last week’s retirement reception at Northfield City Hall for Lynne Young, Northfield Public Library Director, and Liz Wheeler, Director of Human Resources, IT and Risk. Former Northfield City Administrator and current Edina City Manager Scott Neal was among the dignitaries who attended.

DSC09628Griff Wigley and Liz WheelerDSC09629
I was pleased that City staff chose one of my photos of downtown Northfield to give to Liz. The photo is used on the City’s new website.

Mary Closner say don’t think twice, vote twice for swag, and by Monday midnight, please. She could win $5,000 for her business

CameraZOOM-20130503064014908Loveourlocalbusiness
Mary Closer, proprietor of swag – fine & funky art in downtown Northfield, stopped by my corner office at GBM last week. She has been spamming her friends and enemies (I think I’m both lists) with this email:

I’m still trying to get votes for the Intuit program that supports small businesses by giving financial support. You just click on the link below and go to the search button. Put in "swag – fine & funky art" and vote for me, oh please. You can vote daily and on all the different kinds of technology you might have access to. You don’t have to sign up for anything or download anything. I’m so very appreciative of the assistance from all of you! I need the boost (hopefully $5K) to keep doing what I hope to be doing for a very long time! Art is my thing!
https://www.loveourlocalbusiness.com/

When you get to the vote page (follow her instructions above), you’ll see this text:

swagI recently took over the store from my 87-year-old Mom. She is my only "employee." I’m 48-years-old and she still bosses me around & makes me get her tacos. I’m trying to incorporate technology in the store for the first time after 10 years in business. I’ve started a website, Facebook page, and am working on getting set up with Quickbooks. I need help! I can’t afford to hire a techo-slave/geek/"pool boy" to help me learn the wonders of QB, WordPress & Twitter & social media "stuff." I long to blog about my fabulous store, but alas, I need $5,000 to pay for my techo-helper! Pretty please!!!

As of this writing (12:22 PM Sunday), she’s at 931 votes. Let’s get over 1,000 by midnight Monday. Vote today and again tomorrow.

Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s annual meeting makes it clear: the time is right for Northfield to get its bike act together

BikeMNIn late Feb, I attended the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s (BikeMN) third annual Minnesota Bicycle Summit on Capitol Hill, noting that I was “trying to get smarter about the state of bike advocacy in Minnesota…” (Blog post here.)

A few weeks later, for the same reason, I attended the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota’s Day on the Hill which led to having lunch here in Northfield with Executive Director Brett Feldman and Northfield’s First Ward Councilor Suzie Nakasian in which we explored the pros and cons of forming a Northfield area regional bicycle council. (Blog post here.) Brett encouraged us to get in touch with BikeMN’s Executive Director Dorian Grilley.

Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s annual meeting, 2013Park Tool's new headquarters in Oakdale, MNSo with that in mind, I attended BikeMN’s annual meeting yesterday at Park Tool’s new headquarters in Oakdale.

During the meeting, my eyes widened as we heard details from BikeMN staff and board members about the myriad of bike-related activities, projects, collaborations that they’re involved in.  (See the Education and Advocacy pages on their website for a glimpse.)

Dorian is well-connected and versed in national bicycle advocacy issues so I was pleased to hear some of the latest news, including the repercussions from Trek CEO John Burke’s speech last fall at Interbike (my blog post here).

Nick Mason, BikeMN's Education & Technical Assistance Program ManagerBikeMN's Executive Director Dorian GrilleyAfterwards, I did have a chance to talk with Dorian, as well as with Nick Mason, BikeMN’s Education & Technical Assistance Program Manager.  Both offered their help to get things rolling in Northfield with a start-up of a local bicycle advocacy group and hopefully, one or more of their Bicycle Friendly Programs. (March blog post: Bemidji has earned ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’ status. Why not Northfield?)

And as I wrote back in March:

There are other [Northfield area] projects and developments that have a bicycle-component: the Northfield Depot; the East Cannon River Trail segment; the TIGER Trail (aka the Northfield Modal integration project); Safe Routes to School; the Gateway Corridor Improvement Plan; Northfield Roundtable’s Framework Plan; and the Cannon River Corridor recreational concept.

MORC Board members Reed Smidt and Mark GavinI also put on my mountain biking hat (helmet?) and with MORC Board members Reed Smidt and Mark Gavin, chatted with Dorian about how BikeMN and MORC could work more closely together. One idea: give communities with mountain bike trails and pump/jump/BMX parks extra credit when they apply for Bicycle Friendly Community status.

You can keep up with all-things BikeMN via their blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook page. And consider becoming a member. These guys rock.

Click and scroll through the photos either one at a time or via a slideshow. (Memo to self: use a flash when taking photos with my smartphone of people indoors.)

Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s annual meeting, 2013Ron Jackson, BikeMN BoardBill Armas, Director of Sales Marketing, Park Tool

Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s annual meeting, 2013Libby Shea Hurley, BikeMN Board memberPeter Breyfogle, BikeMN Treasurer

Patty Soldner, BikeMN Membership, Marketing and Events ManagerCameraZOOM-20130504113853419Natalie Gille, BikeMN's Northern Region Bicycle Friendly Community Program Manager

Michelle Breidenbach, BikeMN's Safe Routes to School Education CoordinatorMN State Senator Jim Carlson, District 51 - EaganBikeMN's Dorian Grilley and Ron Jackson

Park Tool's new headquarters in Oakdale, MNPark Tool's new headquarters in Oakdale, MNPark Tool's new headquarters in Oakdale, MN

Photo album: Paul Krause’s documentary premiere of Fred Somers’ painting ‘Genesis’

Paul Krause's documentary premiere of Fred Somers' painting 'Genesis'I went to the premiere of Genesis: The Art of Creation at Carleton College’s Weitz Cinema last night.

‘Genesis’ is a Paul Krause documentary about Northfield artist Fred Somers and the creation of the largest painting of his career. I blogged about it earlier this week.

If you missed it, you’ll have another chance on April 11, 7 pm at St. Olaf’s Viking Theater in Buntrock Commons.

See the large slideshow of 60 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Sex al fresco redux by the Northfield News: ‘Getting it on in the great outdoors’

Last month, the Northfield News posted this to their Facebook page:

There is something blissfully naughty about getting intimate in public. In high school, we necked in the back seat of our cars on a deserted road because there was no where else to go, I remember back then I had a Mercedes Benz car lease and I used to love my car more than anything. Then, we grew up, got married and forgot about the thrill of fooling around under the threat of getting caught. Plenty of studies suggest a little hanky panky in public is a great way to heat up your sex life. But let’s be real, we’re southern Minnesotans. We don’t do that kind of thing.

Or do we? When the mood hits and you’re looking for a change of scenery, where do you take your partner? A local park with secluded trails? A dead end road with a great view of the sunset? A boat in the middle of a quiet lake? Let us know, SoMinn, where do you go to fool around in the great outdoors? We’ll use as many of the locations as we can in our upcoming edition of our A&E publication, SCENE.

I added a comment in response to Faribault Daily News editor and article author Jaci Smith:

Props, Jaci! I did a “sex al fresco in Northfield” blog post back in 2007 on LoGro, based on a Vita.mn article by Alexis McKinnis. Details: https://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/1607/

So MN Scene - April cover 2013 So MN Scene - Getting it on in the great outdoors
The April issue of SouthernMinn SCENE is now out in print and online and Jaci Smith’s article, Getting it on in the great outdoors, is on page 42.  She included this reference to VitaMN and LoGro:

Closer to home, about six years ago, the Star Tribune’s Vita.mn took an informal poll and discovered that there was plenty of outdoor sex going on in the Twin Cities, particularly in some of the more isolated areas of the University of Minnesota-St. Paul campus.

So, Northfield blogger Griff Wigley did his own informal poll on Locally Grown Northfield, and found out that outdoor sex is alive and well in the city Jesse lames made famous. And Wigley makes a great point, too. Sex al fresco has been going on since the Garden of Eden.

For a look back, see my 2007 blog post Sex al fresco in Northfield and attached comment thread.

VitaMN‘s original story by Alexis McKinnis, Sex … al fresco, is still online.

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