Trail neighbors plea for vegetation management

Three River’s Parks works to improve 101st Corridor, Rush Creek Trail

by megan hopps

SUN PRESS Newspapers

Winding trails lined with wildflowers, birds singing their morning songs and picnic tables overlooking grassy meadows and clear lakes are what makes Three River’s Parks a shining gem in Hennepin County.

Broken branches hang from trees on the block of Nathan Lane and Boundary Creek Terrace. Maple Grove residents are upset that no mowing or maintenance has been done over the past two years since the “Phase” plan began.

Broken branches hang from trees on the block of Nathan Lane and Boundary Creek Terrace. Maple Grove residents are upset that no mowing or maintenance has been done over the past two years since the “Phase” plan began.

 

With more than 27,000 acres of land to develop and maintain, the Park District definitely has its work cut out. And, with all that planning and maintenance, sometimes bits and pieces can be overlooked. The 101st Corridor and Rush Creek Trail at Elm Creek Park Reserve near the Maple Grove/Champlin/Brooklyn Park border is one piece of Three Rivers Park property that abutting residents feel has not been maintained well.

Roger Peterson, a Maple Grove resident whose back yard neighbors the trail, worries the lack of maintenance is depreciating his personal property value.

“Three Rivers wants to be a good neighbor, but they’re a neighbor we can’t afford to have,” said Peterson.

Peterson has lived in his Maple Grove home for 34 years. He said bought the house because he enjoyed the park and its trails.

“When you are a residential property owner in Maple Grove there are certain zoning laws that say that you have to have your property kept up in a certain way,” said Peterson. “Is it fair that the park board and Three Rivers is exempt from that?”

The block of Nathan Lane to Boundary Creek Terrace is the second to last block included in the Three Rivers planting project. The board plans to mow and clear out under brush and low branches this fall. This is the next block to be planted.

The block of Nathan Lane to Boundary Creek Terrace is the second to last block included in the Three Rivers planting project. The board plans to mow and clear out under brush and low branches this fall. This is the next block to be planted.

About three years ago, Three Rivers Parks made a decision that there was going to be a transition program from Jefferson Avenue to Zachary Lane.

“We wanted to look at a more natural management program so we started a ‘phased’ approach,” Three Rivers Assistant Supt. Boe Carlson said.

Two years ago when the 101st Corridor and Rush Creek Trail project began, Three Rivers came in and thinned out non-native trees and any that were not in good condition or expected to live much longer. The plan included removing any noxious weeds, buckthorn, invasive species and removing anything affected by ash borer. But this didn’t just include clearing out the old, but bringing in new trees and plant life as well. Wood chips were laid from Jefferson Highway to Lancaster and various trees and plants, grown from a Three Rivers Parks nursery, were planted in the fall. In 2012 the block from Lancaster to Nathan Lane was cleared and planted. This fall, Three Rivers plans to clear and plants the next block between Nathan Lane and Boundary Creek. The clearing and planting process is expected to be completed in fall 2014 or spring 2015 from Boundary Creek to Zachary.

In 2011, the block from Jefferson Hwy. to Lancaster Ave. was cleared and planted. The healthy, adult trees remained on the trail to provide shade, and smaller trees and shrubs were planted to create screening between the houses and the path as well as from the trail to 101st Ave. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

In 2011, the block from Jefferson Hwy. to Lancaster Ave. was cleared and planted. The healthy, adult trees remained on the trail to provide shade, and smaller trees and shrubs were planted to create screening between the houses and the path as well as from the trail to 101st Ave. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

“The time the project is finished depends on what kind of season we have,” said Carlson. “It will depend on whether we experience drought versus rainfall and secondarily it will depend on plant materials. We generate the plants at our nursery, so it’s just a matter of having the material on hand.”

Three Rivers had a plan for the 101st Corridor, but, Carlson said, “Somewhere along the line, the ball was dropped.”

 

The Issues

“It has looked like a wasteland or like it’s been through severe storm damage,” said Peterson. “No mowing or maintenance has been done.”

Other residents worry about the safety issues from fallen branches, bugs and rodents being an issue in their homes.

“Another concern that we have is when you have all this grass, and ground clutter just laying there when it gets real dry like this it gets to be a hazard,” said Maple Grove resident and trail user, Tom Lowe. “If someone is careless with a cigarette or something sparks a fire out there, that’s just fuel for a heck of a fire and that’s a concern since the trail is so close to our homes.”

Carlson explained that the plan was to take a more hands off approach to the areas that weren’t being planted yet.

“And we’re not going to do that anymore,” said Carlson. “We should have had a better transition program and let the community and neighborhoods know how we’re going to maintain it in general. We’re going to maintain it as we did in the past.”

Since these issues were brought to the park board’s attention, a lot of the brush and dead trees were cleared out. And, just a couple of weeks ago crews came through with brush boars and mowed to remove the buck thorn and junk species.

However, both parties agree there’s still more that needs to be done.

 

Moving Forward

There’s been major improvements to the property since the 101st Corridor park improvement project began.

“We’ve improved water quality and filtration along the trail, and hopefully, after the planting process this trail will be very aesthetically pleasing to trail users and residents,” said Carlson.

Three Rivers plans to provide a documented schedule of the changes residents can expect, the time frame which it will be completed and a description of the final result.

In the fall of 2012 Three Rivers laid wood chips and planted new trees and shrubs along the 101 Corridor and Rush Creek Trail from the block of Lancaster Ave. to Nathan Ln. Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

In the fall of 2012 Three Rivers laid wood chips and planted new trees and shrubs along the 101 Corridor and Rush Creek Trail from the block of Lancaster Ave. to Nathan Ln. Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

Another option for community members is to volunteer to maintain a trail between maintenances. The city would inform park police to let them know who is managing which segment of the trail.

The park board wants to make sure residents along this trail still have easy access to the trail, but also want to maintain some privacy from the trail to the neighboring homes. Three Rivers plans to create and maintain a natural screen on both sides of the trail between the homes and trail and also from the trail to the road to hide traffic flow and to provide privacy. Peterson suggests Three Rivers keeps the land mowed from the end of residents’ property to the trail, but Carlson worries that may raise other issues in the community.

“For those with small kids, they might not want it cleared completely because someone could see right into the house; right into the living room maybe,” said Carlson. “And, if my kids are playing in the back yard, I really wouldn’t want just anybody to be able to watch my children, just because you never really know who’s walking on the trail.”

Three Rivers has adjusted the plan to include maintenance of the blocks that will be planted later. Three Rivers plans to send crews out to mow and clear the trail monthly.

“This has been a transition process,” said Carlson. “Some mistakes that have been made in the timeline and perhaps the communication. However, there is a plan. Can we do a better job of communicating that plan? Absolutely.”

Contact Megan Hopps at megan.hopps@ecm-inc.com

 

 

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