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Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter is one of the best times to enjoy the Mississippi River

Ward 7 has a special relationship with the Mississippi River as we look down on it from high above the city.  From our vantage point, we are able to see the river unfold before us, weaving its way through downtown, past Holman Field and on to Pig’s Eye Lake.

View from Mounds Park
It is especially apparent from Ward 7 that the river is an important commercial corridor with planes landing on the river flats, trains snaking along its banks, and barges carrying supplies to neighboring communities.  In addition to its influence on our commerce, it is impossible to ignore the incredible beauty, natural diversity, and opportunities for recreation that the river offers our city. 

During the winter months, most of us want to stay indoors and curl up by any source of warmth.  But winter can be one of the best times to explore the secrets that the river offers.  As the seasons change, so does the kaleidoscope of color that adorns the river’s banks. Herons and egrets routinely fly over Mounds Park on their way to one of the largest urban rookery’s at Pig’s Eye Lake.  Walking and biking trails in the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and Battle Creek Regional Park give way to excellent opportunities for snow-shoeing or cross country skiing. 

Ski trail
In fact, the groomed trails at Battle Creek Park are one of the premier places to experience cross country skiing in the Twin Cities.  These trails are likely to take you by deer and wild turkeys--sights not often associated with city living.  This year, Ramsey County purchased snow making equipment as a pilot project to ensure that the trails at Battle Creek Region Park West are in top shape throughout the season.

So, as you are looking for ways to work off those extra holiday calories, why not get out and take advantage of the beauty and fun that our natural areas along the river offer.  You will enjoy experiencing this treasure from a whole new perspective.

Monday, December 23, 2013

New Year, New Ways to Stay Healthy in Saint Paul

In past years, the number one New Year’s resolution people make is to get into shape and lose weight.  This is also the number one resolution that is broken.  If you find this resolution on the top of your list for 2014, be sure and check out all that the Department of Parks and Recreation has to offer to help you attain your 2014 fitness goals.
If joining a gym is on your list of 2014 resolutions, then be sure to take advantage of a yearly membership to one of our many fitness facilities.  These yearly memberships give you access to Recreation Center Fitness Rooms and Walking Tracks at a very reasonable price.  For Saint Paul residents or those who work in Saint Paul, the cost of a yearly membership is only $30.00 and for non-residents the price is $60.00.  To purchase a yearly membership, simply visit your local recreation center to register.  A complete list of Recreation Centers with Fitness Rooms can be found here.
Not sure if a yearly membership is for you?  Then attend one of our Fitness Room open houses and try before you buy.  During the Month of January, our Fitness Rooms will be hosting open houses where you can learn what fitness equipment is available, view a fitness class, and receive a healthy snack.  To view a list of the open houses please click here.

Ever wanted to try Zumba? How about Yoga? What about a game of pickleball?  Then be sure to check out the Winter / Spring Parks and Recreation Activity Brochure.  In it you will find a wide variety of various fitness classes and activities that will make getting into shape more fun than you ever thought possible.  With the wide variety of classes and times offered, there is sure to be something to fit even the busiest of schedules.

If you have any questions on any of the programs currently offered, please give us a call at 651-266-6400.   With the help of the programs offered by the Department of Parks and Recreation, 2014 can be the year where your fitness resolutions are kept.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Warm Up Over Winter Break with Library Staff Picks

Students out of school and adults nesting indoors over winter break can count on Saint Paul Public Library to provide helpful suggestions for the best books, music downloads, movie releases, and Library activities. Get help at any Library, ask a librarian online or by phone, or peruse the Library’s website lists of hand-picked staff selections. Get started with resources highlighted here.

The Library list of new and upcoming books will tell you what hot off the presses, such as the newly published Dayton’s: A Twin Cities Institution.

Struggle no more to find the best books for your teens or to stay on top of what’s hot in nonfiction, fantasy, or more. Read or subscribe to a variety of newsletters penned by SPPL Librarians that feature book recommendations specific to age groups and genre interests. Read local by browsing book lists featuring titles by Minnesota authors and books set in our state.

Is Sharknado worth 90 minutes of your life? The Library’s resident cinephile shares an expert opinion on this and other new movies in every genre, from documentary, sci-fi, comedy, and action thrillers. Other Library movie lists include classic films, award winners, and staff picks.  
With over seven million songs available on the Library’s free music download service, Freegal, how do you choose what to add to your listening library? Browse the top 100 albums and songs in the nation, or peruse the local lists of songs, albums and videos that are most popular at Saint Paul Public Library.
Kids out of school can find winter break programs in libraries throughout Saint Paul. Check out the Library’s calendar of events for Crafts with Kids, Createch for Teens, Anime Club, Library After Dark, Videogaming Day, and more. 


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Think of your neighbors, think of your pocketbooks--remember to shovel your sidewalk

As we’re all well aware, the winter season is upon us.  Along with the Vulcanus Rex, King Boreas and Crashed Ice, snow will be a large part of being a Saint Paulite for the next few months.  Minnesotans know that getting around in the winter can, at times, be difficult.  This is especially true for our senior citizens and folks who are disabled.  It is important that we do all we can to make everyone’s travel along sidewalks safe  – be it a walk to the park, the bus stop, a local business, or school. 

Saint Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections wants to take this time to remind property owners that the responsibility to shovel your full sidewalk, from edge to edge, falls to you within 24 hours after the end of a snowfall. For corner lots or businesses on corners, it’s essential that you shovel the corner ramp all the way to the street. Please—when you’re shoveling, think of your neighbors in wheelchairs, and consider if they can make it through easily.

DSI received more than 3,000 complaints during last year’s snow season (from November to the end of March) about un-shoveled sidewalks. When we get these complaints, we send reminder letters to the folks who haven’t shoveled, and most of them comply. But for the few hundred who don’t, the city clears their sidewalks—and it isn’t cheap for the property owners. Fees to shovel the sidewalk run at $160 per hour, and the administration fee is just as much. (You can view the legislative code here.)

So this year, be sure to think of your neighbors and your pocketbooks, and help make Saint Paul the most livable city in America by shoveling your sidewalk.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Our Karen Neighbors

Submitted by Councilmember Amy Brendmoen, Ward 5

The neighborhoods in Ward 5 have always been an area of Saint Paul where new immigrant communities choose to settle. Just drive down Rice Street or Payne Avenue to see the impact decades of immigrant communities have made; from German, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Latin American, Hmong, East African and many others. The newest wave of immigrants to come to Saint Paul are the Karen, by way of refugee camps in Thailand, after escaping persecution in Burma (now Myanmar) in Southeast Asia. More than 7,000 Karen refugees have resettled in Saint Paul, making it the largest Karen community in the United States.

I have enjoyed working with and learning about the Karen community through the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM) which is headquartered in the North End. At the KOM Annual Gala, they shared this beautiful Karen proverb: The first generation plants the seeds. The second generation gets the shade. The third generation gets the fruit.

Coming to America is a dream for many refugees around the world, although when refugees finally arrive in Saint Paul, day-to-day life can be a challenge. Most Karen refugees come with little English language skills, little money, and little understanding about our systems of government, education, health care, criminal justice, etc. Many have lived through ordeals that most of us can only imagine and have had the tenacity to make it all the way here--with a dream of a better life for their families. KOM and other nonprofits in Saint Paul serve as an important resource for these new arrivals, offering them support and friendship as they build their lives (and plant their seeds) here in Minnesota.
The main issues facing the Karen in Saint Paul are adequate housing and jobs. I was shocked to learn that many of our Karen neighbors travel for over an hour each way to work in meat packing plants in Austin, Minnesota and elsewhere. I am committed to working with the Saint Paul Planning and Economic Development Department and the Saint Paul Port Authority to create jobs for our industrious Karen residents and many others right here in Saint Paul. I have also worked with our Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) to provide training to the Karen about best practices for finding housing, being a good tenant and expecting fair treatment from landlords.

Currently, I am proudly displaying traditional weavings from Karen artisans in my office in City Hall as part of my Ward 5 Featured Artist program. Reflecting on these beautiful, traditional garments each day reminds me of the rich history and culture the Karen and other immigrant groups have brought to our community. The cheerful colors, patterns and beads remind me of the courage and hope that our Karen neighbors bring with them to Saint Paul, and of the bright future we all share.

To learn more about the Karen, visit the Karen Organization of Minnesota's website at

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mixed-use project on the Green Line receives funding, construction to begin in 2014

Hamline Station, a mixed-use development slated for a 1.6 acre parcel at University Avenue and Hamline Avenue, is one step closer to becoming a reality after recently receiving a $4.5 million funding award from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
The currently vacant site is located on the north side of University Avenue between Hamline Station and Syndicate Street and is directly across from the light rail Green Line’s Hamline Station stop.

Hamline Station rendering

Project for Pride in Living, Inc. is the developer of the project which will include two buildings with a total of 13,700 sq. ft. of ground-level retail space and 108 affordable rental housing units (57 units in one building; 51 in another). Eight units are reserved for people who have experienced long-term homelessness. There will be a plaza in between the two buildings.

Retail, housing and a plaza are planned for the site
Total development cost is approximately $26 million. The city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority has awarded HOME funding and tax increment financing for the project. Other funding partners include the Corridors of Opportunity, Family Housing Fund and Met Council. 
Project for Pride in Living is working on the finalizing financing to begin construction on the development in spring 2014.
Hamline Station is just one of many developments planned or underway along the light rail Green Line which will begin operating next year.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reindeer From Como Zoo Debut On ANIMAL PLANET L!VE

Live 24/7 Action Is Just A Click Away
How do reindeer spend their time leading up to their big day with the man in the red suit? Now you can see the daily details of their lives through Animal Planet L!VE's newest 24/7 cam. Viewers are invited to get to know Como Zoo’s three resident reindeer on Reindeer Cam. Reindeer Cam brings viewers a glimpse of the behaviors of Como’s hooved animals as they feed, navigate their habitat, and manage social relationships. Santa will personally check in and help feed his best friends (the ones with hooves, not pointy shoes) at noon (CDT) on December 11th, 18th & 23rd.
“We’ve noticed that people really seem to have an affinity for reindeer this time of year, and now we have a great opportunity to show everyone that there are so many reasons to be fascinated by their behavior and adaptations. They’re more than just Santa’s helpers,” said Michelle Furrer, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory’s Director. “They’re amazing animals, and we expect them to be great additions to the offerings on Animal Planet L!VE.”
Reindeer Cam is a great alternative to the yule log on the big screen at your holiday parties…although we hear the reindeer may be otherwise occupied around December 24th. Check it, and more than 20 addictive animal cams, out at APL.TV on desktop and mobile devices, as well as select Samsung Smart TVs.
Reindeer Cam is at Sponsoring Como’s reindeer makes a great gift! Call 651-487-8229 for sponsorship package information. Because Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is open 365 days a year, you are able to visit the reindeer every day in person!

Live streaming video by Ustream

Monday, December 9, 2013

Something magical happens when you say, “I’m the one who should do it.”

Submitted by Councilmember Russ Stark, Ward 4

Nothing says neighborhood like a sidewalk that has been quickly, thoroughly cleared of snow.  For those who walk or use transit to go about their daily lives, sidewalks are as important as streets are to those in motor vehicles We are coming up on the most challenging time of year for getting around, particularly on foot.

When snow emergencies or regular plowing happens, my office gets complaints about streets not getting cleared fast enough or well enough. We hear about icy intersections, and rutted streets.

In between snowfalls, things often get worse for people navigating the city’s sidewalks, and I hear complaints about this, too. Snow gets mounded up at corners and sidewalks become skating rinks: without proper maintenance many routes become impassable for all but the fittest and sturdiest of residents. This limits mobility and access in our fine city for families with young children, the elderly, and disabled community members.

In advance of this year’s snowy season, I recently heard from a neighbor and constituent worried about this issue. Last winter, he slipped and fell on a sidewalk, which caused him significant injuries that now require him to walk with a cane. He is a senior citizen and doesn’t own a car, so his ability to get around on foot is critical to his quality of life.

I share this story, and Linda’s in the video above, to encourage Saint Paul residents and business owners to really pay attention this winter to making our sidewalks passable. If you or someone you know can’t clear the sidewalk and don’t have a neighbor to help, there are organizations that offer assistance. If you notice sidewalk neglect, you can use a reminder door hanger or report them either here or by calling 651-266-8989.

I am working to optimize our city procedures to make sidewalks more passable. Saint Paul Smart Trips has been a great partner to the city in getting information out to residents about snow-shoveling help, environmentally friendly sidewalk practices, and more. And you are an important part of walkable winter sidewalks, too. You can learn more here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wintertime in Saint Paul

As the joke goes, in Minnesota there are four seasons: June, July, August and winter.  While this may not be exactly true, it sometimes may feel like it. The good news is that Saint Paul offers an abundance of fun ways to pass these chillier, and snowier, months. Check out these videos that will help you both enjoy and get through winter here in Saint Paul.
Saint Paul Parks and Recreation has tons of great locations and facilities for fun outdoor winter activities!

So get out there and embrace winter!  Go to for more info.
But, to get to many of these sites throughout our capital city means we need to make sure we adhere to some simple Snow Emergency rules and snow plow etiquette.   

The next video shows how you can be prepared and proactive when it comes to snow emergencies in Saint Paul.

If, and when, the snow starts to pile up along the boulevards, and it probably will, the Saint Paul Fire Department kindly requests that you make sure your fire hydrant remains accessible just in case they need to use it.

And now that you are able to get and move around safely in Saint Paul, jump in your vehicle and enjoy a drive through Phalen Parks’ Holiday in the Lights.