What’s broken?

East 32nd Street playground

Lisbeth Petersen takes her two children down to Lake Calhoun’s East 32nd Street playground almost every day.

Petersen is a stay-at-home mom who lives on Humboldt Avenue, just a couple blocks away. But after a day at play, Peterson’s two youngsters, ages 1 and 4, sometimes march back home with some minor bleeding scrapes on their hands and knees.

The sand is so low in the play area that the concrete peeks from beneath, Petersen explained. When children and parents walk around the playground, it’s easy to slip and fall.

 “My youngest just learned how to walk and guess what? He keeps falling down there,” Petersen said. “They scrape themselves terribly.”

There are rubber-coated walkways that weave through the playground but because the sand hasn’t been maintained, these walkways are now elevated 8 to 12 inches. This makes it too easy for little ones and big ones to slip off the edge, according to Petersen.

Petersen said the issue has become a hot topic of conversation among parents, which leads them to wonder: where can we get some sand?

According to Lakes District Manager Paul Hokeness, the East 32nd Street playground is on the priority list of parks needing new sand.

“We replenish [playgrounds] just about every spring,” Hokeness said. “Not at every park but the one’s that need it, and that one we know needs it.”

Hokeness said help is on the way, but it may come a little later rather than sooner.

A cadre of youth, members of the TeenWorks program, will pick up some shovels to move new sand into the playground sometime this summer, Hokeness said.

“We don’t get them until school gets out because most of them are high school students,” Hokeness said. “We’ll go down and look at it though if somebody thinks it’s dangerous. We can put some sand in there now, but it’s usually a major project spreading that stuff around.”

If you see something broken on the streets, or spot some other nuisance issue in the neighborhoods that needs to be resolved, please let us know. We’ll spotlight the problem in the newspaper and at www.southwestjournal.com. We’ll work to get it fixed and identify who is responsible for addressing the problem.

Reach us by e-mail at smckenzie@mnpubs.com, via fax at 825-0929, or by mail to 1115 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55403.

What’s broken?

John Meegan is ready for war.

“I’m looking out my window as we speak at the graffitied, bombed-out, uncontrolled, too-numerous-to-even-count news racks that are out there,” said Meegan from the classy confines of his Lyndale Avenue store, Top Shelf.

The legions of metal and plastic kiosks that can be found throughout the city bear a variety of publications — daily newspapers, weekly alternative publications and classified job, auto and housing listings.

“There’s plenty of drunks rolling around the streets at night that just take potshots at these things and graffiti artists that just love to tag them to hell,” Meegan said.

These outdoor containers hope to attract the attention of the woman casually passing by or the man waiting for the next bus. But the large number of unkempt newspaper boxes is a public nuisance and guilty of “uglifying” the neighborhood, Meegan said.

“I am ready to get a truck and a black mask,” Meegan said. “I think that it’s a strong case for citizen action to remove the things and bring them back to whoever they belong to, but I can’t do that without actually turning myself into a known criminal.”

The placement of privately owned news racks on city streets is largely protected as free speech under the First Amendment but there are a few regulatory ordinances on the books, city officials said.

Currently in Minneapolis, news racks must be licensed, display a numbered decal or owner contact information, follow some placement guidelines and be “in a state of good repair and neat appearance,” according to the city’s code of ordinances.

“So long as it adheres to the ordinances, there are no limitations or regulations that are related to where you can put them or how many you can put out,” said Matt Laible, a spokesman for the city.

But some help may be on the way. The city is currently weighing proposals from CBS Outdoor, Clear Channel Outdoor and Martin Outdoor Media for new street furniture. The city’s current contract with US Bench and CBS Outdoor will expire in 2009.

The “Coordinated Street Furniture Program” would include the design and installation of new bus shelters, benches and garbage receptacles. And depending on which company is awarded the new 15-year contract, which begins in January 2009, there may be a new element that could help reduce the clutter on the city’s sidewalks — newspaper corrals.

The corrals would help to keep the clusters of news racks grouped together and more tidy, said Minneapolis transportation engineer Tim Drew.

While the details of each proposal and which ones included newspaper corrals could not yet be revealed, there will be a public open house May 14 to review the proposals before the city chooses a plan in June, Drew said.

But in John Meegan’s mind — given all the neighborhood meetings he’s attended, all the people he’s talked to and all of the ordinances from other cities he’s studied — there is no easy solution for the problem.

“I’m hoping that somewhere along the line I can create a grassroots movement of outrage but I am not of the belief that any governmental agency is going to do it,” he said. “It’s going to take a more militant approach.”

If you see something broken on the streets, or notice some other nuisance issue in the neighborhoods that needs to be resolved, please let us know. We’ll spotlight the problem in the newspaper and at www.southwestjournal.com. We’ll work to get it fixed and identify who is responsible for addressing the problem.

Reach us by e-mail at smckenzie@mnpubs.com, via fax at 825-0929, or by mail to 1115 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55403.