Bryn Mawr neighbors alter path plans near Ewing wetlands

After much haggling and meetings with city officials, residents reached a compromise for the Bryn Mawr neighborhood land buffering the wetlands abutting Ewing Avenue and I-394.

Instead of the city’s proposed 12.5-foot-wide bike path, it built a 6-foot-wide porous sidewalk.

The project was paired with the ongoing Bryn Mawr road renovation project and Ewing Avenue reconstruction. City Project Manager Meseret Wolana said the finishing touches are nearly done on the roadway, which should open within a few weeks.

Kim Ramey, a Ewing Avenue resident who lobbied for the sidewalk alternative, said residents were upset with the prospect of a wider bike path, which residents claimed would bring traffic near the wetlands and disrupt the habitat.

Residents who had for worked years to protect the wetlands from encroaching development and additional traffic asked the city to consider another option and maintain the buffer’s integrity.

Another Ewing Avenue resident, Chris Levy, petitioned the city for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet for the project, and neighbors helped collect 26 signatures in support. The city denied the EAW request in early July, but Levy said the issue got policymakers’ attention.

The worksheet is a tool for the city to scrutinize environmental project concerns, and it has the potential to hold up development.

Ramey said she and other residents met this summer with Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) to design trail options. Levy said he’s glad fellow neighbors voiced their concerns and credited them with creating the change.

Both Goodman and Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman went on record early supporting the bike trail. Levy said although both the city and county “misread” the residents’ desires, they were ultimately responsive to neighborhood concerns about the bike trial.

Dorfman said she thinks the Ewing bike connection is important and although the skinnier sidewalk is not what she planned, it will do. “It’s really dangerous down there now and people use the road to get to the trail,” she said, adding that the sidewalk will improve safety.

In working with residents opposed to the trail, Goodman said she proposed a woodchip nature path as an alternative. Residents allowed the concept to be added to the mix.

However, following a late July meeting with residents, the city’s Wolana said they chose a 6-foot-wide concrete sidewalk for the benefit of disabled users.

Wolana said the sidewalk, like the woodchip path, will be pervious, allowing water to seep back into the ground instead of running off into a catch basin. He said that approach is more environmentally advantageous.

Levy agreed. “It’s a good compromise. They’re not going to take out any trees and they’re not going to put in a bike trail where it doesn’t belong,” he said.

Ramey had a different take. “I would prefer myself to leave [the buffer] the way it is,” she said, adding that of the compromise, “we just went along with it.”

Ramey said residents have struggled with protecting the wetlands from development since the 1960s, so to plan for the future, they’ve consulted a lawyer to craft a land-use restriction document. Such a document will more clearly detail residents’ expectations of the wetland’s protection.

Goodman said she’s “insistent” on signing the restriction certificate, so that residents don’t have to repeatedly fight to protect the same parcel of land.

Although the project ran months behind schedule as it was being hashed out, it is now nearly complete. The road renovation includes replacement of the asphalt, curb and gutters for numerous streets west and north of Cedar Lake. The city has also reconstructed Ewing Avenue South, between West 22nd Street and Drew Avenue South. The city constructed the sidewalk in conjunction with the road project. Wolana said they’re in the final stages of laying sod.

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