Regional Wilderness and Wildlife Resources within the Urban Boundary

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Regional Wilderness and Wildlife Resources within the Urban Boundary

Postby Anondson » April 20th, 2018, 9:05 am

Just starting a thread as a holding place for posts that touch on wildlife and wilderness in our metro area. One of the “green” aspects denser human settlement is that we end up preserving wilderness and habitat on the edges better.

But one of the loudest complaints about building denser in the urban core near certain areas, is that dense construction is a threat to wilderness and habitat *right there in the urban setting*. That in some way the wilderness and habitat in the urban boundary should prefer low density single family exclusive land use surrounding it.

I’m not sure why but this has become conventional wisdom, it is just so. It’s never challenged for factual basis. We can’t build new towers near the Mississippi Gorge at the Ford site ... because ... the National Park would suffer? It seems this is mostly an aesthetic argument.

This struck me again in this news story about Blaine restoring a wetland to its original plant ecosystem, removing invasive trees. Suburbs being built with the implied promise they are perfect as is from year one, the luxury home buyers were distressed the forest next to their back yards was getting cut down and returned to native wetland. ... 480318003/

A home owner had this comment.
"I can't imagine they'll enjoy walking the pathway and looking over the grassland into the back of everybody's houses," said neighbor Donald Karas, a retired general contractor.
There is something to this. If wilderness or habitat won’t be surrounded anymore by rural land use or other wilderness, surrounding it with modern big home privacy fenced back yards or carhole-face front yard is a significant detriment to the visual appeal of the wilderness and habitat.

I’d argue that if you are a city and are going to build housing within the viewshed of wilderness or habitat, IMO, taller multifamily or commercial buildings next it is much more visually attractive and maybe even better for the health of the habitat. I’m a cat lover, but I have this suspicion that a street full of homeowners let cats run free outdoors than one apartment full of people would.

Anyway, Don’s comment got me thinking and I had a rant coming... Twitter wasn’t going to fit.

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Re: Regional Wilderness and Wildlife Resources within the Urban Boundary

Postby Multimodal » May 1st, 2018, 6:44 am

I suppose for a National Park, you might not want to see much evidence of human activity.

But if that park encroaches on an urban area, should the urban area be restricted? That’s a harder question. I’ve also wondered about limiting density—or bridges—near the Mississippi River because it’s a scenic wildlife area. At some point a city has to be able to be a city, and curbing transportation options (such as a bike/ped bridge) because it disturbs the view is itself disturbing.

As for your average urban park, lake, or other natural amenity, if you look at satellite views of older cities, you often find *increased density* around these natural areas.

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Re: Regional Wilderness and Wildlife Resources within the Urban Boundary

Postby tmart » May 1st, 2018, 8:18 am

I don't think we can dismiss aesthetic arguments out-of-hand. Minnehaha Park, the lakes, the Grand Rounds, and the River parkways are some of our treasures that make Minneapolis feel meaningfully different from any other city. I think there's real quality-of-life value in having some quiet, wild places that are accessible without a car or an expensive camping trip. If anything, they make it easier to argue for more density elsewhere, by presenting an alternative to everyone having their own lawn and garden.

I think we could certainly develop a bit more around some of these areas, thereby making them more accessible to more people, but I do see the value in trying to keep it relatively out-of-sight, and quiet.

As far as bridges go, I think the current hardline stance is overkill. IMO the Greenway Coalition and the Friends of the River should be natural allies. I think a more reasonable stance would be to oppose any new auto traffic over the river, and support a constrained number of new connections for bike, ped, and LRT. IMO the pollution and noise is the biggest threat from bridges, and not the architecture of the bridge itself.

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