Oh no! Not again!

By Chris Sturbaum

The discussion on closing Lower Cascades Drive is on again! This is a very old road. Troops may have marched by this creek on their way to the Civil War. Horses were watered at the now barricaded ford of the creek. Bloomington residents washed their cars here in the early days of the automobile.

This was the first Bloomington Park. People have forded the little creek and children have played here for probably 150 years, until it was closed off recently with a highway barricade.

I have picnicked, walked and driven through our first city park for 60 years now. My grandson and I have walked to the falls regularly for the past eight years. We used to be able to ford the creek and park and walk, Now it is a quarter-mile hike to get there.

We don’t ride bikes to the park. I think the estimate is about two to five percent of residents in Bloomington even ride bikes regularly. Over the years we have seen a few riders coming through the park each time we’ve come. Maybe every half hour or so a small pod of young, Spandex-wearing riders come zipping though. Good for them.

We share the old road with them and the speed cushions keep the occasional automobile at safe speeds for all. Max and I kept coming, when the road was closed during the rebuilding of the park. Nice work for the most part! The permanence of the new massive stone creek walls show they will be there for another hundred years or so. Bravo!

When the road was closed during construction, we always found broken glass and debris. We did not feel secure walking back to the falls then, where we found more hazardous litter and vandalism. Good planners know the concept of “eyes on the street” providing safety to residents. This applies to parks as well. But this is where the permanent road closing is being proposed.

This is why members of the Parks Department did not favor closing the road the first time this came around. The community spoke loudly and clearly about not wanting this section of the historic highway closed.

They told stories of game day traffic and how this route allowed them to get to their homes when traffic backed up. They also called attention to the safety issue for emergency vehicles in similar traffic situations. The old road has always provided a public safety benefit; we would sacrifice that community good by closing the road.

In addition, closing the road is discriminating against the elderly. I experienced this first-hand when I was on a walker for months with a hip injury. A great part of the Cascades upgrade is the accessible trail back to the falls. I will enjoy that when age puts me back on my walker. However I will have a long way to walk before I can reach the accessible trail to the falls. That needs to be fixed.

And taking away the entire south end of the park by closing off the road makes the picnic tables on that south end largely unusable. It prevents a pleasant drive along the creek for anyone but the small, upper middle class, stretch pants-wearing, bike riding segment of our park users.

“Share the road” is a slogan popularized by bicycle enthusiasts and their lobbyists. But the Lower Cascades road closing proposal is an example of people in our local government who just think they know what is best for all of us. They are willing to take away our full use the oldest park in the city for a small minority of residents who don’t want to share the road. This is simply wrong and outrageous.

Two of our Council members are sister and husband, respectively, to a city planner who is part of the driving force behind restricting the enjoyment of the park for a large percentage of its users. They want to drive a bike-first policy for a small minority, in spite of obvious and strong community pushback.

What an insult to the people who went to meetings to explain the issues and make their voices heard the first time! What has happened to our local government that it cares so little for the residents they represent?

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