ST PAUL, Minn — Lawn signs have popped up all along Summit Avenue in St. Paul this summer, carrying a simple three-word message:
Save our Street.
The signs, accompanied by a website titled "Save Summit Avenue," were drawn up by neighbors angered over the city's plan to turn Summit into a regional trail system from the Mississippi River to downtown. Robert Cattanach, who has lived on Summit for three decades, is among those with a sign in his front lawn.
"It's a disaster waiting to happen," Cattanach said of the plan.
The final plan won't be released to the public until later this summer or early fall, with an opportunity for discussion through an open house and public comment period. However, even without full details on the table, some neighbors are expressing initial concerns about the possibility of a regional trail system, which could feature one-lane or two-lane bike and pedestrian lanes separated from Summit Avenue.
In an interview, Cattanach said he feels a separated two-way bike lane specifically would be dangerous for drivers turning from the numerous intersections along Summit.
"When you put it up, off the street, you're having people at these crisis points — they don't see the cyclists coming," Cattanach said. "It's a dangerous, dangerous design and they should never do a two-way trail."
The Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition, however, supports the regional trail plan, noting on its website that "while the City has implemented new protected bikeway designs on many other parkways throughout Saint Paul, Summit Avenue is stuck in a 1990s design paradigm." The coalition continued by saying: "It's time to boldly reimagine Summit Avenue to prioritize safety for everyone and create a safe, protected route for people walking and riding bikes that respects Summit Avenue's 19th-century roots while moving boldly into the 21st century."
Fenton Heirtzler, who rides past the "Save our Street" lawn signs almost every day on Summit, said he's not a fan of the plan's opponents.
"They piss me off," he said. "They do not represent the average person living in St. Paul."
The "Save our Street" coalition has also expressed concerns about the possible impact to Summit's famous tree line, although the city has said "no critical decisions have been made regarding impact to green space." In an interview with KARE 11 in mid-May, Alice Messer of the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department said the final plan will heavily prioritize the preservation of trees.
"We are landscape architects. We are the Parks Department. We love trees as much as everyone. It is one of the guiding principles for this corridor," Messer said. "I think it's why many people love Summit Avenue — the shade, the canopy, it's really mature and very special. It's really important as we develop these concepts, and it's also balancing that with safety and pavement conditions."
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