If Ford Motor Co. decommissions its St. Paul plant as planned in the fall of 2011, the city will be ready with ideas for creating public open-space parkland on some of the
. And not only by expanding room for sports, like the baseball diamond that Ford has provided for decades.
"The site borders one of the great rivers of the world," says Whitney Clark, executive director at Friends of the Mississippi River
, a local advocacy group. Clark would like to see Ford's 22 acres of riverbank land
join adjacent Hidden Falls Regional Park, with more of Ford's land along the blufftop becoming open space--if that works with redevelopment of the site.
Clark is part of a 12-member Ford Site Open Space Workgroup
convened by City Council member Pat Harris this summer. (A separate task force
is tackling how how mixed-use development might make use of the plant property.) The work group will study feasibility and scout out sources for creating open space, such as regional parks and state Legacy funds.
A river dam that used to provide hydropower to the plant now belongs to a private operator, but that shouldn't complicate public use of Ford's riverbank parcel, Clark says--in fact, people already fish there. "The elephant in the living room," says Clark, is the toxic waste--barrels of it--dumped there through the 1960s. He's hoping Ford, which has Superfund liability, will excavate soon, rather than after the barrels start leaking.
Density on the remainder of the site, likely fitting the retail-residential pattern of the neighborhood, is fine by Clark; unless it's highrise, it doesn't impact the river. Neighbors have legitimate concerns about congestion, he says. Planning could alleviate that, as could the open spaces the work group is seeking to create.
Source: Whitney Clark, Friends of the Mississippi River
Writer: Chris Steller