June 14, 2017

“The most livable city in America”

During the week of May 15th, I traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, to attend and present at the 2017 Citizen Science Association Conference. Alex Fries and Suzi Spitzer from IAN also attended the conference. Check out Suzi’s awesome blogs on the conference.

St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota and adjoins Minneapolis, which is the largest city in Minnesota. While the combined St. Paul-Minneapolis population is 3.52 million (Wikipedia), St. Paul itself is much smaller and feels like a friendly town more than a big city. When I arrived in the city, I immediately set out to walk to the Mississippi River. During the Mississippi River report card project, several IAN staff traveled throughout the watershed, including to the Quad Cities in Illinois/Iowa. Now, here I was in St. Paul, MN even farther north on the Mississippi! St. Paul sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, which defines the pattern of development and open space in the area.

St. Paul wraps around a bend in the Mississippi River. There are bluffs on the northern shore (St. Paul) and across the river, a wide, flat floodplain (West St. Paul). Image credit: google maps

The river looked very similar to the other places I have seen it – a river boat parked on the shoreline and long bridges crossing back and forth. However, this particular stretch of the river is part of a 72-mile park, Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. There are picnic areas, walking paths, and bicycles for rent.

The view of the Mississippi River from the Science Museum. Most of St. Paul sits up on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi. The National River & Recreation Area includes areas on both the shores of the river. Image credit: Caroline Donovan

The Wabasha St. Bridge links downtown St. Paul to Riverview. Image credit: Caroline Donovan

I then walked northeast to the downtown area, which was quite charming and picturesque. There are several parks, the Landmark Center, and the skyway bridges that connect all the buildings. Rice Park, named after Henry M. Rice, a U.S. senator and fur trade intermediary, is the center of the historic downtown. The fountain in the center is the main attraction, but there are also some of the Peanuts statues that are sprinkled throughout the city to honor the cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who was born and raised in St. Paul. The Landmark Center is a cultural center that is owned by the city. Even though it is a historical landmark, it has also been awarded the 2016 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Building Award by the city.

These statues are just an example of the variety of Peanuts sculptures sprinkled throughout St. Paul to honor the cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz. Image credit: Caroline Donovan

 

The Landmark Center is used for music, art, and culture events. Image credit: Caroline Donovan

One interesting feature of downtown St. Paul is the skyway bridges that connect the labyrinth of office and shopping buildings. These bridges can be used any time of the year, but are a welcome relief in the cold, snowy winters!

The view from one of the skybridges, looking north to the capitol building. Image credit: Caroline Donovan

Plaque honoring the developed the skyway bridges. Image credit: Caroline Donovan

There were many other places to visit in St. Paul, such as the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Science Museum of Minnesota, but I only had a short time to soak in the friendly atmosphere and interesting sights of “the most livable city in America!”

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About the author
Caroline Donovan is a Program Manager at IAN. She has a masters in Biological Oceanography looking at coastal plant communities and sea level rise. She coordinates the Chesapeake Bay report card and is an editor on Integrating and Applying Science: A handbook for effective coastal ecosystem assessment.
Website: http://ian.umces.edu/people/Caroline_Donovan/
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