Sorry for the delay, this is the STAR grant interview week, so we spend a couple mornings listening to presentations by applicants. Lots of good requests coming in and not many funding sources. Biggest ask is from the city for the new downtown baseball stadium, $1.5M, pretty good chunk of change. Looks like the city got some help from the state legislature's bonding bill so the possibility of being able to take light rail down to a Saints game or high school state championship or senior league blow-out (knees and shoulders) is more likely. I also hope there's enough money to help smaller St. Paul businesses and non-profits make the facility upgrades they need to stay viable. You need to support both big and small dreams to sustain our capitol city. We make our recommendations to the city council in mid-June and they make the final decision shortly after that.

The loss of the aging playground equipment on Monkey Island has caused a little bit of a ruckus up on Seminary Hill. Safety concerns prompted a surprise removal by the city which the community is still trying to digest. Lots of sentimental attachment to that cozy little corner of our world. Though the jungle gym, swings and slide were small and old, kids of all ages enjoyed the low key ambiance. While safe playing conditions are, of course, an important priority, Parks & Rec chief, Mike Hahm, apologized for the lack of warning and vowed to help the neighbors find a way to replicate that playground experience. It will be difficult in this day and age. Placing any new manufactured equipment on public land requires safety and accessibility considerations that push the cost up dramatically. Just to replace those three small structures with currently approved equipment would run in the $100,000 range. Add to that the 2-3 year wait to move up in line for public money (there are other playgrounds in the city that could use enhanced equipment or, in some cases, any equipment at all) and it might be better to think smaller and privately-funded.

So, that's what the group of neighbors who met with Hahm last Tuesday night are pursuing. They are trying to figure out a fundraising plan and build consensus around replacement pieces. Natural boulders and secured logs seems to be the simplest, fastest alternative to the manufactured route. It would not require the same accessibility or investment and could potentially be up by fall. For now, all options are being considered. Sad that it came to this, but that equipment was apparently the oldest in the city system and well beyond its expiration date. Seems like it wouldn't have taken much to include the neighbors before the deed which would have allowed ownership in the process that might have made the transition a little easier for the affected families. Hahm admitted as much and has committed to make it as right as he can. Neighbors are also committed to making that come true so that 40 years from now there will be a cozy little place today's kids can bring their little ones.

I've been working with Steve Townley to try to keep the 3rd Place going after the group that brought it to life decided they had to move on. I've heard from some current and potential users who would like to see it stay, but so far, not enough to make a go of it. Let me know if you have any interest or ideas.

D12 - Kasota Pond clean-up went well with the usual variety of junk removed from the environment. Amazing how much trash makes its way to those wetlands, some of it thrown from passing vehicles, some from the train traffic and some left by hobos stopping by on their way somewhere else. I remember a couple years a go finding a shredded tent, backpack and sleeping bag tucked under some temporary shelter. I wondered if the owner was coming back or long gone, but never stopped back to get the answer.

Schools - The kindergartners over at StAP Elementary recently completed their artist-in-residency with singer-songwriter, Charlie McGuire. Charlie accompanied them on guitar while they sang songs they had composed together. Those would have been interesting to hear and I'll bet it wouldn't take too much searching to find a parent who has a video - probably already up on Youtube. The Foundation is proud to have some financial skin in that great program.

listserv - Here's a nice opportunity to support a great program at a great place. Our local scout troops are hosting a wine-tasting fundraiser at the Colossal Cafe Tuesday May 22nd from 5-7pm. 100% of the ticket price - only $25 a glass - goes to our guys. The little wine shoppe is helping out with the wine and, of course, the Park Midway Bank has a hand supporting the whole thing as well...some chatter about neighborhood on-line networks that might be useful as community builders. We have one currently, SapConnect, but it hasn't found much use...

StAPnotes - looks like the Vikings and the U have reached an agreement on using the TCF stadium for a season or two while the new pro football palace gets built. No word on whether the Vikings have been enticed to put mitigation money into the neighborhood fund. Those games will certainly have an impact on the surrounding communities and it won't all be good...if the Saints go downtown, the plan is for the city to trade Midway Stadium to the Port Authority for the proposed site by the Farmer's Market. The PA would develop it in keeping with its surrounding industrial neighbors. No more fireworks or summer concerts - I'll kinda miss 'em...but I won't miss the hole in the ground across from KSTP on University, and I know Wellington won't either. Looks like they are moving ahead with housing for the site. Don't know much more, but that's good news.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.