Will Lumpkins is determined to help create more green spaces in North Minneapolis. He’s the manager of Northside Greenway Now, a group working to bring the area to life by transforming low-traffic streets for motorized vehicles into non-motorized pedestrian greenway paths.
North Minneapolis is considered to be among the most dangerous neighborhoods in Minnesota. A 2010 study showed that those living in the area have a lower life expectancy, and not just because of the crime there. The neighborhood is a “food desert” — lacking grocery stores in the area. North Minneapolis is behind many other neighborhoods in the city in offering green spaces and nutritious foods, so a committee was put together to come up with solutions.
It decided the best way to connect residents to parks and other green spaces was with a greenway. And with that, the committee commenced engagement with the city from 2011 to 2016, starting to piece together the Northside Greenway project.
In 2016, three temporary greenway models were installed along Irving Avenue North, and the area was closed to traffic. The various designs brought mixed results: some residents embraced the idea while others found aspects of it frustrating. Even an anti-greenway group started, which asserted that the project was racist and ableist.
“I think the biggest challenge has been dealing with some of the negative narrative, and also learning how to rebuild burned bridges,” Lumpkins said. Among his goals has been showing people the “value of having something like this in your neighborhood.”
The most popular design was the linear park greenway, which would draw out the most neighbors. It would eliminate car traffic from the road while replacing it with a paths and green spaces for bikers and pedestrians. There would be space for community gardens, playgrounds, BBQs and art. A July report said that 73 percent of survey respondents want some form of greenway on their street.
Lumpkins said some residents believed that a greenway would create more crime; however, he believes that it would combat some of the crime in North Minneapolis. “When you’re young, it’s good to keep up a healthy lifestyle. Having more access to parks can help keep up that lifestyle,” he explained. “If they have access, there’s a possibility that they’ll use it. This first generation might not use it, but our kids and their kids will get the value out of it.”
Even though the committee has hit some rough patches during the test period, it’s still going strong, continuing its advocacy for the project and promoting it in the neighborhood. The committee is vying to get federal funds for the project for 2019.