Monday, March 8, 2010

[How much do you think this document,
and the consulting described therein, cost?]

An Ag Researcher at the University of Minnesota
Questions Priorities for MoreU Park

Right after the Strib asked some pointed questions about the University's ill-conceived ideas for development at MoreU, Lois Braun comments in the Daily:

In a recent Minnesota Daily article, The University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education (UMore) Director Larry Laukka is quoted as saying that he gets the most enjoyment out of “turning a faceless piece of land into a unique, utilized community.” And therein lies the difference between his worldview and mine.

In my view, there is no such thing as a “faceless” piece of land. In developing property, one must always consider what is already there and what will be destroyed by its development. UMore is hardly the “blank piece of paper” Laukka calls it.

In the article, I was quoted as saying that there isn’t much good agricultural land (left) at Rosemount. That is because of disturbance by Gopher Ordnance Works. Before the army messed up the soil that was eventually deeded to the University after World War II, most of the area was prime farmland. What is tragic about the UMore Park development plans is that they call for mining gravel from the only land that wasn’t tainted by the munitions plant. University Statewide Strategic Resource Development Vice President Charles Muscoplat states that under the plan, 1,000 acres are being set aside for agricultural research. What he doesn’t say is that these 1,000 are in the part of UMore Park with messed-up soils. I used to have plots in some of these soils and can vouch that they aren’t much good for agriculture.

Farmland on the urban fringe, such as the land at UMore Park, is even more precious because of its proximity to urban markets. This is especially relevant to fresh produce. About a dozen Hmong farm families currently lease land from UMore to produce food that they sell to Twin Cities farmers markets. The University is sending the completely wrong message to the public about the value of farming and fresh food by pushing these farmers further from their markets. If the University condones the destruction of farmland, how can we expect other landowners on the urban periphery not to also sell out?

Good soil is a virtually irreplaceable resource. I believe it is a crime against future generations to squander it. They can’t eat gravel. The destruction of prime farmland is completely at odds with the value of “sustainability” that the project purports to support.

No matter how well designed it might be, UMore Park will still amount to urban sprawl. True sustainability calls for figuring out how to integrate sustainable design into existing urban communities. We can’t afford to build completely new towns; we have to retrofit what we’ve already got.
Lois Braun
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

For some background on this fiasco, please see:

Exactly how long is the UMore Park craziness going to continue?

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