Blaine, Minnesota is 15 miles (24 km) north of my studio in Minneapolis. The last time I walked at Blaine Open Space it was the very beginning of the pandemic. I walked with a friend from work and at the time of our walk she had just decided to cancel her plans for spring break. The lives we led back then seem so long ago. We were just starting to realize that the virus was going to change things. I find it interesting that when I walk in a place I have been before I remember what was on my mind the last time I was there. We discussed the possibility of working from home but I don’t think we knew yet that it was going to be our reality. We certainly didn’t know it would affect us this much and for this long.
On that day back in March we only walked the length of the open space and back. My opinion was that it was an amazing space but not really a place for a long walk. Nearby is another beautiful small park. Between them is residential neighborhoods. I decided to try walking both parks in one walk and see if I could get to 10 miles (16 km).
Starting from Lexington Avenue is the boardwalk. It is a beautiful thing to stand in that open space with wild grasses expanding out in every direction for half a mile. The boardwalk is wide enough to be able to keep your distance from other walkers. I did not see many wearing masks which concerned me. Being outside is not as bad as inside, but I think when passing someone or if you are walking and talking it is best to mask up. I am not perfect on this, but getting more and more cautious every day.
I was not sure what type of neighborhood I’d be walking through on my way to Pioneer Park. I figured I could always turn around if I did not feel comfortable. I was glad to see a sign posted with walking loop suggestions. This community encourages walking and that is awesome! The shape of Radisson Lake suggests to me that it was altered to maximize shoreline for higher property values. These homes look like recent construction. A very upscale neighborhood with lots of people using the sidewalks, trails, and playgrounds. The median of the boulevard has bronze statues of children playing. It feels like a resort. I wonder if it is a problem to have an outsider like me walking around. I did not feel unwelcome or uncomfortable at all. Would my experience have been different if I were not white? That is a question I have. Feel free to comment if you have thoughts on this. I am not trying to imply anything about this community I just think it is a question worth asking.
The only part of the walk that was less than wonderful was the short distance along 125th Ave NE. It is a busy highway. I’d say it was about a quarter of a mile from the crossing to the entrance of the park. Not too bad, and worth it to be able to experience the wooded trails in Pioneer Park. I loved discovering the old wooden bridge on the dirt trail and the natural play area and the short boardwalk at the far end of the park.
This walk gave me quality thinking time. It had a rhythm of nature-suburbia-nature-suburbia-nature. Mostly I thought about the kinds of communities we create for ourselves. What is it about our physical surroundings that affects us socially? What did I like about what I saw? What would I have done differently? What did the city planners intend and what is the result? These questions kept my brain occupied for almost the entire walk. A nice change of pace from my usual preoccupations.
If you have thoughts on this topic I’d love to hear them.