South St. Paul seeks to replace trees with industry along Mississippi River Trail



South St. Paul seeks to change the yellow shape above from "Open Space" to "Industrial" use. The Mississippi River Trail is slated to run along the site in 2017 (light blue). Click the map shapes or path icons for details. (Full Mississippi River Trail maps are available here, and a more detailed map is below.)

The city of South St. Paul is considering allowing a forested patch of land near the river to become a railroad storage area. Tucked into the northeast corner of the city, between Concord Street and riverfront industries, the 5-acre site is scheduled to have the Mississippi River Trail constructed through it beginning in 2017. (See base map above or detailed map below.)

This significant change in plans requires modifying both the city's comprehensive plan and zoning for the site. FMR recently registered its opposition to this proposal, believing it would represent a significant step backward for a city that has increasingly embraced its riverfront as an asset.

If the city’s proposal moves forward, the site’s future land use would change from “Open Space” to “Industrial” with the intention of allowing railcar and rail construction equipment storage. This would effectively pave an additional 5 acres of open space in the river's critical area and our local Mississippi River national park. It would also impact the Mississippi River Trail. Trail users would have to cross an additional rail line and road, and the scenic environment of the trail in this area would be significantly degraded.

If the city’s zoning amendment proposal moves forward, the zoning district would need to be amended to include exterior storage. FMR argues that exterior storage on a paved lot is a significantly different use than a grove of trees, and a major departure from the district's allowed uses (boat marinas, public recreational usage, and antennas). When so many communities along the Mississippi are turning toward the river as an asset — embracing such public values as recreation, open space, and scenic beauty — it would be disappointing if South St. Paul decided to undermine their admirable recent investments in riverfront parks and trails.

We are pleased to report that after hearing from FMR and many passionate residents, the South St. Paul Planning Commission voted five to one against the amendments needed to rezone the site in September. Now the decision is in the hands of the South St. Paul City Council. They touched on the matter during their mid-September meeting and moved to further discuss the proposed amendments at an October 10 work session.

Update: In late October, the city council voted down the rezoning attempt in favor of preserving this open space! Cheers to the South. St. Paul City Council!

If you would like to stay in touch about this and other local issues related to the river's critical area, let us know! Sign up to become a River Protector and be sure to click "I will advocate for the vitality of the Twin Cities river corridor, our national park." 

Detailed map