Find below published opinions, editorials, letters,
commentaries and columns about Birch Island Woods
Note: Writer Lyn Jerde's wistful apologia for a simpler
environment for our kids should have resonance for those
who question the fast tracking aggressiveness and
complexity of suburban life. Ms. Jerde is the Community
Editor of the Eden Prairie Sun Current.
A town for kids, in the imagination of a former kid
by LYN JERDE - SUN NEWSPAPERS
(Created: Wednesday, May 3, 2006 10:52 PM CDT)
Not long ago, in a town not too far away (it's in the
Central Time Zone, anyway), there lived a city council
with a fresh idea.
When contemplating new equipment for the city park's
playground, council members asked, why not let the kids
who will play with it design it? And why not name it Kid
Town? So the kids went to their drawing board (did it come
with washable markers and crayons?), and designed
something that looked for all the world like a giant
castle. Though it would not surprise me if one wiseacre
kid might have incorporated a dungeon or a piranha-filled
moat into the design, that did not happen. But all other
castle features - the drawbridges, the towers, the
parapets - were built in. To my knowledge, youngsters
played there happily ever after. It made me wonder: If
kids could design a real Kid Town - a whole town, not just
an acre in a park - what would it look like?
I have no kids, but I used to be a kid. And if it were my
drawing board, and my washable markers, I can tell you,
right off the bat, what would and would not be in my
design. There would be sports. Few organized sports. A lot
of unorganized sports. For the occasional budding Gretzky,
who had both the talent and the desire (his own, not his
parents') to play at a higher level, I would incorporate
into my Kid Town maybe one indoor rink, or one outdoor
refrigerated rink. So, if a grade-schooler loves hockey
enough to get up before the sun, and to haul an equipment
bag bigger than himself to a before-school practice, that
opportunity would be available.
But for kids who lack NHL aspirations, there'd be a pond
that is more or less smooth when frozen. There, they could
try out the skates they got for Christmas, if they don't
mind dodging a group of teenagers playing pickup hockey,
with homemade sticks and a puck made of heaven knows what.
And, for baseball-softball players not inclined toward
structured practices or a travel schedule, there would be
a vacant lot within an easy walk of home, where kids from
age 3 to 18 - as few as 10 of them - could play what my
brothers, friends and I used to call "worky-up." A player
would start in right field, then rotate positions with
each new batter, until moving from the pitcher's mound to
the batter's box, then back to right field.
Not all sports would involve teams or games. Bike-riding
is a sport. And in my Kid Town, every kid would have a
One feature of my Kid Town, which I didn't have when I was
a kid, would be a system of bike trails. I rode on the
streets of Des Moines and the country roads of Iowa -
scenic and exhilarating at times, but not as safe as I'd
want for any young person today. I would, however, wish
for today's kids the freedom I had to explore on my own,
for hours at a time. Carrying nothing except my school's
student phone directory and maybe a peanut butter sandwich
in a paper bag, I would set out to ride my bike past the
houses of all the kids in my homeroom in one afternoon.
And, for kids of today, I'd wish for places to explore
that not even a state-of-the-art mountain bike could
Woods. Creeks. Tree forts. Fallen trees. Yes, the woods
might have poison ivy. Yes, the creek might run a little
high after a big rain. Yes, the tree fort might have a few
rusty nails falling from it like ripened acorns. In my Kid
Town, moms and dads would warn us about such hazards, but
not shield us from them. There would be butterflies to
chase, rocks to collect, frogs and dragonflies to observe,
ant colonies to stare at for hours. For a place to sit and
think about nothing in particular, my Kid Town would
include a dead fallen tree with an overhanging branch just
strong enough to support someone smaller than 100 pounds,
but flexible enough to provide a bouncy perch. And, since
this is my fantasy, I'd make every day in my Kid Town just
like the day on which I write this - warm but not too hot,
sunny, a little breezy.
One can dream. Or remember. Or a little bit of both.
Lyn Jerde is community editor of the Eden Prairie
EDN PRAIRIE NEWS
December 8, 2005
A few of our residents seem to think it is OK to treat
city property as their personal space. In cases where that
property is set aside to create a natural habitat or
protective shoreline boundary, the encroachments
frequently change the function of the area into an
extension of the resident's lawn or garden. This is not
only unlawful and disrespectful, but unhealthful and truly
unfortunate – our collection of naturalized areas is a
large part of what makes Eden Prairie beautiful, valuable
The most well-publicized case of this is the man who
removed 37 trees blocking his views of Anderson Lake.
These were mature trees that will take years to grow back.
Unfortunately, many of our neighbors are doing similar
things on a smaller scale.
These neighbors prune our city trees (disregarding
time-of-year concerns for the spread of such diseases as
oak wilt and Dutch elm, as well as a tree's natural growth
cycle). They tear out native habitat to improve their
views and put in their preferred nonnative plantings.
These folks may even build structures and brick pathways
on city property.
The repercussions of this are expensive to our city
financially and ecologically. When people tear out
habitats, it deprives wildlife of food and shelter and it
deprives humans of the natural beauty of a native site and
the wildlife therein. When trees are mortally damaged by
incorrect pruning (or a resultant disease) the city must
foot the expensive bill for their removal. And a mature
tree takes years to replace and, if planted by the city,
costs us all money. When shoreline buffer zones are
removed, man-made chemicals are more likely to pollute the
waterway, making it dirtier and more hazardous for fish
and other wildlife as well as the people who use the water
for recreation or as a food source. And the legal issues
of shelters built on city property are almost too numerous
to mention: Who will pay to maintain or tear down these
structures? Who will pay if someone is injured by these
structures and the city is sued? Who will pay if the
structures are damaged by a public user?
The city writes informational and warning letters, but a
hardcore group does not seem to care. City officials have
gone out to the property to talk directly to some of these
offenders. This is a tough job because our representatives
are sometimes met with belligerence, and, too frequently,
ignored. When the city has attempted to clarify their
boundaries by doing a survey and setting stakes, some of
these stakes have been moved or torn out entirely. These
behaviors are unacceptable. This is property that is set
aside to benefit all of us, and it needs to be defended
It is time for the city to take legal measures to protect
our collective interests. We must make our policies clear,
and then enforce them. If the resident won't return the
property to its natural state, then the city must do so
and bill the encroacher (perhaps adding the cost to their
property taxes). If people remove survey stakes, the city
must replace them and, again, bill the criminal owner for
The city is you and me. The silent majority of us who
love the beauty of wildlife, wild land and clean water
must speak up to let city officials know that we do care.
If we act now and act effectively, we won't have to do
what many cities are in the process of doing – that is
attempting to reclaim their natural areas and recreate
wetlands and natural shoreline boundaries.
EDEN PRAIRIE NEWS
November 18, 2004
For two years I have been following the Friends of Birch
Woods' efforts to obtain the four acres of land needed to
save the Birch Island Woods area and the 100-year-old
Picha farm from development. The efforts of our parks
director to obtain the 4 acres have been minimal at best.
Recently (Oct. 28, EP News) our Parks Director Bob
Lambert made the statement regarding this effort, "It
didn't happen, so let's move on."
I find that statement appalling coming from the person
who is suppose to obtain, maintain and improve our park
system. If I were the city manager, Mr. Lambert would be
replaced for making a comment like that. It shows lack of
effort and lack of care for the land, and the people who
live in Eden Prairie.
He seems to have the interest of the developers at hand,
instead of the interest of the residents of Eden Prairie.
The city has spent tens of thousands of dollars on
survey's asking what the residents care about the most.
EVERY survey found "saving open spaces" in the top three
answers. Mr. Lambert and the city have a mandate from the
people to save these spaces, by any means, whatever it
We need a parks director who will not give up and try to
find any way possible to purchase this property. We do not
need a parks director saying it can't be done, let the
bulldozers have at it.
Mr. Lambert also opposed putting the purchase of parkland
on a separate question in the May 11 referendum. Why? It
certainly would have passed.
Mr. Lambert should explore every possibility to obtain
the four acres in question, not give up and let the
bulldozers destroy what little open land this city has
There are alternative solutions to every problem. The
parcel others are trying to save is only four acres in
size. Our parks director should be leading the effort to
save this land, not saying it can't be done. I don't
believe Mr. Lambert can't find other ways to purchase this
land. That's what he's paid for.
If Mr. Lambert can back spending several million dollars
on a water park, certainly he can find ways to fund
purchasing four acres of land.
The needs of the many out weigh the needs of a few.
Mr. Lambert needs seems to have forgotten that.
EDEN PRAIRIE SUN CURRENT
November 18, 2004
NATURAL TREASURES SHOULDN'T GO TO THE DOGS
To the editor:
So now the city is considering sites in three
areas and Staring Lake Park for dogs to run unleashed.
Richard T. Anderson must be turning over in his grave.
The city honors the former council member for his
environmental record by naming a conservation area after
him on one side of town, and then Parks and Recreation
Director Bob Lambert nominates a conservation area in
Anderson¹s part of town for reclassification as a dog
That sanctuary, Birch Island Woods, was created only
after a campaign involving hundreds of people, not a few
of whom live in Anderson¹s Kingswood neighborhood
and not a few of whom leash their dogs for walks
through the woods.
I am among those who have persevered a few patronizing
and self-important past key officials, who I suspect in
their guts don¹t really appreciate the Dick Andersons
of this world.
I was a member of the citizen task force that developed
the City Council-approved plan for Birch Island Woods
a plan that calls for keeping the 32-acre tract
natural and permitting only leashed dogs.
Birch Island Woods is among the last areas in Eden
Prairie that supports a menagerie of woodland and wetland
animals and birds. These include deer, fox, muskrat,
coyote, groundhog and muskrat, as well as wild turkey,
woodcock, bluebirds, pheasant and pileated woodpecker
plus owls, hawks and eagle that prey on the smaller
Increasing numbers of unleashed dogs will drive these
animals out, and trample native wildflowers such as
ladyslippers, blazing star and coneflowers.
Mr. Lambert is reported to have told the parks commission
that many people have been walking their dogs leash-free
through the area anyway. Not so fast. In the two years
that the woods have been protected as a conservation area,
the city has failed to provide it with any leash law
signs. Pet owners who drive in or live nearby may be
unaware of the leash law. Who can blame them?
The large majority of the dog walkers I see during by
daily visits to the woods use leashes. I believe they
respect the environment and other visitors the
special-needs children from Eden Wood; the bicyclists and
hikers from all over town; the Boy Scouts, who build
woodchip trails; the hundreds of volunteers who remove
buckthorn and pick up litter; the parents who feel better
about life knowing that their kids can see a fox and hear
an owl on a single walk.
I am very uncomfortable with the fact that there is an
individual on city staff who doesn¹t appreciate or
want to protect this unique treasure in Eden Prairie.