Fridley City Mowers Tackle Tall Grass on University Avenue
MnDOT mowers assigned to Hwy. 47 are currently out of commission.
Something new can be seen this summer in Fridley along University Avenue: a large city mower taking care of the grass.
For years, Fridley has not mowed the grass along University Avenue (also known as Minnesota Hwy. 47), leaving it up to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), which is responsible for maintaining state highways.
MnDOT has been mowing the grass along University Avenue twice a year, city officials said. As the grass got longer and longer, the city received complaints from Fridley residents and businesses.
“For years, the city said, ‘It’s MnDOT’s responsibility, we’re not going to do it,’” said Jack Kirk, Fridley’s Park and Recreation Director. “And it’s still MnDOT’s responsibility, but now the city is doing it.”
Mowers out of Service
TK (Todd) Kramascz, director of communications for MnDOT’s Metropolitan District (which includes Fridley), said MnDOT mows the grass “several times a year.”
This year, he said, MnDOT has not mowed the grass along University Avenue yet because the two mowers assigned to that area were out of commission. He added that MnDOT's metro maintenance department was working on the mowers this week with hopes of getting them running by Thursday.
Gateway to the Community
After city efforts to get MnDOT to mow the grass more often failed, Kirk said, Fridley delved into its own shrinking budget this year to take care of University Avenue—what city council member Ann Bolkcom called “the gateway into our community.”
“In an effort to keep the image of our community positive, our city council redirected our parks maintenance employees this year to mow University Avenue,” said Kirk. “It had been looking tacky, growing long and nobody paying attention to it.”
Monday afternoon, a large City of Fridley mower could be seen mowing the East side of the 6000 block of University Avenue and later, the grass in the median. It was one of the first of such sights that will become a norm this summer.
“It takes a lot of time and there’s a lot of land that needs to be taken care of,” Kirk said.
University Avenue runs for more than 30 blocks through Fridley.
'Hard to Deal With'
The University Avenue maintenance will be paid for through part of Fridley’s seasonal parks maintenance budget traditionally used to pay employees to mow grass in parks and take care of playing fields before games.
But city officials thought it was important to improve the image of University Avenue, despite the 25 percent cut in the seasonal parks maintenance budget this year.
“I don’t know that when people drive along University Avenue and see how long the grass is, they say, ‘Gee, our state highway department isn’t doing a good job,” Kirk said. “They say, “Fridley isn’t doing a great job with their maintenance.’ It is always associated with the community they are in, and it gives us a negative image that is hard to deal with.”
Business owners with businesses along University Avenue were especially concerned about the long grass.
“They take care of their own property, but University Avenue is an extension of their front yard,” Kirk said. “It reflects badly on their business.”
When asked whether MnDOT's maintenance department was experiencing budget cuts that made it impossible to mow the grass more frequently, Kramascz said, "Not to my knowledge."
Since the funds for parks maintenance are now shared with University Avenue maintenance, Fridley park trimming and mowing may not be done in a timely manner, Kirk said.
“Park maintenance employees will do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Kirk said. “But when you’re reduced in the number of people and you have more work, it probably won’t get done as often as it did in the past and we may notice it.”
Weather conditions will also affect how nice the parks look, he said. A rainy week could make the grass grow faster and make it hard for maintenance employees to keep up. A windy day could blow garbage or litter across parks, requiring time for cleaning up.
In an effort to keep the parks well-maintained, Fridley has recently approved a new Adopt-A-Park program. Businesses, nonprofit groups, individuals or families can “adopt” a park and contribute to the “beautification and clean-up” of city parks, Kirk said.
Since the program is new, no one has adopted a Fridley park yet. But Kirk said a few businesses have called to inquire about the program and are interested in joining.
“That would be a wonderful way to help the community,” Kirk said.