Letters to the editor: Let’s talk about Breck Woods

Breck Woods is valuable because: It’s a continuous corridor of habitat for wild creatures, in a city where such spaces are mostly broken into small scraps. It’s a “woods bath” for human neighbors. It’s a connecting corridor to the U’s golf course, the new Bell Museum, and the Bee Lab. It’s a buffer zone, protecting neighbors from the grinding noise of cars and trains.

And powerfully, compellingly, it is real estate.

Why should Luther Seminary, owner of Breck Woods, care about wildlife corridors or buffer zones, when they can view the woods as a liquid asset? All the seminary land, including the woods, has sheltered and greened our St. Anthony Park neighborhood, ever since landscape architect Horace Cleveland laid out the curving streets in the 1880s. We who have loved the surprising beauty of our surroundings have an unspoken, unofficial bond with the seminary because of its green spaces. There is a brutality in disregarding such bonds, especially when there is a wide array of practical compromises open to the decision makers.

Can there be a conversation about compromise? Would President Robin Steinke be open to neighbors’ ideas? The impact of a new apartment building in your back yard could be harsh, yet there may still be ways to find a win-win. We ask the leadership of Luther Seminary to be a generous neighbor in seeking creative solutions to this newly announced sale of land, seeking the kind of stewardship in which we can all find comfort.

 

Alice Duggan, St. Anthony Park, and Ann and Wayne Sisel, Lauderdale

 

Several residents of our community have been trying to get the attention of Luther Seminary regarding their plans to sell off big chunks of their land and buildings. Solicitations for bid have gone out (to a select few) and the seminary expects responses in early September. On the auction block are the 9 acres of Breck Woods and Bockman Hall, the seminary’s “old main.”

I am disappointed and concerned about the fast track nature of this process. The ramifications for the St. Anthony Park neighborhood are huge. We have this wonderful pristine Breck Woods that could be lost forever to developers. It’s truly a gem of nature. It’s fun and adventurous for kids to play in and for adults to walk through and get refreshed. We’ve already lost the soccer field and the basketball court for the kids. What more are you willing to give up? Breck Woods is the type of resource any community would die to have in its midst. Yet, its future is now at risk. I’ve written a couple of emails to the seminary expressing this concern and I have gotten back what I would call dismissive replies. What I was told in an email is that neighborhood input would be provided after bids for sale go out and proposals and offers come in.

Doesn’t that sound a bit backwards?

This same attitude is reflected by others in the community who have been asking the seminary to slow down the process so good neighborhood input can be provided. One resident commented to me that the St. Anthony Park neighborhood is of second importance to the seminary. He suggested that the seminary’s interest is to dispatch and makes gains from their holdings so they can get on to their “higher calling” of educating people for service in the church.

I appreciate the mission of the seminary, as I am a graduate and am active in the church. But preparing people for the ministry is only part of the seminary’s calling. The seminary must be challenged to walk the talk of the faith it professes. How about the environment? Where does the seminary stand on its responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and ensure preservation of Breck Woods? It seems the seminary has only been concerned about the bottom line. Where does the seminary stand on its commitment to be a good neighbor and to listen to its neighbors?

This seminary should have welcomed neighborhood input on this enormous proposed transfer of neighborhood resources. It has not done that. Now, because they are intent to play their cards close to the vest, it is our job to call them out. Those of us who live in this community have an obligation to ourselves, to other cities, to the future to create the most wonderful residential neighborhood possible. We have that reputation now. Let’s keep it that way.

Don Hauge, St. Anthony Park

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