BEST GROUND ZERO - 1999
Throw out all the plans. Burn the engineering studies. Rip up the newspaper clippings and meeting minutes documenting 30 years of controversy over the rerouting of Minneapolis's Hiawatha Avenue. Start over--here, on this spot of tall grass and oak, where some see a precious urban wilderness and others a weedy plot begging for asphalt. Maybe it's the spirit of the place that keeps the battle going: You'd be hard-pressed to find another chunk of Minnesota so drenched in blood, prayers, memories. Dakota people came here for gatherings centuries ago; pioneer Abraham Perry built his cabin on the bluff only to have the soldiers burn it down. Dred Scott, the slave who challenged slavery, probably walked these fields while serving at Fort Snelling. Is the current standoff--Earth First! and Native American protesters on one side, Minnesota Department of Transportation planners on the other--just the latest expression of some ancient conflict? And what if everyone just stopped and took a deep breath? What kind of city could we imagine?