Staff Editorial: A step forward for civic engagement

By Staff

We commend the High Winds Fund for taking the lead in bringing about a median on Snelling Avenue similar to the one splitting Grand Avenue through our campus.The project is an excellent example of cooperation between disparate agencies. While far from completion, the work so far has sprung from the High Winds Fund’s leadership and persistency on this issue.

The many years without a median on Grand Avenue demonstrate that there is no inevitability to these types of projects: they come about only through the efforts of individuals.

The High Winds Fund’s leadership in funding the testing phase of the median installation shows a productive engagement and commitment not tied to aggrandizement or a narrow outcome. After all, the community could still reject the final project. This phase sets the stage for productive community conversation.

The successful completion of a median would improve the safety of Macalester students and other pedestrians and motorists in the area. As the success of the Grand Avenue project has made clear, medians make a difference, both as a form of beautification and in enhancing pedestrian safety. Safety enhancements, in turn, contribute to a neighborhood’s overall walkability, strengthening neighborhood activity and ultimately, a sense of community.

The Snelling median project would further improve Macalester’s role as a resource for the community. One of the most important and indeed, alarming discoveries in the project’s fact-finding has been that community members who live east of Snelling have been effectively discouraged from using the campus and its resources. This lessens the legitimacy of the community dialogues which Macalester hosts and in which it participates.

The project, however, allows for at least two processes to help strengthen community ties in this regard. First, High Winds is prepared to invest substantially in this project as a partner with community institutions. As a voice of Macalester to the greater Macalester-Groveland community, High Winds is inviting community members and institutions to dialogue over whether and how to install a median.

Additionally, the median serves to enhance and increase safe, pedestrian-friendly access to Macalester’s campus – particularly the Macalester Athletic and Recreation Facility – by both students who live off campus and by community members.

We at Macalester pride ourselves on being an institution that counts civic engagement as one of its highest educational priorities. The efforts of High Winds to make Snelling Avenue walkable are a step in that direction.