Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Annual block party - Friday, 8/22

Everybody loves a party! The annual BPNA summer block party is scheduled for August 22, 6-9 pm.

Craig Brenner and the Crawdads will once again inspire dancing in the street—specifically the 1000 block of South Dunn St. Please bring a potluck dish to share with your neighbors. BPNA will provide grilled meat and veggie burgers and hot dogs as well as lemonade. Come meet new neighbors and celebrate with old friends.

We need your membership dues to fund food purchases. We’re down on our knees here. Dues are just $5 a year, and a handy mail-in form is provided on this page. In the past, BPNA has received a Small & Simple grant from the city to help with the cost of this large party, which drew about 200 people last year. We hope to receive another grant this year. Keep your fingers crossed!

We can always use extra hands; contact Jon Lawrence at or 334-2075.

Association News - Summer 2008

BPNA blogs. This spring, BPNA launched a blog to replace its former web site. Check it out at You’ll find news, announcements, updates on city plans for the neighborhood, even a sideshow of pictures taken at BPNA events. Want to publicize your garage sale? There is a section (called “Label” in blog-speak) just for that.

There were two main reasons for the change. First, the blog form is easy to keep up-to-date and organized. It supplements this newsletter, which will continue to be printed three times a year. More importantly, it gives everyone a chance to comment on and discuss issues important to the neighborhood. We can even gather input on controversial issues by posting a survey question for people to vote on online.

Isabel Piedmont, the representative for our district on the City Council, says that she reads the Bryan Park blog regularly to see what people are thinking about, so by adding your comments, you help get things done. Piedmont also posts notices of her monthly constituent meetings on the blog. Put your hands together for our responsive representative!

The blog is easy to use. Type the address,, into your browser and the most recently posted item shows up first, with older items in the same category appearing in reverse chronological order below it. To comment on an item, click on the comments link in the green bar beneath the item. Type your comment into the box that appears. Then type the letters that make up the Verification code into the next box (this prevents scammers from automatically posting Viagra ads to the site). Lastly, choose how you want to sign your comment. Tip: the “Anonymous” option does not require you to set up a password. Click Publish to post your comment or Preview to, umm, preview it.

If you want an item posted or need help with using the blog, contact the webmaster, Sarah Reeder, Mary Miller and Sarah Reeder led the effort to design and build the blog; Anne Hedin, Jim Gronquist, and Jon Lawrence assisted.

Election results are in. Jan Sorby beat out Barack Obama and John McCain. Just kidding, but Jan was again elected BPNA president. Congratulations to the three new officers: Vice President Scott O’Brien, Treasurer Mary Lou Mitchell, and Secretary Lillie Aydt. Heartfelt thanks to the outgoing officers, former VP Jeanette Richart and former Treasurer Jennie Bauer for three and eight years of service respectively.

Source: BPNA Newsletter, June 2008

From grocery to church to an unknown future

by Mary Lou Mitchell

On February 12th a prospective developer of the former church building at 1014 South Washington Street invited Bryan Park neighbors to a meeting that the developer convened at Templeton. The developer’s courtesy was greatly appreciated and there was much discussion on the use of the building. Although it is zoned for commercial use, it could also be developed as residential property, which most of the surrounding neighbors would prefer. They also said they wouldn’t object to child or adult day care, a gallery, or some similar low-traffic use. We all hope there will be an agreeable solution for this property.

This property has been zoned commercial since 1929-1930, when the R C McKinley grocery was built on the lot. Sometime between 1930 and 1938 it became the A V Kirk Grocery. August V Kirk had previously been an accountant at the Matthews Brothers Stone Mill on South Walnut Street. He owned the store until 1950 when he sold it to John Zark. Mr. Zark vacated it in 1952. It stayed vacant until 1956 when the Church of Christ fellowship, the current owners, bought it.

A V Kirk and his wife, Anna, lived in the neighborhood themselves until Anna died in 1981 and A V died in 1992 at the age of 96. As a small boy, my husband Dick Mitchell and some buddies did odd jobs at the grocery. A V always threw the crates his vegetables came in down the basement steps, then every so often, he would hire the boys to bust them up. Dick says there was always water (from the creek) and rats (also from the creek) in the basement. A V also took the boys on deliveries. Their pay? 10 or 15 cents – enough to buy a candy bar and a bottle of pop.

Tot Lot officially opens

If you have been in Bryan Park lately, you have doubtless noticed the new Tot Lot playground in the northwest corner of the park. Maybe you noticed a child in a spinning cup, or manipulating the backhoe diggers, getting a push on the swing, or climbing on the play house. But if you were there on Tuesday morning, June 10, you would have also seen Mayor Mark Kruzan, District 5 City Council Member Isabel Piedmont, and BPNA president Jan Sorby.

At the formal opening ceremony of this playground, designed for children ages 5 and under, Mayor Kruzan said that the city spent $135,000 on the equipment, which includes rubber safety surfacing, new fencing, a shaded seating area with tables, benches, and drinking fountain in addition to numerous pieces of play equipment. The entrance to the area is through a gate designed by local artist Joe LaMantia and produced in partnership with Stone Belt. The Parks and Recreation Department handled the installation.

The neighborhood’s city council representative, Isabel Piedmont, spoke of the positive impact that parks like this have on the imagination and physical development of children. On behalf of the neighborhood, Jan Sorby thanked the City and Parks and Rec for enhancing “the jewel in our crown,” Bryan Park.

“We want to thank the City also for including the ideas and desires of the adjacent neighborhoods into the planning process. As parents are challenged with rising rates of obesity, diabetes and other health issues among our children, this park offers space for children to start the healthy habit of exercise and play,” Sorby said.

“We are fortunate that our Bloomington parks are more than just a little country in the city; they provide a multitude of benefits for a variety of uses. The Bryan Park neighbors appreciate the hard work that goes in to balancing passive and active natural and constructed areas of the park. We know much thought and consideration went into choosing each piece of equipment on this playground.”

Source: BPNA Newsletter, June 2008

Crosswalk to improve pedestrian safety

The Traffic Commission supported the BPNA’s request for a multi-way stop and a pedestrian striped crosswalk at the intersection of Allen and Henderson Streets to safeguard pedestrians crossing Henderson into Bryan Park or onto the sidewalk. As part of their process, they sent City engineer Justin Wyckoff to examine the situation and make a recommendation.

BPNA’s president Jan Sorby says, “Henderson has a posted 20 mph speed limit. Justin Wykoff did a traffic study at the intersection which showed that only 3% of drivers observed the limit. He clocked cars passing this school/park zone at speeds as high as 57 mph. The Traffic Commission was so shocked at the horrendous speeds they requested Justin to come up with something different than just a stop sign.”

The drawing above shows the solution to slowing traffic on this stretch of Henderson. It adds an island dividing the lanes of traffic and providing a protected space midway where pedestrians can stand if on-coming traffic prevents them from completing the crossing. (Parents with children have been known to drive three blocks to the park rather than attempt crossing on foot with a toddler and a stroller, Sorby points out.)

On either side of the cross walk at midpoint is a planter for vegetation, which neighbors have promised to tend. The strategy is to make the space look and feel narrower to drivers so that they drive more carefully.

This drawing also shows the realignment of the Bryan Park parking lot entrance with Allen St. and the new sidewalk on the western side of Henderson, a future improvement. Currently the only sidewalk on this stretch of Henderson borders Bryan Park and continues south to Templeton Elementary School. Crossing Henderson is particularly dangerous during the peak hours when children need to walk to school.

Missing from this drawing are the stop signs to be added on the approaches to the crosswalk. In order to implement what the Traffic Commission has approved, there is a formality to satisfy. City ordinance requires a certain level of traffic to warrant putting a stop sign on a street. Traffic on Henderson exceeds that level, but traffic on Allen and out of the parking lot normally falls below that level.

As a result, District 5 City Council Member Isabel Piedmont is expected to introduce the multi-way stop request as an amendment to the ordinance when City Council meets on June 25 or July 2, as the schedule permits. City Council will vote on it at the next meeting. Bryan Park neighbors and other city residents will have an opportunity to provide input on the request at the first meeting.

Source: BPNA Newsletter, June 2008

Dogs need a best friend too

On May 9, the Dog Friendly Bloomington (DFB) group sent a letter to Councilman Andy Ruff concerning the long-standing proposal to establish an off-leash dog park accessible to dog walkers within eight Bloomington core neighborhoods. DFB was founded by BPNA neighbors Marian M. Conaty and Paul Styles two and a half years ago.

The preferred site for the dog park is on the grounds of the Carlisle Brake Plant, located diagonally across from the southeast corner of Bryan Park. Doug de Vallance, President of Operations at Carlisle, has given his approval for this use of land behind the factory. DFB envisions an enclosed, locked dog run which owners of registered dogs can access without charge.

DFB considers this a win-win solution for all parties. Having a safe, clean place for dogs to run and socialize obviously benefits the animals and their owners. It would also reduce the burden on Bryan Park, which is heavily used now and will be more so as population density increases in the area. (South Dunn St. provides one example.)

“We believe this is a wonderful opportunity to bridge two seemingly incompatible land uses for the benefit of the community,” the DFB letter to Councilman Ruff states. “Essentially, the proposed dog park would create a community-serving buffer between industrial activity and residential use. This partnership between city, industry and neighborhood would take what some view as a negative, a sprawling factory within a core neighborhood, and turn it into a positive for the entire city.”

Independently of the DFB group, an Elm Heights resident, Ron Fischman, wrote Mick Renneisen, the head of Parks and Recreation, urging the city to consider this proposal –
and other possible uses. “To my mind, the most important aspect of the proposal is the opportunity to increase the area of a core city park. The clear trend in Bloomington and the rest of the Midwest is for old factories like Carlisle to minimize new investment in their urban manufacturing facilities and eventually sell the land for its development value,” Fischman states.

Dilemma for responsible dog owners

Nature designed dogs as pack animals and hunters. They need to run and socialize with each other for their mental and physical health. DFB cites research showing that 82% of dogs returned to the Animal Shelter are returned because they show signs of aggression. The major cause for this is lack of appropriate exercise and socialization.

Currently, local dog owners have two bad options for caring for their dogs’ needs. Some owners wait until the park empties out at the end of the day and let their dogs off the leash. This is illegal. Violators can be fined; upon a second offense, the dog can be impounded for neutering. DFB knows that even well-trained dogs running free can make other park users feel uncomfortable, and would prefer a better alternative.

The available alternative is to patronize the city’s only existing dog park at Karst Farm. The DFB objects that it is “environmentally irresponsible” to drive to Karst Farms (10 miles round-trip) when a nearby location is readily available. “In the 750 (+) households of the Bryan Park neighborhood alone, national averages say that approximately 285 of our households have at least 1 dog. Just 1 trip per week to Karst Farms equals over 150,000 miles of driving per year and creates 52 tons of CO2 gas emissions,” the DFB letter states.

Bryan Park, Elm Heights, McDoel Gardens, Eastside, SoMax, Arden Place, Walnut Creek and Pinestone are all neighborhoods whose resident dog owners could walk to the proposed Carlisle site. Its location adjacent to Bryan Park would simplify servicing this site as well.

DFB members wish to be humane responsible dog owners and environmentally good stewards,” they assured Councilman Ruff. To further this conversation with others in the community, DFB has also set up a Google group site at “Dog Friendly Bloomington”,

Source: BPNA Newsletter, June 2008

Inside the “poop bag party”

Fourteen BPNA neighbors met at the home of BPNA president Jan Sorby on June 10 to build custom-designed PVC dispensers of bags for dog waste. These will replace the home-made containers that Liz Brown had previously fashioned from milk jugs and stocked with bags, a contribution greatly appreciated by the majority of her neighbors whose yards are cleaner as a result.

As Dick Mitchell, Jon Lawrence, Jim Gronquist, and Matt Reeder cut and fitted the PVC, atrick Siney spray-painted the containers with a stenciled paw-print pattern from Sorby Design Studio. An assembly line of volunteers assisted in putting the dispensers together, and Corinne Carpenter and Tonia Matthews stuffed them with the first set of bags. Liz Brown will see to the installation of the spiffy new containers on street signposts, as approved by the Bloomington Utility Board.

BPNA invites everybody in the neighborhood to feel free to restock the nearby dispensers with plastic grocery bags. It gets them out of your way and keeps them out of the landfill.

A Small & Simple grant from the city funded the purchase of supplies, and volunteers supplied the matching labor value. BPNA is grateful to the city, and especially to City Councilman Tim Mayer, for getting behind this grassroots initiative for a cleaner neighborhood. It is truly an example of the BPNA motto, “You don’t need to move to live in a better neighborhood.”

Source: BPNA Newsletter, June 2008