How: Light Rail and bikes to the Mall of America station. Visitors’ Center is .6 of a mile from the Bloomington Central station. Bass Ponds area is about 1/2 mile from the Mall of America station.
How long: About 20 minutes on the train; 5-10 minutes to the Bass Ponds by bike.
Ease: Very easy with a bike. Distance from the transit stops may prove daunting to some on foot.
Worth doing: Definitely with a bike; maybe on foot if you’re a good walker.
Our North Star Chapter’s first official “Transit to Green Space” outing took place July 19, 2008. Destination: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, one of the rare near urban refuges in the country. In case you don’t know it, it’s a combo of bluff and river bottomlands popular with birders, trail bikers and, in the winter, snow shoers. The Refuge has a wonderful visitors’ center on the bluff where you can watch birds at the many feeders or see eagles soaring in the distance. It also has many sections strung out along the Minnesota River. Our goal on this trip was to tour the Bass Ponds area just down Old Shakopee Road from the Mall of America, and then head over to the Visitors’ Center a couple miles away.
This was a hybrid outing using light rail and bikes. Light rail is particularly convenient for a bike outing because it accomodates more than two bikes. Several of our group gathered at the 46th st. light rail station, and we had no trouble fitting our 5 or 6 bikes on the train cars. More people joined us at the mall, and eventually we had a group of 13 heading about half a mile down Old Shakopee Road to the turnoff to the Bass Ponds. A highlight for most of us in this area was a trout stream. Jeff pointed it out, and later the area on top of the bluff kitty corner across from the mall where it takes it source. Amazing! After a stiff climb up the hill from the Bass Ponds area, we headed to the visitors’ center and a little birding. For the return trip most people went to the Bloomington Central light rail station. It’s closer to the visitors’ center than the Mall station, so it’s a good choice for those who don’t come with bikes.
From where: Mostly from the 46th street station, with variations of bike and bus for reaching the station.
So how did we all get there? Not surprisingly, some of us biked to the light rail. Andrea came from Uptown along the Midtown Greenway and hopped the train at the Lake Street station; I biked from Mac-Goveland in St. Paul to the station; Mat biked there from Highland. Some also used buses. Tuulikki and Paul first took the #2 bus down Franklin Avenue from their starting point near Lyndale. They then transferred to the train at the Franklin Station. Jeff came from west Bloomington to the mall by bus, proving that though commuter service on a Saturday from the suburbs is pretty limited, the mall is a pretty big destination. Others also came part way by car, parking being ample and free at the mall. Yes, it’s a commentary on the difficulties we face when we want to reach destinations via transit.