Park walk with the mayors of West St. Paul and South St. Paul – Twin Cities

Once a month, a group of suburban mayors gather for a walk. As they walk along green paths, they talk about everything from politics to the stress of work.

The mayors of West St. Paul and South St. Paul form the core of the group. Past walks have included peers from surrounding communities such as Mendota Heights.

“The good thing is that we are going out without an agenda. So we’re sort of focusing on things that are important to us, ”said West St. Paul Mayor Dave Napier. “There are times when all we do is talk about the terrain we are walking on. “

The benefits of walking are that they get to know each other better while getting some exercise. They also have the opportunity to share ideas to help their respective cities. On a walk earlier this month, Pioneer Press joined them.

Napier and South St. Paul Mayor James Francis met on a picnic bench on October 1 at Kaposia Park around lunchtime in South St. Paul. The others – they’ve invited St. Paul’s mayor Melvin Carter on several occasions, but he hasn’t accepted their offer yet – weren’t going to join us this time. It’s a relatively warm October day, but the two are dressed more for work than exercise.

Kaposia is located at the western end of South St. Paul. A pedestrian bridge over US 52 connects it to Thompson County Park in West St. Paul. The mayors are heading towards the bridge.


Before reaching the footbridge over the freeway, the mayors casually talk about the recent West St. Paul open house and their relationship with county commissioners. They make their way to West St. Paul and stop where the trail splits, with a route to Thompson Park.

At the intersection, they stop to discuss police department social workers, the homeless situation, and the various trails through towns. After hanging out for 10 minutes, they turn around and head back to Kaposia Park.

As they cross the bridge, South St. Paul’s Francis asks, “Are you doing something like the app wants to text and drive?”

Francis said he felt the illegal practice was getting worse. He wants to limit distracted driving, but doesn’t know what the best approach would be.

As the conversation continues, Francis and Napier agree that the reduction in texting and driving doesn’t have to come from the issuance of tickets by police.

“I guarantee you the state… has someone who can come to your (town and do) a presentation on what they’re seeing texting and driving and what the results are,” Napier said. “Take a peek at the whole community as we televise our meetings and (give) a nice presentation. “

As the walk returns to Kaposia, they follow a path that descends into a ravine.

Once the ravine trees surround them, Napier and Francis make remarks about their childhood in nearby communities – including Napier saying he used to party when he was young at Kaposia Park.


They turned and walked back to where their walk had started.

Standing in the open space near the baseball diamonds, Francis said, “I always thought we should have a camping event here.”

They explained how one or both cities could choose a public park where, for a night or even a week, residents could rent a pitch and pitch a tent. Francis said it could be fun to organize and do an annual event.

“When (another park) was doing it, it led to these families who are unwilling to go to the boundary waters and probably wouldn’t go there with a 6 and 7 year old, but they can manage a night out. in town, ”said Francis.


Just before leaving, Napier turned to Francis and told him he had one last question: How do you deal with homeless settlements?

Napier said West St. Paul will not normally interfere until there are issues. But recently, a homeless man living in a park stole a woman’s purse and attempted to steal her car.

“I want to try to prevent something bad from happening and be able to accommodate someone who is unlucky,” he said.

Francis said he recommends that the police talk to them and try to offer them housing vouchers and connect them to Dakota County social services if possible. Napier said he wanted to make sure he was providing services and being understanding, but also to make sure our communities stay safe.

The walk ended between the baseball diamonds and the Kaposia Park parking lot with a short discussion of edible vegetation in the parks.

“I was walking some (Mendota Height trails) and it’s like, man, that would be so smart. Why don’t we bring out raspberries? said Francois.