Town & Country Club’s Greenwashing Welfare Queening

Town & Country Club Trees Sidewalk
Chip Michel’s Misleading “Environmental Activism” – September 2, 2010

Back on August 4th, I called St. Paul’s Town & Country Club welfare queens because they threatened to sue the city because the city planned to build a sidewalk along their property on Marshall Avenue. As I understand it, every citizen of the City of St. Paul would pay an assessment when a sidewalk is placed along their property. However, despite the fact that T&C’s members are among the city’s wealthiest, they fought the assessment, so now every resident of the City of St. Paul gets to pay for T&C’s new sidewalk.

At the time, Matt pointed out in the comments that Town & Country had placed “Save these Trees” signs on large pines near the corners of Otis & Marshall and Cretin & Marshall. I snapped a few pics:

Town & Country Club Trees Sidewalk
September 2, 2010

Notice that there is a path worn along the boulevard from the high use this area gets today, pre-sidewalk. Also, notice at the base of the photo that there is a sidewalk in parts of the boulevard already:

Town & Country Club Trees Sidewalk
September 2, 2010

Which made me think: Wait a minute! It sure looks like a sidewalk will fit along the boulevard without touching any of the larger trees that Town & Country has placed yellow ribbons on. Perhaps that’s explained by this quote from Ward 4 Councilmember, Russ Stark in the Highland Villager piece by Jane McClure where he said:

In my mind, and in the estimation of the many community members who conceived and worked to implement this project, this public good outweighs the loss of the crab apple trees and the addition of a modest amount of concrete.

Crab apple trees? Ah, yes, the ones that are actually on the boulevard are the ones that will be coming down.

So, why was Town & Country placing ribbons on trees inside of their fence, far away from the street to not be impacted by the sidewalk plan? It’s almost as if Chip Michel is lying to us about the scope of the project.

Post Excavation Reality

The project is now taking place, at the expense of the citizens of St. Paul, and here is what it looks like:

Town & Country Club Sidewalk v. Trees
September 25, 2010

See what I see? The crap apple trees along the boulevard are now gone, but the fence is still in place. The trees inside the fence – the ones with the yellow ribbons and “Save These Trees” signs – are still standing, and still hoping to be “saved” from being dragged into Town & Country’s misinformation campaign.

Town & Country Club Sidewalk v. Trees
September 25, 2010

Facing Cretin along Marshall, the pine on the corner with the “Save These Trees” sign is doing fine.

Town & Country Club Sidewalk v. Trees
September 25, 2010

Down at Otis & Marshall, the “Save These Trees” sign remains intact well back from the excavation needed to put the sidewalk in.

Town & Country Club Sidewalk v. Trees
September 25, 2010

The yellow ribboned pines remain standing to the south of the 9th green.

Town & Country Club Sidewalk v. Trees
September 25, 2010

I walked the boulevard near Otis to see if ANY older growth trees had been removed. The above shot shows what I believe is the largest tree trunk cut. It’s around 1″ thick.

Town & Country’s Misinformation Campaign

The “Save These Trees” sign at Marshall & Cretin includes a domain name on it ( On that site, the man who sued the city, Chip Michel, posted the following plea:

Family, Friends and Friends I haven’t met yet.

I recently did something I may regret but I am to the point where I am more than tired of our elected representatives ignoring the feelings and desires of us little ones (voters) down in the neighborhoods.
I filed a personal lawsuit against the City of St Paul for an injunction (stopping) the construction of a sidewalk along North side of Marshal Ave between Otis & Cretin Avenues. This stretch borders the Town & Country Club.
I am having trouble finding anyone
This perked my interest and emotion as I rode the path along the golf course as a boy. Enjoying the feeling of a dirt bike ride. Having lived here for 60+ years I know there is little if any demand for a sidewalk there. So I start asking around. Other than some people with very personal goals I can find very few people who disagree with me. Where is the benefit of the common good?
The project the city wants to do and buy the way will do it unless I can get my injunction will put a sidewalk on the green grass, require the removal of dozens of trees, including 80+ year old mature ones. And will eventually force the property owner to build a retaining wall to keep the hill from moving down on the new proposed sidewalk. More concrete in the picture. We are engaging professional arborists to give an estimate of the potential damage to the root systems of dozens of additional mature trees on the owner’s property, thus resulting in their eventual demise and will send out an update when I have it.

This is not just about the project as it is just the tip of the iceberg.
My goal here is to send a message to our duly elected representatives’ to stop spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need.
The City is running a huge deficit; we are closing schools and laying off teachers. And we building a sidewalk no one wants.
I need your help to send a message that we the voters are tired of the fiscal & environmental irresponsibility.
I ask that you please print out the attached petition in this sight sign it, get as many friends & neighbors to sign it and get it back to my house. I also ask that you forward it to any St Paul resident in your e mail address book.
I need only St Paul resident voters and all the help I can get.
I will keep you all up-dated.

Thanks for your support.

Chip Michel
1731 Summit Ave
St Paul, MN. 55105

While I have no doubt that Chip Michel has fond memories of dirt biking along that stretch as a child, his framing of the environmental damage and impact on older trees was not at all accurate. If that doesn’t come across in the writing, here is what he envisioned as a before/after for that area:

Chip Michel’s Before Shot:

Town & Country Save Our Trees Misinformation

Chip Michel’s artist rendition of the impact of the new sidewalk:

Town & Country Save Our Trees Misinformation

As Chip Michel seems to see it, adding a sidewalk along Marshall Avenue will have an environmental impact similar to living through many nuclear winters. Keep in mind that the artist’s rendition above is of an area that already had a sidewalk. The sidewalk existed. The trees didn’t collapse. The hill didn’t need to be supported with a retaining wall. That’s a reality that Chip Michel and his misleading artist rendition chose to ignore.

Chip Michel and Town & Country screwed the citizens of the City of St. Paul on this deal. They misled people by pretending this was an environmental issue, when it sure seems like T&C & Michel were more interested in dispersing the sidewalk costs onto people less fortunate than members of their private golf club.

6 thoughts on “Town & Country Club’s Greenwashing Welfare Queening”

  1. I recall about 10 years ago when Town and Country wanted to have the city vacate the stretch of Otis Avenue that runs between their clubhouse property and their golf course property. People who use that street protested and the proposal died. One of the neighbors gave what is still my all-time favorite (and all-purpose) quote in a neighborhood newspaper: “Those big meanies.”

  2. @Chris, it would be great to see people in power use their power for good, rather than as litigious, self-serving, regressive, tax distribution schemes.

    @Mike, they have some great terrain.

    I wonder how Chip Michel can honestly suggest that there is no demand for a sidewalk when there is a well-worn path along that boulevard. If a similar well-worn path formed on the golf course, you can be sure that they’d pave the path.

  3. For the number of golfers I see out there (in my almost daily drives past, I’ve never seen more than a handful and usually no one), they should give up the game and convert it to a mountain bike trail.

  4. Nailed it. Well done, Ed.

    Think of all the better ways that money coulda been spent, rather than giving it to the private golf set. Still, it is the best sledding in the Cities…

  5. I like trees too!

    So maybe the city should annex the area behind those trees and build the path up on the golf course. Or, maybe this winter someone might slip on that “boyhood dirt path” and sue the dickens out of the Country Club.

  6. I don’t get the argument. If the money is better spent on other projects than by all means use it.

    The residents around the area and the golf course don’t seem to want it, why would they want to pay for it?

    Who’s responsible for keeping it shoveled in the winter? What about the upkeep?

    What has changed in the area do determine that a sidewalk is now necessary when for all these years it was not.
    – did they recently build apartments
    – has a bus line been added.
    – turned ankles and resulting lawsuits?
    I guess I just don’t have all the facts.

    Isn’t it the city of St.Paul in the wrong for pushing it through and using assessed money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.