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Sudents and faculty debate the tall grass on Cascade

October 10, 2014

Cascade Avenue’s new design is appearing to be a pain in the grass for those having to cross or drive down it on a regular basis.

The tall grass planted in the median of Cascade Avenue is something that students and faculty at UW-River Falls are not all that fond of.

Senior Destrey Zarfos and Junior Travis Kronk both say they’ve almost been hit several times this year already.

“I think it is terrible the way they designed it [Cascade], and the grass is too tall,” Kronk said.

Heather Wittkopf, a program assistant in the Business and Finance Office, said that she doesn’t really cross the road too often but she still feels that the grass is more of hazard then help for pedestrians.

“I think the tall grass should be removed because it’s hard to see for the drivers,” Wittkopf said.

If a large portion of the public deems the grass unsafe, why was it put there in the first place? Executive Director of Facilities Planning and Management Michael Stifter said that there was a purpose to the design of Cascade Avenue.

“Let me start by underscoring that the Cascade Avenue project in its entirety was approached in a way where pedestrian safety was paramount and anything aesthetic was secondary,” Stifter said. “Everything from the gentle curvature in the road to the diagonal angle of the crosswalks, to the addition of LED lighting, to the elimination of parking, to yes, even the median grasses, were a part of a very intentional design effort.”

The curve of the road and the tall grass were designed to slow drivers down. Joe Blum works at UWRF as Manager of Production Operations; he drives down Cascade Avenue frequently and the purpose of the design has been effective in slowing him down. But as a pedestrian he doesn’t feel that other drivers are as cautious as he is.

“I literally almost slow to a stop all the time in front of every crosswalk, just because I am afraid that someone is going to run by or bike by very quickly and I am not going to have time to react as a driver,” Blum said. “I just think they need to come up with a better design for that median. There is plenty of other nice shrubbery that you can put there that would look nice and not impede traffic.”

Stifter also mentioned that they have been cautious about over-trimming the grass because there are negative aspects to it. Drivers increase speed because they feel more comfortable, pedestrians could be more apt to cross the street outside of the crosswalk, and it increases vehicle delays.

When crossing Cascade Avenue, it should be noted that the crosswalks are intended to be treated as two separate crosswalks. Pedestrians should be looking before crossing at each crosswalk.

The city has released two YouTube videos discussing appropriate pedestrian conduct. Public Works Director and City Engineer Reid Wronski participated in the videos. The videos are entitled “One Minute City Rap.”

For now, though, the people have spoken.

“Get rid of that grass,” senior Connor Nelson said.