When a contest for ideas to improve a city draws more than 900 entries, some are bound to be a little strange.
When it comes to big plans for improving St. Paul, a fishing museum makes sense. Water bottle filling stations to reduce waste, too. But a zip line from one of the city's highest bridges? Or planting city parks in mushrooms?
When a contest for ideas to improve a city draws more than 900 entries, some are bound to be a little strange. And that was the case for the St. Paul Forever Challenge, an annual affair that saw a flood of entries after sponsors promised to spend $1 million to make the winner a reality.
The winning idea will be chosen in September, with $1,000 going to the person who suggested it. The St. Paul Foundation, which sponsored the contest, will choose a nonprofit to follow through on the idea.
St. Paul Foundation spokeswoman Naomi Pesky tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/Z9HWj6 ) that the organization is thrilled by the response.
"This has captured the imagination of the public, the media and the state," Pesky said. "We really want to have transformational ideas."
There were a few of those.
Guy Eggers of Minneapolis envisions a resort made up of tree houses. These would be built like small cottages stuck in trees, possibly along the Mississippi River. Eggers said there are several tree house resorts around the world, but this would be the first in an urban area.
"There is a lot of childhood tree house nostalgia out there," said Eggers, who played in a tree house as a boy. "People have nostalgia and 'Swiss Family Robinson' on their mind."
Alvin Stafford of Eagan proposed fish houses for the homeless, similar to collapsible ice-fishing houses. Such a house could be carried in a backpack, he said.
Among other ideas:
—A "puckleball" field, which would be deliberately uneven and off-center to challenge assumptions about sports.
—Planting mushrooms on unused land.
—Upgrading bus stops to make them more friendly, including offering games such as chess.
—A festival for painting or chalking city streets in an artistic way.
—A zip line across the Mississippi River, beginning at either the High or Wabasha bridges
—Making the city more hospitable for those with Alzheimer's disease.
—A "Chamber of Conscience," a group for people who "recognize their interdependence."
—Laser projectors that, once a year, would project the newly created emblems of St. Paul neighborhoods into the sky.
Many ideas were practical.
One would upgrade signs to make navigation easier for St. Paul drivers. Others would add seat belts in school buses and build parking lots that could be used when snow limits street parking.
Ideas offered for St. Paul Forever Challenge: www.mnideaopen.org/foreversaintpaul