Ahlin: As the weather warms, we’re on the road again
When our cold wet spring finally gave way to bicycling weather, I couldn’t help but think of good old Willie Nelson singing “On the Road Again.” After gathering dust in the basement during the elongated winter, my bicycle didn’t need much coaxing. All it took was a quick stop to pump up tired tires and we were on our way.
The view along my favorite route – straight south to the turnaround at Heritage Hills – never changes much. There was the year the gorgeous plot of irises disappeared and the year River Keepers’ interpretive area of native plants showed up. The YWCA shelter was built and both Elim and Villa Maria care centers did building projects (more than once). Spring floods left rutted scars in the paved trail and, of course, some houses too close to the river were removed. Still, all in all, any change in scenery along the bike trail, particularly far south, likely was related to the growing season. There’s crop rotation – corn one year, beans the next and vice versa – but the most pleasing change always comes watching progression from planted seed to harvestable commodity, a process that never ceases to amaze.
Over the years, major changes seemed to happen across the highway from the bike path where housing developments sprang up and flourished. However, this year big change is afoot on the biking side of the road. And although I’d read it was going to happen, seeing it from the vantage point of my bike still startled me. Put simply, my trailer park is moving out – one trailer at a time – and I’m going to miss it.
Known as the Selkirk Settlement – a name hearkening back to the 5th Earl of Selkirk, a Scottish peer who sought to dominate trade in the Red River Valley long before Canada and the USA were separate countries – it’s “my” trailer park the same way other bike trail sections are my fields, my lilac bushes, my flowering crabs, my ditches. Areas along the bike path have been part of my summer circuit long enough for me to feel a wee bit possessive. The trailer park – probably more appropriately called a mobile home park (the homes have been in that same place longer than I’ve been riding the bike trail) – has been a constant marker along my path.
Set way back from both highway and trail, many of the longstanding units sported front or back decks, sometimes both, with outdoor furniture, planters and grills. (The only things left after one trailer was moved were its front and back decks – an odd sight.) Some homes with young children had slides or swing sets in the yard; other mobile homes had ramps indicating the residents used wheelchairs. Not a particularly large mobile home park, Selkirk Settlement, nevertheless, had the collective look of an established community in the midst of urban development.
That is, an established community with few trees and no fences or garages, one that theoretically always has been ready to move.
To be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised the Selkirk Settlement mobile home park lasted as long as it did. Some of its land has flooding concerns but most is prime for development. I can’t help but think the landowners felt emotionally tied to the park and its residents to have waited this long to sell.
On the south side of the Selkirk Settlement mobile home park is Salem Cemetery, a small cemetery with its first recorded burial in 1879. The settlers were Norwegians who built Salem Lutheran Church there in 1891. It wasn’t torn down until 1992, and today there is a granite marker where the church stood.
Chances are there won’t be a granite marker memorializing the Selkirk Settlement mobile home park, although I like the idea. As the trailers disappear, an era ends, and something new springs up in its place. That’s progress and probably the fate of my fields in the not too distant future. Whatever happens, those of us who ply the bike trail are along for the ride.
Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org