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Friday, February 05, 2010

Urban Renewal Awards, Vento Nature Sanctuary, St. Paul, Minnesota

On the banks of the Mississippi River, Vento Nature Sanctuary is now home to bald eagles, blue herons, and acres of restored wetlands. It’s also popular with rock and ice climbers who like to propel themselves up the steep walls that rise from the river.  Yet, Vento was once a dying rail yard, left to rust by the Burlington National Railroad. Thanks to a grant from the city’s Metropolitan Council and private donations, all contaminated soil was removed and the boundaries of the park were expanded so folks can have more green space to play.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/05/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Urban Renewal Awards, Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor

One of 34 Boston Harbor Islands that dot the waterfront and are part of a National Historic Park, Spectacle Island had its heyday in the 1840s as a large gambling resort and brothel. As of late, the island was merely a dumping ground for garbage. Then someone had the brilliant idea to create a dike to contain the trash and use the dirt from The Big Dig to reshape the island, providing topsoil for planting trees and other shrubbery.  Today, the heaping mound of soil has created the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine. Leaving its smelly past behind, the 105-acre park has a trail system weaving through the interior, beaches to comb for sea glass, and public access by ferry. Local naturalist and Walden author Henry David Thoreau didn’t have Spectacle Island in mind when he spoke of preserving America’s “wild spaces,” but it’s refreshing to see good ole Yankee ingenuity at work.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/04/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Urban Renewal Awards, Los Angeles State Historic Park

For most of the 20th century, this large plot of land in downtown Los Angeles was used as an immense Union Pacific railroad yard. When Union Pacific closed shop in 1989, the property laid dormant until 2001. As California State Parks hemmed and hawed about how best to convert the space into a park, artist Lauren Bon, backed by a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, had her own ideas. With the help of The Trust for Public Land, they excavated some 5,000 tons of soil contaminated with hydrocarbons and metals, planted more than a million corn seeds, and installed an irrigation system to create her artwork, Not a Cornfield. The large crop has now been harvested to make way for bike trails and fields of wildflowers. Los Angeles State Historic Park is still being landscaped, but close to half of the property is open to the public.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/03/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Urban Renewal Awards, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

The curved rusted steel of Richard Serra’s Wake (2004) resembles the hull of a ship, perfectly suited for Seattle’s seafaring tradition. Children run around the large structure, warned by their parents not to touch. Other families meander by Calder’s tall, red Eagle (1971), eyeing the iconic Space Needle in the background. A dog walker ambles past one of Oldenburg’s signature typewriter erasers, following the zig-zag trail that rises above railroad tracks and leads to the waters of Puget Sound and the snowcapped peaks that stand tall in the horizon. 

Unveiled in January 2007, Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park is a glorious addition to the city’s waterfront. It’s even more remarkable when you understand the history behind this 9-acre parcel of land.  For more than 60 years, this section of Belltown was dotted with oil tanks owned by UNOCAL (Union Oil Company of California). The petroleum seeped into the land creating a brownfield that would take over a decade to clean up when operations ceased in 1975. Yet, today, the once vacated industrial wharf is now brimming with life as more than a half-million people visited Olympic Sculpture Park in its first year.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/02/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, February 01, 2010

Urban Renewal Awards—First Stop, High Line Park, Manhattan

The latest trend in urban design is blurring the line between civilization and nature to create parks from contaminated sites, landfills, and abandoned manufacturing plants. This week, I want to focus on green spaces that were once urban eyesores and are now popular spots to walk, bike, and simply be outdoors. For decades, the High Line served as an elevated railway track that brought freight into Manhattan. By 1980, the trains had stopped running and the tracks were sliding into decay that, somewhat remarkable, was also a kind of blossoming. Nature re-established itself as saplings and wind-sown grasses sprouted in the rail beds. The trees took root and so did an inkling of an idea, almost Seuss-like, to create a public space that would be 30-feet high above the city and nearly 1.5 miles long. What a way to see New York, from above!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/01/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, January 29, 2010

Tweet, Tweet For a Free Trip to Africa

If you still haven’t signed up for a Twitter account, we have a great reason to join.  Acacia Africa is featuring a “Wild Tweep” competition, where one lucky winner will walk away with a 6-day African Insight overland safari. Simply fill out the Q&A and confirm that you can give them 20 minutes of your time for a live “tweet up” on Acacia Africa’s twitter page (Friday, February 26th, from 1 to 1:20pm London time). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer questions on South Africa and tell us why you can’t get enough of the Rainbow Nation. Completed Q&As should be emailed to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Entries are being accepted until February 12th.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/29/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Go Dutch

I just received this promo from the Netherlands Board of Tourism. Starting a week from today, February 4th, you can click on www.holland.com and enter to win such prizes as a monthly delivery of fresh tulips for a year, a Dutch bicycle, an iconic piece of Dutch furniture, even a diamond made in Amsterdam. The biggest prize is two round trip, KLM business class tickets to Amsterdam, given to the person who sends in the most creative photograph under the heading “Just be. In Holland.” While there, take that Dutch bicycle on the country’s increasingly popular biking and barge trips. The beauty of these bike trips is that unlike a typical inn-to-inn biking trip, you don’t have to pack your bags every morning to check in at the new night’s lodging. The barge follows you along the route, so you’ll be staying in the same berth the entire trip.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/28/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rafting the Rogue River, Oregon

A four-hour drive south of Portland or a 6-hour jaunt north of San Francisco is the remote Rogue River in southern Oregon. Cutting through dense forests of pine and scrub oak, the Rogue is definitely off-the-beaten-track, a place where writer Zane Grey could think in peace and put his pen to the paper. So it’s no surprise that the Rogue become one of the first rivers to come under federal protection when 84 miles were designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1968. On a weekend trip this summer with Rogue Wilderness Adventures, you’ll raft a 34-mile chunk of the Rogue, camping one night and spending the next night at a historic lodge. An added bonus is that the gourmet dinners are paired with some of Oregon’s best pinot noirs. Price of the 3-day guided jaunt is $899 per person.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/27/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Biking and Sailing Egypt

While we’re on the subject of intriguing tours, Beyond Boundaries Travel out of Colorado Springs has teamed with Flash Tour of Cairo to create new biking and sailing trips in Egypt. So far, there are two 8-day itineraries, one along the Red Sea, heading into the undiscovered Eastern Desert. The second seems more exciting, heading to the pyramids along the Nile River between Aswan and Luxor. Since Egypt can get pretty hot in the spring and summer months, most of the biking is done in the early morning. You’ll visit Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings, and many small villages that will be stunned to see a group of bikers riding by. All of the trips are guided and van-supported if you get tired, and include all lodgings and food. Trips start at an affordable $1153 per person.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/26/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Camel Trekking Across the Moroccan Desert

In the 90s, active travel outfitters like Backroads gained popularity by offering inn-to-inn biking and hiking trips. Other sports like rafting and sea kayaking started to appear in itineraries in the first decade of the new millennium. The latest trend is family adventures, taking the whole clan down to say, Costa Rice for a week and trying as many sports as possible. Also growing in popularity are more historical adventures, like this trip I just received from Baobab Expeditions. From February 20-March 1, 2010, you can join the outfitter on a 50-mile camel trek across the Moroccan desert on an old caravanserai route. The trip begins and ends in Marrakech, before heading out with Berber Guides to the oases of Lawina and Saf’Sef. You’ll sleep under the palms while enjoying traditional Berber food and listening to the music, drums, tambourines and singing of the locals. Then it’s on to Erg Chebbi to see the sand dunes rising to over 500 feet. Pricing begins at $3533 and includes lodging, food, guides, and all the drinking water you can swallow.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/25/10 at 02:00 PM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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