Conscience of the Greenway: Tim Springer

Tim Springer has resided in a neighborhood adjacent to the Midtown Greenway since 1988. An avid biker and environmental enthusiast, he has dedicated himself for the past eight years to creation, preservation, and improvement of the Greenway. “I don’t own a car and get around on my bike for many reasons,” Springer said. “To save money, protect the environment, stay healthy, but mainly because it’s fun!” Springer believes the country has overemphasized automotive travel over the last two decades, spurring an increase in pollution and decrease in physical fitness.

From Volunteer Work to
Organized Action

In 1992, Springer began volunteering with the Midtown Greenway Coalition (MGC), a grassroots organization representing the interests of the residents and businesses of the neighborhoods that surround the Greenway. At that time, MGC was an informal group of volunteers with no paid staff members. By 1996, MGC filed articles of incorporation with the state and received their non-profit status with the IRS. MGC then established its formal Board of Directors and hired Springer as MGC’s full-time Executive Director.

Originally the MGC was comprised mainly of cyclists whose goal was to make the Greenway a fast, safe and pleasant mode of bicycle transportation. The goal has since expanded and the broader vision now is to create a more beautiful, physical environment, with additional open park space. MGC also sees the Midtown Greenway as an organizing tool to increase the capacity collectively of the neighborhoods it serves.

Leadership and Perseverance
As director of the MGC, Springer has spent years furthering the shared aspirations of the representatives of the Greenway neighborhoods, and realizes the challenges his position holds. “It’s difficult to rally volunteer support at times,” Springer stated. “You’re selling a dream, an intangible.” And while Springer is a fierce and dedicated advocate, he admits that he is still susceptible to criticism. “I’m not even our fiercest member,” he laughs. “I’ve been reprimanded by my peers for not sticking up for the communities’ interests more.”

“My passion for revitalizing the Midtown Greenway stems from seeing the many opportunities that it presents, Springer noted. “Affordable, non-polluting transportation; more equal access to a beautiful environment across the city; a shift to localize development patterns so people don’t have to go as far as often; and the struggle for a grassroots voice in all of our lives for positive change.”

Springer identifies the acquisition and redevelopment of the former Honeywell campus by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and the redevelopment of the Great Lakes Center (formerly Sears) as two critical opportunities facing the MCW Partnership. “The Coalition has believed for years that the opportunity of the Greenway lies in changing its topography,” Springer said. “These two sites present unique opportunities in their redevelopment to incorporate pleasant, open spaces accessible to the Greenway.”

Success through Collaboration
and Partnership

Springer credits the MCW Partnership with mobilizing the ‘movers and shakers’ and bringing the needs and possibilities of the Midtown Greenway and the Lake Street Corridor to the forefront. “It’s fantastic that the MCW Partnership exists and that they are able to bring the necessary resources to the table to implement productive change,” he said. Springer notes the completion of the Corridor Framework as one tangible result of the work of the Partnership.

In the end, the partnership between the Midtown Greenway Coalition and the Midtown Community Works Partnership is essential. The MGC’s knowledge and familiarity with the Greenway is crucial to insightful development, while the MCW Partnership has brought resources to the Greenway that help to turn the vision into reality. “The Public Art Master Plan is another example of one of the tools the Partnership has provided,” Springer explained. “The Partnership is bringing a public art vision to the Greenway that the Coalition would never have the resources to fund.”

Springer is pleased to see progress and credits both MCW and MGC with maintaining a spirit of collaboration. “Though the Midtown Greenway Coalition and the MCW Partnership may disagree at times,” he observes. “We know that it is in all of our best interests to continue working hard together to get things done.”