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City orders homeowner to deconstruct rock garden after complaint from neighbor: 'I had been trying'

A community organizer started a petition for a provision to exempt her street from city regulations.

A community organizer started a petition for a provision to exempt her street from city regulations.

Photo Credit: iStock

Iris Logan of St. Paul, Minnesota, had decorated her front yard for three decades, adorning it and the rest of the boulevard with rocks, plants, benches, and homemade mosaic sculptures. 

The 70-year-old's unique garden became a beloved trademark of the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, drawing praise and appreciation from passersby. 

"I have so many people I have met," Logan told the Star Tribune. "I have people walking and then they will see all of this and then they'll come down and they'll just say how great it is and how much work you put in."

That made it much more surprising to Logan when someone filed a complaint about her garden's illegally encroaching on the boulevard. The city ordered her to remove items from her and her neighbors' yards that she helped install. 

"Boulevards must be clear of installations or obstructions, including benches, large rocks, really anything that would impede access to buried utility lines," Casey Rodriguez, a spokesman for St. Paul's Department of Safety and Inspections, wrote in an email to the outlet. "This also allows for tree maintenance and provides a place to pile snow when shoveling or plowing."

Logan's artwork came about because of her inability to grow grass. "I had been trying to grow grass and grow grass, and grass wasn't trying to be my friend," Logan said.

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That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it allowed her to create a beautiful space that required far less watering and upkeep than a traditional lawn. She added to its eco-friendliness by upcycling items for her mosaic sculptures, hand-cutting tiles, plates, and glass in her dining room. 

Logan started removing stones and planters after receiving a letter from the city, but the community rallied behind her in the hopes of preserving some of her space.

Justin Lewandowski, a community organizer with the Hamline Midway Coalition, consulted with Logan and started a petition for a provision to exempt the boulevard from regulations, "given the Boulevard art has been in place for close to 30 years without prior issues." Lewandowski added that he was working to move her art to a park she and her grandchildren frequent.

"What we would like to do is to honor Iris' contributions to the community over the last 30 years, and beautification of the neighborhood and bringing neighbors together to celebrate art and walkability," he said

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