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Anyone walking down Sherburne Avenue in St. Paul's Hamline-Midway neighborhood would likely notice the sunny yellow bungalow near Hamline Avenue: rocks, flowers and colorful mosaic sculptures cascade down its front yard.

Nor can you miss the woman behind all of it if she happens to be tending to her gardens, picking up trash or waving hello from her boulevard bench, surrounded by more sculptures and plants.

Iris Logan and her gardens are a Hamline-Midway landmark.

But now the city is requiring her to remove parts of them after someone complained that the gardens had encroached on the boulevard illegally. Meanwhile, the neighborhood group is rallying residents and trying to figure out how to allow some of Logan's boulevard installation to remain or otherwise honor her contributions to the neighborhood.

"I have so many people I have met," Logan, 69, said last week. "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."

Iris Logan sits on a bench on the boulevard in front of her St. Paul home that the city is ordering her to remove, along with dozens of rocks. She enjoys sitting there and looking at her elaborate sculpture and mosaic front garden.
Iris Logan sits on a bench on the boulevard in front of her St. Paul home that the city is ordering her to remove, along with dozens of rocks. She enjoys sitting there and looking at her elaborate sculpture and mosaic front garden.

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

The way Logan tells it, she got into gardening with rocks because the lawn just wasn't working out.

"I had been trying to grow grass and grow grass, and grass wasn't trying to be my friend," Logan said. Later, back surgery made it harder for her to mow.

She makes the mosaics herself, hand-cutting pieces of tile, plates and glass to assemble them in her dining room. She has won awards for some of her pieces and sold others. Many end up in her yard.

Logan received a letter from the city that said her boulevard garden, which included rocks, a bench and flower planters, violates city code Ch. 105. "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, said in an email to the Star Tribune. "This also allows for tree maintenance and provides a place to pile snow when shoveling or plowing."

Logan said she was surprised to hear it. She said she started putting her ornamentations on the boulevard 30 years ago, and the display has grown over the years without issue.

After Logan's daughter, Kendra Logan-Pierce, posted about her mom's situation on Facebook, Justin Lewandowski, a community organizer with the Hamline Midway Coalition, stopped by to help Logan figure out options. They contacted the City Council and started a petition to raise awareness and find a solution. About 600 people signed it.

Initially, Logan was given until Nov. 13 to remove objects on the boulevard. After appealing, a city legislative hearing clerk recommended an extension until Dec. 22.

On Dec. 6, the City Council will decide whether to approve, amend or veto the extension.

That happens to also be the day the council will discuss a separate, but related matter: a proposed amendment to St. Paul code from Council Member Chris Tolbert allowing some raised planters in boulevards.

Lewandowski said he hopes some of Logan's installations could be grandfathered in. If not, he said, he's hoping for a longer extension. He said he's in talks to move some of the boulevard work to nearby Midway Peace Park, where Logan spends time with her grandchildren.

"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.

Logan said she was heartbroken that her garden had caused someone to complain — and that neighbors she helped build boulevard rock gardens had also received orders to remove them.

Since receiving the letter, Logan has removed many of the rocks and planters on her boulevard. She said some days she won't let it stress her out, and other days it bothers her. "But that, too, shall pass," Logan said. "That's where I'm at."

She said she appreciates the support of neighbors but is frustrated that the city doesn't seem to enforce rules about boulevard gardens consistently. On her phone, she's collected photos of boulevard planters, boulders and benches — one much bigger than hers on Summit Avenue.

But she said she wouldn't report anyone.

Logan said she'd love to see the city amend the ordinance to allow more boulevard gardening. Still, she said, she's done with her boulevard.

"I'm not going back. I can't go back to that headache," she said. "I'm kind of over it, but what about the next person?"