Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

East Grand Forks losing patience with bike collector

Steve Magenau started collecting bicycles at his home on Fourth Avenue Northeast in East Grand Forks about five years ago, with a goal of donating as much as possible. But over the years, the bikes started piling up by the dozens, irking neighbor...

Dozens of bicycles line the backyard of Steve Magenau in East Grand Forks. The city is considering declaring his property a public nuisance.
Dozens of bicycles line the backyard of Steve Magenau in East Grand Forks. The city is considering declaring his property a public nuisance.

Steve Magenau started collecting bicycles at his home on Fourth Avenue Northeast in East Grand Forks about five years ago, with a goal of donating as much as possible. But over the years, the bikes started piling up by the dozens, irking neighbors and prompting a city hearing last week to determine if his yard has become a public nuisance.

The City Council ultimately decided to take the issue under advisement at its July 5 meeting, but hashed out a deal with Magenau, who agreed things had gotten out of hand and told council members he has been seeing a professional for hoarding issues, giving him until Aug. 1 to have his yard cleaned out.

Magenau said he first began collecting the bikes when a friend mentioned an effort to fix up old bikes to be sent to Africa through a charity. Last year, he said he sent 300-400 bikes there.

Eventually, Magenau no longer needed to collect bikes for himself. They'd just show up. His fenced-in back yard is lined with bicycles: old-style cruisers, three-wheeled Schwinns, mountain bikes in a wide range of conditions, antique road bikes and a 1978 Huffy Bandit among them. The side and front yard are fairly clear.

On Friday afternoon, he pointed at a blue road bike frame on a trailer near his garage.

ADVERTISEMENT

"This bike just showed up today," he said.

He estimates he's given away around 800 bikes over the years and told the Herald and City Council members he places as many as he can in a friend's warehouse when there's space. Magenau said he provided a number of bicycles to the Northlands Rescue Mission in Grand Forks a couple of years back.

Last April, the bikes hit a high point-Magenau estimates he had 175 then lining his yard-and the city took notice and issued him a warning. Last August, the city issued him a junkyard citation, which he paid.

In May, the city issued him another notice, according to City Attorney Ronald Galstad. He told the council Magenau had done a "great job" cleaning it up at the time. But the bikes kept coming back, and in June he was issued another junkyard ticket.

Galstad told the council Magenau "seems to have good intentions," but "there is a public nuisance and safety issue."

"There's been progress, but not enough," council member Mike Pokrzywinski said.

Pokrzywinski said he'd be willing to be patient as long as progress continues. Other members were harsher.

"Your property is the most disgraceful thing I've ever seen," said council member Henry Tweten.

ADVERTISEMENT

An exasperated Tweten, 93, said Magenau's yard was negatively affecting his neighbors and their property value.

On Friday afternoon, Magenau was out in his yard working on it. There was a dumpster in his driveway and a horse trailer in the street loaded up with bikes. His garage door was open, revealing a crowded space with several bike parts and miscellaneous items.

Dennis McDaniel, a Crookston man who cuts the grass across the street for Polk County Public Health, stopped by looking for a bike for his oldest grandson. Magenau, who said he doesn't sell the bikes, told McDaniel he'd probably have something he could use. He might not be able to much longer, he said, explaining his situation with the city to McDaniel.

"Everybody comes to you for help, but the city don't want you to help anyone, huh?" McDaniel said.

'It's a lot of tension'

Magenau understands that some of his neighbors are upset, and said he'd spoken to the person trying to sell a house across the street.

He's tried to stop the bikes and other items, such as car batteries and lawn mowers from being dropped off. This year, he said, he started adamantly telling people no.

But the stuff keeps coming, like the green snowblower parked next to a dumpster in his driveway that he said appeared that morning. The person who left it there didn't bother talking to him.

ADVERTISEMENT

Magenau said East Grand Forks Police drive by his house constantly. He believes they're looking to an excuse to ticket him, an issue he raised to council members at the hearing. Pokrzywinski replied that police were probably responding to pressure from council members and city staff who are fielding complaints from neighbors. Friday afternoon officers drove by three times in about a half hour while he spoke to the Herald.

Magenau claims he has had harsh interactions with some neighbors, who have exchanged words with him and his family.

"It's a lot of tension," he sighed.

The city has given Magenau until Aug. 1 to have his yard cleaned out. He said it will be done by then. After acknowledging his hoarding issue to the council, Mayor Steve Gander recommended that even after that deadline, the city check up on it every two weeks, to make sure there's no bike relapse.

Magenau is tired of dealing with the issue, and while he said he understands why some are upset and that he needs to clean it up, he can't help but feel persecuted.

"It's depressing," he said. "You try to do something good and get stabbed in the back."

Bikes stack up in Magenau's backyard. He began collecting the bikes to donate to charity. He estimates he's donated about 800 bikes over the last five years.
Bikes stack up in Magenau's backyard. He began collecting the bikes to donate to charity. He estimates he's donated about 800 bikes over the last five years.

What To Read Next
Get Local

ADVERTISEMENT