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Officials hope beautification efforts instill pride

Next week, Brainerd residents wanting to get rid of certain unwanted items will only need to haul them to the curb. 

From May 9-13, city crews will be hauling away the items one area of the city at a time. On Monday, the work will start in north and northwest Brainerd. 

Each subsequent day leading to May 13, crews will work counter clockwise through the map — south Brainerd on Tuesday, southeast Brainerd on Wednesday, west of Mill Avenue in  northeast Brainerd on Thursday and west of Mill Avenue in northeast Brainerd on Friday. 

The residential, curb-side pick-up is just the start of the Brainerd beautification program, the brainchild of Brainerd City Council members Bob Olson and Bonnie Cumberland. 

A community-wide garage sale will follow on May 14, the city is encouraging resident to participate with Brainerd in Bloom and city staff will be doing an inventory of the city’s 220 blocks of alleys to identify nuisances. 

Olson said he got the idea for a residential curbside pick-up from a newspaper story about a cleanup effort in downtown n Brainerd. Council member Bonnie Cumberland was involved in that, so Olson enlisted her for a city-wide effort. 

“I wondered, “Why can’t we do this city-wide?” Olson said. “I called Bonnie and she said, ‘Let’s go.’

“This is the beginning of what could be something very wonderful for the city of Brainerd.”

Added Cumberland: “This has got so much energy behind it, we hope people will consider it even a little bit.”

The roots of a community cleanup go back further than the downtown cleanup effort, Olson said. He noted when he was mayor he started — and Cumberland continued during her tenure as mayor — encouraging neighborhood associations to promote their own cleanup efforts. 

“Those seemed to be very successful and they did what both of us wanted it to do — provide a pride of ownership in the community,” Olson said. 

The days of cleanup drives by neighborhood groups are gone, which is one of the reasons for a city-wide effort, Cumberland said. By doing so, it helps fulfill requirement of the city’s MS4 stormwater permit. 

The effort also ties in with the city’s five-year street and sewer improvement plan, Olson said. Other efforts will include increased street sweeping, better pavement markings at crosswalks and weed elimination. 

Cumberland said she’s already received tips on how to improve the beautification effort and wants to incorporate them into next year’s events. One change for next year, she said, might be to move the city-wide curbside pick-up to the fall so it doesn’t compete with the Kiwanis Club’s annual Kiwanis Community Clean-up Blitz, which is planned from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 7 between The Bodyworks and Mills Ford in Baxter. 

Olson and Cumberland both said they are pleased with the cooperation from their fellow council members and from city staf. Cumberland said she was excited about the opportunity for various departments — streets, parks, fire and public utilities — to work together for a week. 

Olson also thanked the Dispatch for its help promoting the cleanup event. He said the Brainerd beautification effort showed council members can cooperate despite not agreeing on every city issue.

Olson realizes a few might think the city-wide pick-up is a waste of money or a bad idea. He and Cumberland intend to present to the council an itemized financial statement on the costs of the project. 

“The citizens should know where their tax dollars went,” Olson said. 

The positives of beautifying Brainerd outweigh the negatives, Olson said. 

“(The cleanup program) has a lot of plusses. You can always have a couple of minuses, but forget that. Look at what this does.”

Cumberland echoed Olson’s statement.

“It’s so easy to look at the negatives. This would be a positive, something that’s attractive, something good that’s happening in the community.”

Cumberland emphasized people should pay attention to what day city crews will be in their neighborhoods because the crews won’t return for forgotten items. Olson reiterated that city staff will be hauling the items during normal business hours. There will be no overtime.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.