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What does Brainerd need?

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What does Brainerd need?
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Recently Brainerd put out a “citizen survey” asking what people liked about the city and what they would like to change.

From a city with a population of 13,590 and a work force of 7,908, Brainerd received 130 responses.


Not a lot, considering.

A report will be coming in the near future summarizing the responses the city did get. Certainly the questions were broad in nature. Likes could well include the 14 parks, such as Gregory and Lum, Kiwanis and all the others, even the newest Trailside Park out on Beaver Dam Road.

There are tree-lined streets and well-kept neighborhoods. But visitors and residents alike commonly point to the view Brainerd presents on Washington Street where street leads to sidewalk, which leads to building wall as a corridor that could use a face-lift.

Consider if that’s all you ever saw of Brainerd, what impression does it leave of the city? Would you be inclined to stop? Would it make you want to live here?

In the past, the community discussed additions for the city such as a performing arts center or outdoor swimming pool. People have questioned what type of draw could be added to increase traffic downtown, additional ways to take advantage of the Northern Pacific Center’s historic appeal. There has been talk of what can be done to benefit east Brainerd, which may be farthest from the profitable Highway 371 corridor but is also home to considerable traffic of its own flowing into and out of Brainerd at the intersection of Washington Street and Mill Avenue.

The recent heat wave brought another need to mind. While the area is rich in lakes, it is decidedly poor in public beaches. And for children in the city the distance to Whipple Beach in Baxter or Lum Park or Pelican Beach is problematic.

One idea Brainerd might consider was added to Waite Park three years ago. Waite Park city staff said the addition of a Splash Pad to its River’s Edge Park has been a popular one.

I can imagine it would have had the same reaction here this past week as record temperatures swept through on an extended heat wave.

The Splash Pad has a capacity for nearly 200 people. Showers are available in the restroom area and along the side of the building. Various twirling features spray the pad with welcome cooling water. Park benches and picnic tables away from the water’s reach provide a place for those who’d rather watch their charges in the water than join them. The area is landscaped with trees, flowers and thick green grass.

River’s Edge Park has the Splash Pad along with three ballfields with batting cage, concessions, picnic area, disc golf course, soccer field, Sauk River fishing. In the winter, the park has skating rinks, hockey and a warming house.

It might not be the answer to everything Brainerd could be, and it’s not adding a massive jolt to the job market, but it could just be one of the things that makes living here even better — especially for those in the city without air-conditioning during a prolonged heat wave.

The “citizen survey” proved the city is looking for ideas and feedback from residents. Even though the survey is ended, that doesn’t mean residents can’t provide feedback to city hall and their council representatives.

What do you like about the city that could be enhanced or used as a foundation going forward? Where could Brainerd do a better job?

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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