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Our Opinion: Crow Wing looking in the right direction to save Pequot fire tower

Far too often we take for granted the wonderful history we have right here in Crow Wing County.

That's why we appreciate Crow Wing County's—and specifically Commissioner Paul Thiede's— efforts to save for future generations the Pequot Lakes fire tower.

When the tower closed in June of 2017, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources official said the agency would be open to having another entity take over the site.

Thiede has suggested the county be that entity. We fully agree with Thiede and support the county's efforts to do just that.

Thiede on Jan. 16 suggested the county pay the DNR $1 for the tower, with the ultimate goal of reopening it to the public. He also noted a possibility for the area around the fire tower to become a public park someday and maybe even the site of a fire suppression museum. On Jan. 23, the county board approved sending the DNR a letter of interest regarding the fire tower.

"I believe the county is the right one to own this because it sits on a 40-acre parcel of land that is a working forest," Thiede said. "The cities don't have a forestry plan. We have the facilities to incorporate it in our own forestry plan."

While Commissioner Paul Koering offered skepticism about the idea—specifically regarding park development bring a core responsibility of county government—we hope he, other commissioners and the DNR will see the benefit to preserving this landmark for the public.

Located off County State Aid Highway 11, The 100-foot-tall tower was built in 1934. In 2017, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. While the tower is no longer in use it is an excellent example of fire spotting towers that once dotted the northwoods of Minnesota. There also used to be towers near Gull Lake in Nisswa and Ahrens Hill in Brainerd, both of which were removed once deactivated.

Yes, the county would assume liability if it took over the fire tower, as would any organization that owned it. There also would be funds needed to study the soundness of the structure as well as costs for ongoing maintenance. And due to past vandalism, there would be a need to better security measures in place to thwart such activity. All of which costs money.

While the county has a duty to preserve and improve assets and infrastructure now and into the future, we believe spending to preserve the past also merits support. And the fire tower is just one small part of the myriad things that helped define what Crow Wing County is today.

Sure, the cost might not actually be $1 for the fire tower and it's understandable that the other commissioners might be hesitant at this stage, but we still believe it's a worthy effort to pursue.

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