For a small town with a population of 2,337, the Crosby area, along with the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, has been getting a lot of press-and the national excitement about the local mountain bike trails continues to grow.
The latest media recognition is found in the cover headlines of the recent edition of Outside
magazine: "The Best Places to Live" and "America's Smartest Towns." In the Outside article, Crosby's example was included in the "Six Habits of Highly Successful Cities."
The reason given for their success was the way it embraced adventure recreation by "investing in trails . . . to transform culture and cash flow." Since the mountain biking trails opened in 2011, "nearly 30,000 cyclists and close to $2 million has been added to the local economy each year," said the article. But the biggest benefit seen by Outside-and why it's a "Best Place to Live"-was the change in lifestyle, which attracted new breweries, dining establishments, and even a wood-fired pizza eatery that is located right on the trail.
In the article, Aaron Hautala, president emeritus of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew and owner of RedHouseMedia, mentioned that the hospital, a major employer, loves the new area businesses that their recruiters can show to the doctors. Plus, "biking is just one anchor tenant-with the nearby natural and mine lakes, we feel like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding could be others. The diversity will lead to sustainability."
Dr. Howard McCollister, a doctor and surgeon with Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, has seen firsthand how the area's attractions appeal to medical professionals.
"The Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area and the infrastructure, amenities, and cultural change it has created in our local communities over the past seven years have become some of the most valuable tools we have in recruiting talented, young physicians to the area," said McCollister.
The recreation area mountain bike trail system has grown from state-wide interest to now much- larger, national and even international recognition. It was recently recognized by People for Bikes with the Places for Bikes, "Bike Destination Tourism Award"-a national designation provided by an industry benchmark authority. Outside has also named the Crosby area among the "top 25 places to visit in world right now," and Men's Health said it's a top 5 winter fat-biking destination in the United States. The Cuyuna Lakes Chamber also sees increasing interest in the region as a recreation destination.
"Last year it was estimated 185,000 people visited the recreation area," said Jessica Holmvig, executive director of the Cuyuna Lakes Chamber. "The Chamber has received requests for visitor information from all over the United States and Canada-we have even been getting requests from France, Yugoslavia, and Germany! The Cuyuna region is unique and its charm is infectious."
The city of Bentonville, Ark., was another location mentioned in the Outside article as a swiftly-rising and not-to-be missed mountain biking destination. Hautala recently spoke at the two-day inaugural Arkansas Bike Summit, which was hosted by Visit Bentonville.
"The trails in Bentonville were a high bar of excellence-the highest bar I've ever seen," said Hautala. "The trail starts in the middle of town amid art galleries, eateries, movie theaters, and shops. You're literally immersed in a city on a cool mountain biking trail." The transformation of the Crosby area was partnership work at its finest. Its origins began years ago with the back-breaking labor of the miners and their families who initially worked to excavate and extract a living from the mines. After mining shut down and pulled out, the abandoned mines filled with water and became lakes. However, it took the efforts of many individuals, groups, community stakeholders, government agencies, and state agencies such as the Minnesota DNR, as well as elected representatives and senators, to fully change the direction.
Almost 40 years ago, local townspeople started with a massive clean-up of the former mine areas that had become a dumping ground, which helped spark the vision of constructing the trails in what had become the recreation area in 1993, and then led to 15 new businesses (plus two more on the way) established in the community over the last few years.
Crosby Mayor Bob Novak is enthused about the renewed sense of positivity and community pride.
"I've been here my whole life and today is as bright as it was many, many years ago," said Novak. "I also celebrate the smart decisions made by so many city administrations-Ironton, Crosby, Deerwood, Cuyuna, Riverton, Trommald-along with the grassroots volunteers, in bringing the CCSRA vision to life. It's a major recognition that we all share together. I've never seen the communities more positive and excited about our future together."
Hautala believes that the area's progress is not at the finish line, but it's just beginning to run.
"With Outside's 16 million active-lifestyle participants on notice," said Hautala, "plus a supportive, human-powered, outdoor recreation community that stretches across the country and across the pond-even into Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland-the future of the Cuyuna region as a 'Best Place to Live' looks promising indeed."