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Guest Opinion: Brainerd progress

Brainerd has the potential to do something wonderful with the Mississippi River running through our city. My husband and I are back from two weeks of vacation. All the similar sized towns we visited we compared to Brainerd. Not every town can sit...

Brainerd has the potential to do something wonderful with the Mississippi River running through our city. My husband and I are back from two weeks of vacation. All the similar sized towns we visited we compared to Brainerd. Not every town can sit near Lake Superior or Glacier National Park, but many had common characteristics: They had a downtown. They had historic buildings. They had a central park. These towns all capitalized on their unique geography and history.

We enjoyed sampling the regional flavor and fun in each of the areas we visited. These towns also took action to make these things happen. Business and government (that's us, the citizens!) working together. It is not the people who say it can't be done and are negative about any possible change or growth. People and leaders with vision made these towns successful.

The Mississippi River Committee had its first meeting March 26, 2014. Thirty-plus citizens representing many agencies, businesses, civic groups and neighborhoods volunteered to serve on this committee and met regularly. My husband and I were members of this group. Consultants were also asked to join from Mississippi Headwaters, National Park Service and the University of Minnesota. We looked at what towns our size were doing - what was working and what was not.

Many of us feel that Brainerd is not utilizing natural assets that would draw business and visitors. We wanted a vision that would preserve the river corridor and also allow citizens to enjoy the river. There is a start already. The Brainerd Rotary Club donated 236 acres. A community garden and dog park are already in place. Trails for walkers and bikers are in place. Kiwanis Park is ideally located and features parking and a play area for children.

On June 15 the Brainerd City Council heard our plan and agreed to explore the options presented and submit a grant application to the Greater Minnesota Parks and Trails Commission. The Council voted 6-1 to proceed. The Brainerd Foundation offered money to fund a coordinator and HRA would oversee this person. The 30-person citizen advisory committee then moved to a nine person subcommittee in July 2015 after an application process.

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The newly appointed River Front subcommittee will explore opportunities and seek grants, businesses and funding to implement some of the doable ideas brought forth by the citizen group over the last year. Thanks to Brainerd City Council for giving this the nod and putting the idea in its Vision Plan.

We were delighted to return home and find Street Fest downtown this weekend. We would like to thank the Jaycees for all their work in building this annual event to be citizen and tourist friendly! These are the things that drew us in as we vacationed; not the strip malls that were similar from town to town and state to state.

This is a great idea whose time has come. The time is now and it is critical that we move forward vs. shelve yet another plan to grow the future of Brainerd.

Marcia Ferris of Brainerd was a River Front Committee member from March of 2014 to July of 2015

Related Topics: BRAINERDMISSISSIPPI RIVER
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