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Pine River group adopts mission statement, begins planning next steps

The Pine River group formerly calling itself Downtown & Main Street on Jan. 15 discussed an official name, defined its mission statement and began planning the next steps in its effort to increase the contribution of Paul Bunyan Trail traffic to the local community and businesses.

The meeting, led by Quinn Swanson of Happy Dancing Turtle and Jay Cline of First National Bank of Walker in Jenkins, was held at the Depot building. The group broke up to discuss the mission statement, settling on “To provide a thriving sustainable community with a compelling identity.”

Regarding possible names for the project, Swanson said Downtown & Main Street was an acceptable name if the group wanted it, but chamber director John Wetrosky informed them of a concern raised by other members of the community.

“I’ve had some comments from people along 371 that they feel like they are being ignored. So I think we somehow have to create some atmosphere, because we’re going to need them, like we always do,” Wetrosky said.

The group discussed the importance of including all the local businesses and community. The discussion ended with the name “Pine River Revitalization.” Members of the group suggested that the name should be considered further and discussed again at a later meeting.

The final portion of the meeting was dedicated to discussing current resources and deciding on the next step.

In October and December of last year the group consulted Envision Minnesota to create possible maps of a redesigned downtown. The favorite of these maps depicted Barclay Avenue as two lanes, flanking a center turning lane. The new model also has bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.

In theory these could direct traffic from the Paul Bunyan Trail across 371 and into the businesses on the other side.

Mike Hansen suggested that it might be better to begin the project with beautification, rather than the new street design with bike lanes.

“Your theme is one thing you’re going to want to establish earlier. It would seem to me that beautifying downtown would draw people down there, versus putting the bike path first. If you have a nice bike path, where does it go to?” he asked. “Let’s beautify it (the city) and then put the bike path in.”

Other members agreed with this sentiment.

“The bike lanes, I’m not against that, but I still think we need an identifier there,” Wetrosky said.

In terms of how to direct attention from the Paul Bunyan Trail and into town, money was discussed as a mitigating factor. Swanson urged the group to start by thinking big, because “if you aim little you get little.” The group did, however, propose options, which it deemed realistic.

“What we’re really trying to do is enhance the assets we already have,” Rod Osterloh said. “We’re not trying to necessarily create a new wheel, but to take what’s there and figure out how to use it in a better way.”

On that note, the group attempted to come up with ideas that used the city’s current assets. Wetrosky suggested that finding some way to advertise the river from a distance could work to their advantage.

“I always tell people the best part of Pine River is that river. I mean, it’s beautiful, but nobody ever sees it unless you direct them there,” he said.

In the past the group has considered installing a water fountain in the river that could be powered by the dam. Among other topics, the group discussed planting colorful flowers, displaying a large sign that can be seen from the trail, installing an informative kiosk near the information center, putting colorful bins outside of businesses, lining Barclay Avenue with flags on tall poles and playing music on the street.

Forbes Park was also discussed as an attractive asset of the area. Hansen said the park has seen an increase in use recently, which has prompted the city to make improvements and begin charging a small fee for overnight visitors to discourage squatting behavior.

Hansen said the park was one of only two overnight campgrounds between Brainerd and Bemidji located a convenient distance from the trail. The other is the Corps of Engineers Campground near Cass Lake.

Hansen suggested that the campground could receive more traffic from those riding the trail if it was better advertised and better known.

The group discussed this and many other ideas, though no actions were finalized. The next meeting will discuss themes, branding and identification and will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the Depot building.