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Vogt's Notes: Pequot Lakes is moving full steam ahead

Getting control of Patriot Avenue will allow the city to pursue an ambitious Trailside Park project starting late next summer or fall. Plans have been in the works for a while and include closing a stretch of the current road from the stoplight to Sibley Street to unify both sides of the town and provide a central gathering place featuring a playground, splash park, flags display, veterans memorial and walking path. Click on photo to see entire image.

At a conference last week, I heard a speaker talk about transformation. One of her many points was the distinction between certain words we use and the energy of words we use.

One example she shared was "problem" vs. "solution." She said "problem" refers to something in the past, whereas "solution" refers to today. She talked about "problem-solving" vs. "solution seeking."

That made me think of Pequot Lakes.

The final, binding decision to expand Highway 371 to four lanes east of downtown Pequot Lakes rather than through the center of town was made in 2010 after much controversy, lots of hard feelings and strong, passionate beliefs on both sides of the issue.

Both sides fought hard. But once the decision was made, it was time for both sides to come together to be "solution seekers." That didn't necessarily happen as many who fought against a bypass route appear to have disappeared.

Nevertheless, others have stepped up and are working hard to ensure Pequot Lakes thrives even though the main highway no longer brings motorists right through the heart of the city.

"All roads are open, but Pequot Lakes is developing and doing some exciting things," Chris Monroe, Pequot Lakes Chamber director, recently said at a Brainerd Dispatch editorial board meeting.

The city is building a new public works facility south of the business park and will hire a new public works employee to help maintain the six miles of roads - mostly Patriot Avenue (the former two-lane Highway 371 through town) - that the city will take over as part of the highway expansion project.

Getting control of Patriot Avenue will allow the city to pursue an ambitious Trailside Park project starting late next summer or fall. Plans have been in the works for a while and include closing a stretch of the current road from the stoplight to Sibley Street to unify both sides of the town and provide a central gathering place featuring a playground, splash park, flags display, veterans memorial and walking path.

There are plans to improve a downtown quadrant of streets, leading to more connectivity between the east and west sides of town, as well as the ability to walk and bike through town. There are plans to spruce up the roundabouts on County State Aid Highway 11. There are plans for a temporary skate park until a permanent park can be built. There's an art in the park program where high school students display artworks at Trailside Park.

The city's Economic Development Commission is looking to expand fiber optic in the community, and recently did so in the business park. The commission also is considering how to develop 80-plus acres south of the business park.

The city is looking at its rental housing ordinance, as well as directional signs for businesses on Patriot Avenue.

The community gathered behind the Thriving Communities Initiative, an Initiative Foundation-led program to plan for the city's altered future with a new highway path. That program resulted in goals that various groups are now pursuing to improve the city.

Matt Kilian, Brainerd Lakes Chamber director, correctly said Pequot Lakes faces opportunities and challenges with a new traffic flow, and the community is reinventing itself.

Barb Merritt, owner of Merritt Jewelers in Pequot Lakes, admitted the businesses have had a rough couple of years during road construction and detours, but said the traffic is coming back and businesses are working together.

That's the key for the community's success is for people to work together - for people to be "solution seekers." The community is well on its way with no shortage of plans in the works. We applaud the efforts being undertaken and encourage all residents and businesses to get involved to keep the momentum going.

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