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Crosslake: Crosslakers share progress on city projects

Crosslake community members gathered at Zorbaz Thursday, Aug. 10, to learn about projects the Crosslakers group has taken on. Attendees held up "yes" and "no" signs when asked if they knew certain things about the city or the group's initiatives.

The group that calls itself the Crosslakers filled Zorbaz on Thursday, Aug. 10, to discuss progress the group has made since coming together for the Minnesota Design Team's visit a year ago.

Core team member Mike O'Connell kicked off the "Did You Know?" themed meeting by reminding everyone why they were there.

"Crosslake does continue to develop itself," he said. "If we're not a part of it, it's going to develop around us without our influence or our positive impact."

Those gathered heard updates from six work groups that are focused on the community school, the comprehensive plan, water quality, connectivity, housing and a national loon center.

Crosslake Community School

LAKE Foundation member Mike Stone explained his group's desire to give Crosslake Community School students a new building for a better learning environment.

So far, the LAKE Foundation has raised about $1.3 million for the project but is still in need of about $500,000 before construction can start.

The goal is to begin work on the building - which has already been designed and can be viewed at - in September and have the facility open in late fall of 2018.

A ceremonial groundbreaking event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, at the new school site with food, music and activities for anyone who is interested. The groundbreaking ceremony will begin around 1:30 p.m.

Comprehensive plan

Crosslake City Council member Gary Heacox explained how his group is using the Crosslakers' five guiding principles - established after the MDT's visit - to guide its rewrite of the city's comprehensive plan.

Those principles are to: enhance the unique ecology of Crosslake; create vibrant places that connect people to nature; create better balanced facilities for driving, biking, walking and boating; provide a diverse mix of housing types and prices; and celebrate Crosslake's heritage.

Heacox said the National Joint Powers Alliance is helping with the rewrite and is working with the group to distribute surveys for community feedback before a final draft of the plan. A community meeting will also take place at a later date.

Water quality

Bob Perkins, chair of the Crosslakers, talked about the task force dedicated to water quality.

"Our objective is to promote, educate and guide the responsible use of land and water. Pretty much everything we do - day in and day out - is going to impact our water," Perkins said. "Flushing your toilet to dumping something down the drain to throwing something in your yard. It's going to eventually impact our water."

Perkins said his group has found that 40 percent of lakes and streams in Minnesota do not meet standards set for safe fishing, swimming or drinking. Because of statistics like that, Perkins and his group are trying to work alongside Gov. Mark Dayton's "25 by 25" initiative, which aims to improve Minnesota water quality 25 percent by 2025.

The group's main goal right now, though, is simply to educate people on water quality issues.

Dog park

O'Connell is part of a group that hopes to bring a dog park to Crosslake. The group has done extensive research into existing dog parks in the area - in Pequot Lakes and Brainerd - and learned that they haven't had any issues or complaints since establishing their parks.

Perhaps the hardest part, though, is that a dog park must be on city, county or state land. Right now, the group has an application in with the forestry department for a piece of land at the canoe access on the Little Pine River off Highway 36. If that land doesn't work, the group has other properties in mind.

"It'll take some time," O'Connell said. "We are diligent on going forward."


Pat Netko spoke about connectivity and a recent walkability study the city had done. Netko said her group is working to figure out ways to better connect the town via walking and biking with more sidewalks and trails. The group has also talked about getting a train or a trolley to drive people around town.

Netko said wider streets, more crosswalks and possibly roundabouts could increase safety for pedestrians as well.

"Safety has got to be No. 1 for people," she said.


Work force and year-round housing have been longtime issues in Crosslake.

O'Connell said that, according to a recent study, many people who work in Crosslake commute from other cities because they can't find an affordable place to live in Crosslake.

Two housing complexes are in the works though. Eight townhomes and 32 apartment units are set to be built near Town Square in the near future.

Assisted living and senior housing, though, are still a need in Crosslake, O'Connell said.

Loon center

Carla White told residents that her group has a vision to create a national loon center in Crosslake that could educate the community about Minnesota's state bird and serve as a broader environmental education tool.

"The primary objective of the loon center is to create a meaningful community-driven project that focuses on our precious loons and their unique relationship with our freshwater ecosystem," White said.

The group has enlisted the University of Minnesota to do a feasibility study to see if a loon center would thrive in Crosslake and has submitted a grant application to the Initiative Foundation for funding.

Ideally, the loon center would be at the Army Corps of Engineers Campground.

Though the Crosslakers group is working on several different projects, O'Connell reminded everyone how they all come together to improve Crosslake as a whole.

"All these things are connected, and it all begins with housing, education and year-round stability. If we don't have one of those, we will tip over," he said. "We want the connectivity, the curb appeal, the welcoming, the charm of Crosslake that makes us all stay here."

Anyone who wants more information or wants to get involved with the Crosslakers can email

Theresa Bourke

I started at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and the Brainerd School District. I follow city and school board officials as they make important decisions for residents and students and decide how to spend taxpayer dollars. I look for feature story ideas among those I meet and enjoy, more than anything, helping individuals tell their stories and show what makes them unique.

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