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Crosslake: Citizens learn more about plan for city's future

Crosslake community members gathered Thursday, Sept. 28, at the Crosslake American Legion to learn about the ongoing process of updating the city's comprehensive plan, a document to guide the city's future.

Tad Erickson, Region 5 regional development planner, and Ashley Kaisershot, National Joint Powers Alliance planning and zoning specialist, have been working on the update since April with a comp plan steering committee composed of Crosslake community members. Erickson and Kaisershot led the meeting and walked attendees through what a comprehensive plan is and how the city is working to update its plan, which was last updated in 2008.

Erickson explained that a comp plan outlines community goals and aspirations in terms of community development for a 10- to 15-year period.

In simpler terms, steering committee member Leah Heggerston said a comp plan is like a compass.

"It just gets you going in the general direction. It's not the actual GPS," Heggerston said. "It's just 'what direction are we going to go?'"

Typical areas of focus, Erickson said, are housing, economic development, transportation, land use, environmental resources and recreation. Crosslake's plan will also take into account the Minnesota Design Team's five guiding principles the group presented last fall.

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

One of the crucial parts of comprehensive planning is community engagement, which Erickson said the steering committee has accomplished through news releases in newspapers, community listening sessions, online information and a community survey that went out to the public between Aug. 15-Sept. 15.

About 215 people responded to the survey. To get even more community input, attendees of the Sept. 28 meeting broke into small groups and answered questions about Crosslake.

Needs

The first round of questions were:

• What does Crosslake need that it doesn't already have?

• What should change about Crosslake?

• What is holding Crosslake back?

• If only Crosslake had _______.

Ideas for needs and changes included: a seasonal stoplight (but no roundabout), year-round recreational activities (such as bowling or archery), activities/shopping for teenagers, walking paths, more parking, senior and workforce housing, better sidewalk connectivity, water transportation, welcoming entrances into town, business diversity and a town shuttle.

A couple people, however, noted that they didn't think anything is holding Crosslake back and that nothing major needs to change.

Resident Paul Kirkman emphasized that everyone needs to think about the long-term future of Crosslake.

"If we're working on a comprehensive plan that goes out 10-15 years, there's going to be a percentage of people in this room that aren't going to be here in 15 years. So we are building a community, really, for the next generation. And so, one of the things that we have to keep in mind as we do this plan is it's not necessarily for us," Kirkman said. "It is for the next generation that is bringing up kids and raising families and will carry the community forward into the future."

Threats/challenges

The next group of questions attendees answered were:

• What is the greatest threat to Crosslake?

• What's Crosslake's greatest challenge today and into the future?

• What would ruin Crosslake?

• What needs to stay the same and not change in Crosslake.

Answers for what would ruin Crosslake included: disrespect for nature, poor water quality (aquatic invasive species), more fast food restaurants, short-sighted thinking, over-engineering impossible plans, and too much expansion that would make Crosslake seem like Nisswa or Brainerd.

Challenges included: empty storefronts, maintaining water quality, taking season and part-time residents into account, funding, getting winter visitors, and accommodating growth while maintaining a small-town feel.

What defines Crosslake?

Lastly, attendees answered the following questions:

• What defines Crosslake?

• What does Crosslake mean to you?

• Crosslake isn't Crosslake without ______?

Most groups said the Whitefish Chain and good water quality are essential to making Crosslake what it is. Other answers to these questions included: unique shopping and restaurants, small-town feel, "Minnesota Nice" character and a growing community.

Erickson noted that most of what everyone said fell into the typical areas of focus he outlined earlier.

"I think that means that, one, the steering committee's on the right track, at least with those leading theme areas. But I think, intuitively, the things that matter in the community fall into those categories," Erickson said.

All the ideas and feedback during the meeting were written down, and Erickson said the steering committee will take all of that into account moving forward.

"We're going to develop some themes," he said, "and we're going to have a third round of community engagement where we're going to develop some focus groups to really look down deeper on the issues that you are all identifying."

Mayor Patty Norgaard reminded attendees that it's up to them to plan for the city's future.

"How do we implement what we have accomplished over the last five months? That is the question. Who is going to start this initiative?" she asked. "It's the citizens. ... It's up to us to be leaders, to put leaders in positions that are going to help us drive this forward. And I can't wait to see what Crosslake is going to look like for my great-grandchildren."

Anyone who is interested in joining a focus group or wants more information on the comprehensive plan can email Erickson at terickson@regionfive.org or Kaisershot at Ashley.Kaisershot@njpacoop.org.

Minutes from comp plan steering committee meetings can be found at cityofcrosslake.org.

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