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Minnesota Design Team returns to Crosslake

Crosslakers host meeting to talk about projects, upcoming intersection improvement

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CROSSLAKE — A town gathering in Crosslake is nothing without kettle corn.

Kettle corn has become a staple to outdoor events like movies in the park. However, on Friday, Sept. 16, it was given out at the Crosslakers town meeting at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground to discuss the community’s progress.

Six years ago, the Minnesota Design Team chose to visit Crosslake to help plan the city's future . The original team was composed of 16 members, and two returned to attend a meeting put together by the Crosslakers, a group of volunteers who care about the Crosslake area.

The Crosslakers formed after the Minnesota Design Team's visit and have been working to improve the community since.

“If you live in Crosslake, if you visit Crosslake, if you work in Crosslake, if you love Crosslake - you are a Crosslaker,” said Pat Netko, the owner of Lake Country Crafts & Cones and a Crosslaker.

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This community town meeting was filled with local presentations and a short small group exercise to inform both the town and the design team members about what has happened in the past five to six years and where the future is going.

A variety of organizations shared what they have been up to for the last few years. Notably, the National Loon Center gave an update on their accomplishments.

The loon center was an idea that came out of one of the original meetings with the design team. At the time, everyone thought it was a neat idea, but no one knew if it would actually happen.

After returning, Hannah Pritchard, of the design team, was pleasantly surprised and even bought a loon center sweatshirt.

“My household is only adults, but my niece is about 8 months old now and I can totally envision coming up from the Twin Cities and coming to the loon center to learn about birds, maybe stay the night, maybe have some dinner,” said Pritchard. “It just seems like that kind of thing that six years ago seemed really cool, but it seemed like a lot to pull off. And now I cannot wait for less than six years to be able to come up and go to it.”

In addition to the loon center, other organizations presented their accomplishments, including the Crosslake Area Historical Society, Crosslake Chamber of Commerce and the Crosslake Area Senior Services.

The attendees seemed most interested in what Crow Wing County Highway Engineer Tim Bray had to say though. Bray talked about the 2024 road project at the intersection of county highways 3 and 11, which is at the campground/future loon center entrance and by the chamber building and Andy's Bar & Grill.

Although the residents of Crosslake might not be in favor of this project, they listened and wrote down their concerns on comment cards.

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The county recently acquired grant money to use to improve Crosslake’s traffic and vehicle use.

“So we have a combined amount of almost $1.5 million to work with traffic and vehicle use right out here but also some pedestrian accommodations too,” said Bray. “So over the summer, we've been working to get a consultant on board to help us with it.”

He said they are looking at all ideas for where the money could be spent and they are open to ideas from the community. The county set up a website to collect data and information from residents, drivers and pedestrians in Crosslake.

The night ended with a small group activity where attendees could talk to each other and write down their concerns for the design team and Crosslakers to go through the following morning.

“You need multiple things going on and you need some that are finishing, some that are in progress, some that are starting and some that are just being thought of in order for progress to continue without losing what we all love about Crosslake,” said Pam Graves, a Crosslaker. “Crosslake, in my mind, still has to be inviting to the Kamp Kimchee kids, but it (also) has to be inviting to Squirrelly Mama and her business because it takes a lot to start a business here.”

The community has a lot of ideas on how to improve the community without losing that Crosslake feel.

Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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