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Crosslakers: National Loon Center receives funding; dog park opens

Echo Journal file photo.

The Crosslakers have so much to report this month, it's hard to know just where to start. A number of projects have developed to the point where they have been accomplished or have reached major milestones.

Some of these have been discussed since the town meetings that were held when the Minnesota Design Team facilitated the meetings here in 2016 to hear what the citizens of Crosslake believed could be done to improve our town. Others are the result of more recent ideas brought forth by individuals who have approached the group with new projects.

But all of the initiatives adhere to the guiding principles of the Crosslakers, which are:

• To enhance the unique ecology of Crosslake.

• To create vibrant places that connect people to nature.

• To establish better balance of facilities for driving, biking, boating and walking.

• To provide a diverse balance of housing, business and public amenities.

• To celebrate and preserve Crosslake's heritage.

National Loon Center

Let's lead off with the largest project of all, the National Loon Center. The National Loon Center Foundation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have signed a letter of intent regarding a lease agreement to enable the center to be located on the Corps Campgrounds.

Meanwhile, both the Minnesota State House of Representatives and the state Senate approved legislation to provide $4 million in funding for the center from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

The governor signed the legislation, which means $1.5 million in initial funding will be available this year to start building outdoor exhibits and plan curriculum for the center. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has agreed to work with the center on a project to help develop the Northern Lakes Fresh Water Initiative in connection with the center.

Crosslaker John Forney will head up this two-semester effort. The center is hoping to open in 2022.

Dog park

Another of the initial projects the Crosslakers embarked on was the creation of a local dog park. The Crosslaker volunteers thought this project would be one that could be accomplished rather quickly, but the group soon learned that building a fenced, off-leash dog park was not as easy as it sounded.

For one thing, it had to be located on public land, which narrowed the options of where it could be built. Finding a public land location that was attractive and convenient for dog park users took a great deal of time, but the Dog Park Working Group persevered, and the end result was the grand opening of the park, aptly named the Crosslaker Dog Park, on May 25.

The 1-acre park includes a separate fenced area for small or shy dogs. Located near the Crosslake Community Center, the park is open from dawn to dusk and is a beautiful new addition to our community.

Funding and support are being sought to provide on-site water and to enhance the parking area and pathways where owners walk within the fenced park to make it more accessible to all. It will serve dog lovers in the area for years to come.

Walkability and pedestrian studies

In June 2017, the Crosslakers and the Greater Lakes Association of Realtors received a $15,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors to hold a workshop event to identify opportunities for improving the current trails system. GLAR added an additional $1,500 grant.

The grants enabled GLAR and the Crosslakers to present a Crosslake Connectivity Walkshop.

Participants went on a "walking audit" of some of the town's trails, and then returned to discuss ways to improve them. They learned about walkability principles created by Blue Zones, the organization that facilitated the Walkshop.

The 2017 Walkshop was a continuation of a conversation that started during the Minnesota Design Team town meetings.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Crosslake City Council approved spending $6,000 to fund one-third of a pedestrian study. Crow Wing County and the National Loon Center will each fund a third of the $18,000 study as well. It will be conducted by Widseth Smith Nolting and is intended to:

• Identify existing and potential parking locations and capacities.

• Identify improved safe corridors for pedestrian movement.

• Identify additional walking opportunities for tourists and residents.

• Identify pedestrian routes to businesses that will stimulate economic development.

• Identify street and highway no-parking zones and pedestrian crossing locations.

• Identify the type and location of recommended improvements and costs.

The Crosslakers applaud the city, county and the loon center for continuing this critical conversation and look forward to implementation of the recommendations that come from the study.

Expo

The first Crosslake Power of Aging Expo was held April 27 at the Log Church and it was a smashing success. There were 37 exhibitors, and organizers had to turn down another 10 that wanted to exhibit. The informational sessions were great, and guest speaker retired WCCO sportscaster Mark Rosen was a hit. There was free food in a "Taste of Crosslake" event sponsored by local restaurants, and evaluation forms filled out by participants indicate the event was very well received.

The free expo was organized by Crosslake Area Senior Services (Crosslake Cares). The organization is a newly formed, local nonprofit 501c3 focused on connecting Crosslake area seniors with services that help improve their lives. John Bruder is its founder and president and now a member of the Crosslakers. He is already working on the second annual Expo.

He said the event brings together the faith community, nonprofit area health and wellness experts, and local business leaders to help area seniors and their families celebrate that as seniors the best is yet to come.

Beautiful bridges

We can't close without mentioning that the Crosslakers have once again beautified Crosslake's two bridges this year with flowers to welcome visitors and residents alike.