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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Crookston InMotion: Sustainability is a worthy 'destiny driver'

  • Meaningful work has begun, but there remains much to be done.
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  • In the Nov. 30 Times, Jack Geller and Tom Jorgens presented an overview  of the Crookston InMotion community planning process.
        One group of us is focused on the concept of sustainability as a guiding principle to development. Sustainability is a broad concept but in short, it is about the conservative use of resources and  includes:  recycling, use of “green products,” wise land use planning, energy conservation and efficiency, shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and soil conservation to save nutrients and improve water quality. Not only are sustainability actions good for the planet but essential to improve the long-term bottom line and stay in business whether on the farm or downtown!
        Sustainability thinking recognizes the interdependence of the economy, the environment, and social factors, sometimes called the 3 legs of the sustainability stool. Increasingly, health and happiness are being recognized as a 4th essential element of a sustainable community. It is about the future; and living as though we planned to stay.
        We propose that Crookston become a community where individuals feel challenged to improve the quality of life through wellness, more opportunities for family recreation, and apply sustainability practices. Examples include:
        1. Promoting a more walkable and bikeable community with less reliance on the automobile to improve health and reduce resource use. We have started a “CommUniversity Trail system funded by a Community Development Grant. This will better connect the U of MN campus with the community and provide opportunities for exercise and better health as well as nature education. An electronic monitoring device has been installed where the bike trail enters the UMC campus to record ridership. Last summer a wildlife observation blind was constructed atop a mound just north of  Crookston High School and Leopold benches have been constructed for placement along the trail. Dale Knotek is leading an effort to identify a trail system in Aunt Polly Slough area for hiking and cross-country skiing.
        2. Planning which places a priority on a vibrant community core and building “from the inside out” to strengthen a sense of community and reduce urban expansion onto good farm land. Another initiative is to strengthen the city core and revitalize the downtown area. Discussions continue on how to make downtown more vibrant with improved housing, artistic enhancements, and community engagement opportunities. Those who have traveled to Europe and to communities across the U. S. and Canada have seen examples of thriving downtown areas where many amenities are within walking distance and contribute to a strong sense of community place. Why unnecessarily tie ourselves to a community so spread out that we have to get in the car and drive everywhere?
        3. Advocating for the production and sale of locally grown food and vegetables through urban gardening and farmer’s markets. This connects people to the land, promotes healthy eating, and stimulates the local economy. Farmers markets are a rapidly growing enterprise across the country. The Downtown Square has become a focal point for farmer’s markets and enhances the core community concept. Anything we can grow locally keeps the dollars within our community and promotes the eating of healthy foods. There is discussion at UMC to establish a campus garden where produce can be grown to serve in the campus dining facility. Fruit trees are being planted as part of an edible landscaping initiative.
    Page 2 of 3 -     4. Celebrating our reliance on the conservation of natural resources of soil, water, plants, and wildlife through recycling, discovery park experiences and strengthening our connections to the river by fishing and water-based recreation. We are blessed to have some of the richest soils in the country and a wonderful well-water supply. Compared to many areas in the country, our region has been somewhat insulated from severe economic woes but we cannot be complacent. We must continue to appreciate and exercise good stewardship of land and water resources. An assessment was done by a UMC GreenCorps student of stormwater runoff in the city of Crookston and recommend ways to address problem areas. A fishing pier was installed last summer to facilitate the use of the fishing resource near Central Park. A UMC group even sponsored a fishing contest last fall. Canoeing is really an untapped recreational resource on the Red Lake River.  The Castle Park Adventure Park is a wonderful development to assist young and older alike to experience nature and have hands-on adventures in an outdoor setting. Hats-off to the many different groups and volunteers that launched and continue to develop this community resource as well as the nearby dog park.
        5. Placing a priority on the retrofitting, design, and construction of housing which exemplifies forward thinking in energy efficiency, and renewable energy technologies. When we build or retrofit housing, we must think long term and strive to use less energy by insulating and fine-tuning control systems whether in private or public housing entities, schools, or industry. Saving energy by conservation measures is the “low-hanging fruit” and saves money, resources, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions; which we hear more about each day and their connection to climate change. Seminars have begun with Crookston industries on ways to become more energy efficient.  What are the opportunities on the local scene to use renewable energy such as biomass? These might include pellets made from wood waste, brush, grass, or even cattails. Exploratory work is on-going at the University of Minnesota on how to exploit these renewable resources. Also, Northwest Manufacturing, one of the major wood stove manufacturers in the Upper Midwest, is located in Red Lakes Falls and has teamed with a Swedish firm to make state-of-the-art stoves fueled by pelletized feedstocks. Whenever we can use biomass fuels produced in Minnesota, an estimated 75% of the revenues stay home and stimulate our local economy. In contrast, when we use fossil fuels (of which we have none in our state), most of those dollars ultimately leave the state!  
        As most projects, this effort is a journey and we welcome other community participants. Thus far the leadership team for this Destiny Driver has included; Dan Svedarsky, Dale Knotek , Ben Sullivan, Amanda Lien, John Bridgeford, and Lauren Snively. Please contact Dan Svedarsky at 218-281-8129 or dsvedars@crk.umn.edu to offer suggestions, for more information, or to join the team.
    Page 3 of 3 -     A goup of citizens from all walks of life propose that Crookston become a community where individuals feel personally challenged to improve the quality of life through wellness, more opportunities for family recreation, and apply sustainability practices.             
    Examples include:
        Promoting a more walkable and bikeable community with less reliance on the automobile to improve health and reduce resource use. Complete biennial assessment report.
        Planning which places a priority on a vibrant community core and building “from the inside out” to strengthen a sense of community and reduce urban expansion onto good farm land.
        Advocating for the production and sale of locally grown food and vegetables through urban gardening and farmer’s markets. This connects people to the land, promotes healthy eating, and stimulates the local economy. Estimate # annual participants and sales.
        Celebrating our reliance on the conservation of natural resources of soil, water, plants, and wildlife through recycling, discovery park experiences and strengthening our connections to the river by fishing and water-based recreation.
     
        Placing a priority on the retrofitting, design, and construction of housing which exemplifies forward thinking in energy efficiency, and renewable energy technologies.

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