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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Christopherson Column: As a kid, Castle Park was the ultimate natural play space

  • We used to get so frustrated with old lady Anderson down the street. We knew she was all alone with likely a fair amount of idle time on her hands, but was keeping an eye on us her lone hobby?
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  •     We used to get so frustrated with old lady Anderson down the street. We knew she was all alone with likely a fair amount of idle time on her hands, but was keeping an eye on us her lone hobby?   
        Actually, Mrs. Anderson, who lived on Pleasant Avenue, never expressed much interest in or concern for our bike rides, baseball games or anything else we did that might catch her line of sight. (When it came time for a game of “Ding, Dong...Ditch” we avoided victimizing her, it should be noted.)   
        But if she spotted us on the dike that ran along her backyard, not to mention the backyard of one of my best friends a few houses up the street, she pounced like a hawk on a field mouse. It seemed she was always washing the dishes, and the window by her kitchen sink gave her a front row seat to the goings-on on the dike. We'd hear her screen door slam shut and know that she was coming out yet again to tell us how dangerous the river was.   
        Sure, she didn't catch us all the time. Most times, we'd venture to the river side of the dike further up the street, closer to my friend's house, and she'd be none the wiser. But the thing is, the brush and trees were a lot thicker up the street. Behind the dike near Mrs. Anderson's house, however, things opened up a bit, and there was actually some nice sand and dirt to walk on, even some crude trails we'd crafted. It was prime real estate for kids looking to defy the endless chorus from the grown-ups to stay away from the river or we would certainly suffer horrible, watery deaths.   
        But it's like Mrs. Anderson had x-ray vision sometimes, like she could see right through that dike. "Come on, boys!" she'd say as we'd look up and see her standing on the top of the dike. "You know better!"    
         Now that I look back, traversing that incline must have been quite a jaunt for her, something that took more than a little effort to accomplish, and yet she was bound and determined to tell us in rather stern fashion that we were to find ways to entertain ourselves that were a safer distance from the raging Red Lake River.   
        Then, one day, we'd had enough. We decided that if we wanted to play by the river without elderly interruptions, we’d have to venture to Castle Park.    
    Page 2 of 3 -     Soon, as we raced on our bikes on all those trails in those woods, I couldn't help but wonder why we'd ever bothered to interrupt Mrs. Anderson's dish-washing once, much less 50 times. For a kid, the Castle Park woods was simply the best.   
        And, yes, the river being right there was a bonus. Beginning in those days and continuing for several summer vacations until we were too old, cool or busy to hang out in the woods, we booby-trapped trails to the detriment of others who might dare venture onto our territory, we made forts, we fished, we leafed through old Playboy and Penthouse magazines, we rode our bikes like bats out of hell over ramshackle jumps that would have given our mothers stomach-aches just at the thought of them, we told jokes, we looked for wildlife, we swore like the guys on The Wolf of Wall Street.    
        And, without fail, we always ended up at the river. It was our place. We were kids, it was the woods, it was the river, both were located in Castle Park, and we were the kings. OK, princes.
        ...   
        Well, that’s it. That’s all I had previously planned out in my mind when I decided last week to touch on the RV park issue by recalling my Castle Park experiences as a kid. I had no idea how I was going to end this column because I didn’t know exactly how I felt about the whole situation.   
        The thing is, the city council wants people to think that they are responsive to their input, ideas and concerns. But nowhere in the Elected Official 101 handbook does it say you’re required to do only the bidding of your constituents. It’s the whole “for the good of the community” way of doing things, you know? Some elected people believe, and rightly so, that they’re elected because the voters put their trust in them to do the right thing, not to simply vote in lockstep with what their neighbors happen to be demanding on any given issue.   
        Then there’s the danger of overstating the opposition. Sure, the council chambers Thursday was overflowing with around 70 strong critics of the RV park in Castle Park proposal, but that still leaves hundreds and maybe thousands of Crookston residents who weren’t worked up enough about the matter to miss the Vikings first-round draft pick and head on down to city hall.   
        But, still, these people love that park. That much is crystal clear. They love it for the same reasons city leaders want to put an RV park/campground there. There’s a reason everyone on both sides of the issue insists on referring to the park as a “gem” at every opportunity. There’s a lot of cool stuff there.   
    Page 3 of 3 -     The gem will lose some of its luster if the RV park is located there. Let’s work together and come up with a different spot that the private developer is willing to work with.
        
       

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