Editorial: People need Crookston’s outdoors so let's keep it nice and maintained, promptly
Even though there’s a lot of winter to come, for some who don’t particularly care for all of the snow and all of the cold and all of the dark, just the act of turning the calendar to January is cause for at least a mini-celebration. After all, the sun sets today a couple minutes later than it did yesterday.
But, still, even though this has been a mild winter light on snow, especially compared to recent winters, this continuing pandemic is messing with people’s heads. Sure, there’s a vaccine available, but the pace with which it’s being actually injected into people’s arms in the United States is, like, Third World level. And don’t forget about the second, more contagious strain of COVID-19 that we’re going to be reminded about every...single...day.
Add to all of that, we’re approaching the dog days of winter. While this holiday season was probably as stressful and lonely as they get for many, now we’re staring down a few more long months until spring comes a’knocking on the front door.
So we need to get out and about. If there’s one great thing about this pandemic, it’s that it has gotten people out and about. The outdoors and its positive effects on the people who are enjoying it more because they really have nothing else to do is perhaps the only positive thing to emerge from this whole god-awful mess.
Which means here in Crookston, we need to promptly and properly maintain our great outdoors. Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson had a great idea recently when he said the City should start investing some money each year in lighting portions of the community’s trail system. Yes, and let’s also invest the time and resources to get the system clear of snow as fast as possible after new snow falls. Not 72 or 48 or 36 hours after a few inches fall, not even 24 hours after few inches fall, but a few hours after the snow falls. If Crookston taxpayers are required by ordinance to clear snow from their sidewalks, then the City needs to clear its walks, and in a hurry. Put someone behind the wheel of that handy little John Deere and get busy.
Because the trails are getting used. By the time the City got around to getting the five inches or so of snow that fell in Crookston last week cleared from the University Avenue path, a heavy trail of shoe and boot and paw prints in the new snow was apparent. Before it was cleared, joggers were seen doing their thing on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 2...not something you want to see with such a nice path only a few feet away.
The City has money to do things like lighting trails and clearing snow fast from them. We can talk about Crookston being insanely reliant on state Local Government Aid and that is without a doubt true, but also true is the fact that the City has money; the budget is solid. Debt is basically non-existent, reserves are aplenty, and taxes are reasonable.
Yes, taxes. When Finance Director Angel Weasner gives her annual presentation during the public budget, levy and tax hearing, she likes to include a pat on the back to the City for the services and amenities it provides Crookston residents in return for their tax dollars. You know, things like police and fire protection and all that.
But recreation, outdoor recreation, is a big part of that, too. Castle Park is an absolute gem, and don’t think that one of the first things uttered by a couple of satisfied taxpayers as they walked the trails in the adjacent woods the other day – trails that had apparently been groomed by a City staffer riding a handy piece of equipment – wasn’t “Our tax dollars at work!”
Keep it up, City of Crookston, and maybe even do a little bit more.