Drivers who go west on Highway 210 and past the Westgate Mall cross a boundary that separates Brainerd and Baxter. Most of them never even notice they've crossed a border.
Residents of both cities send their kids to the same high school. They shop, eat and watch movies at the same establishments. They work on either side of the border, worship at the same churches and receive fire protection from the same personnel.
While the two cities have distinct histories their residents have so much in common that the difference between the two cities is often blurred. Leaders of the two cities wisely realized that it made sense to combine forces on big ticket government expenditures such as fire protection and wastewater treatment.
A combined parks and recreation department is another area where Baxter and Brainerd should join forces. The two cities should hire one top-notch administrator and whatever staff is necessary to run the parks, the Brainerd Area Civic Center and the various recreational programs. The team rosters for kids who play hockey, softball, baseball and other sports cut across municipal boundaries and there's no reason the administration of those programs couldn't do the same.
The Brainerd City Council is reconsidering an earlier decision to not hire a parks and recreation director. If council members decide one is needed they should consider combining forces with Baxter on such a position.
Perhaps with a unified program, the two cities could initiate efforts to keep Pine Meadows as a municipal or joint powers-run golf course. Inaction on the part of our elected officials and golf enthusiasts on this issue will almost certainly guarantee that the attractive golf course that borders the Northland Arboretum will be lost to commercial development.
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