A new Brainerd City Council committee met for the first time and could easily have adopted the motto: "Come this fall, we want Paul."
The Paul Bunyan Relocation Committee agreed to make it clear to Paul Bunyan Amusement Center owner Don McFarland that it wants to keep the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in the Brainerd area and to seek a commitment from the full council to that goal.
Council member Bob Olson, chair of the committee, and Mayor James Wallin will again emphasize to McFarland that Brainerd area officials are willing to provide for appropriate accommodations for the statues which are likely to be displaced from their amusement park home in September by a new Kohl's store at the junction of Highways 210 and 371.
Attending the meeting, in addition to Wallin and Olson, were Lisa Paxton, Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce chief executive officer; Mary Koep, Brainerd City Council member; Sheila Haverkamp, Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp. executive director; Walt Sjolund, Brainerd Public Utilities superintendent; Doug Grout, Brainerd Housing and Redevelopment Authority executive director; and Jiggs Blanck, former Brainerd City Council president.
The committee has not yet identified a location where it would like to see the statues relocated but most of the discussion centered around the 25-acre site of the projected welcome center just south of the Brainerd bypass.
Paxton said the welcome center is a joint project of the chamber, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the DNR, Crow Wing County and the State Patrol. It will be located near the entrance to Crow Wing State Park and serve as a gateway to the Brainerd lakes area. The center and rest area will be staffed 365 days a year and will include a chamber outlet, a gift shop, a State Patrol presence, a DNR interpretive center and adequate parking. Paxton said provision could be made to place Paul Bunyan under a roof so he would be a year-round attraction. Although the initial phases of dirt-moving for the project may start soon the center would not be ready until 2004. Crow Wing County is serving as fiscal agent for the project.
Other locations that were mentioned as possible sites for Paul and Babe include city property near the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center and the Franklin Junior High School site.
Koep expressed her hope that an amusement center could continue to be a part of the Paul Bunyan attraction, noting that the rides for children were part of the charm of Paul Bunyan.
"It's the whole bit," she said. "I think it's a shame to lose that."
Paxton said she didn't think an amusement park would locate at the welcome center site, south of the bypass. She emphasized the importance of keeping two very identifiable icons in the Brainerd area.
"We're retaining the history and culture of Paul and Babe," she said.
Sjolund said he thought the area south of the Brainerd bypass was an ideal location.
Olson emphasized that Brainerd area officials should be prepared with a potential storage site for Paul Bunyan and Babe in case their eventual home is not ready immediately. Two sites discussed were the city garage on Laurel Street and the former railroad shops.
Wallin said the Paul Bunyan statue breaks into three pieces and that McFarland had indicated that someone had volunteered to move it at no cost.
Blanck said it was important to act and make some commitments so the statues stay in the Brainerd area.
"Pequot, forget it," he said.
After the meeting Olson urged area citizens with ideas about where to locate the statues to send letters to: Bob Olson, Brainerd City Hall, 501 Laurel St., Brainerd, MN 56401.
"We want to keep them here, Olson said.
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