A couple of weeks ago we asked, "What does Brainerd need?" and invited readers to tell us in hopes of providing feedback for the Brainerd comprehensive plan.
The results are in and we can tell you what Brainerd wants: an auditorium and more sidewalks.
There's a glaring need for both.
Readers don't want just any ol' auditorium. They want a performing arts center, a place for concerts and studios and art galleries. Culture has taken a back seat to ice hockey long enough around here.
And they don't want any ol' sidewalks. They want sidewalks that can be used. As it is, one gentleman said, they are used for parking cars, garbage and advertising signs.
In short, Brainerd's sidewalk ordinances aren't being enforced even for the sidewalks we have.
The Brainerd of the future, it's clear from the responses we received, must be more friendly to those who move around by means other than the automobile.
Here are some of the responses. Names are being withheld to protect the guilty...the people guilty of wanting to make this a better Brainerd.
"I'm with the editor," one woman said. And it wasn't my mother. "We need sidewalks."
"Sidewalks are nice," another reader said, "and as long as we're on the subject, the city's infrastructure needs work. As more people travel in and through Brainerd the flow of traffic should be a concern.
"But here's what Brainerd really needs, an outlet mall. Where do people go to shop? It's not Brainerd. It's St. Cloud. People from as far away as Walker go shopping in St. Cloud if they want to shop. And Albertville.
"Where do we put this outlet mall? How about across from the airport? There's lots of space. Fix up 210 so that it's four-lane a little farther past the airport for traffic.
"Take a survey from the people of Brainerd. No, a superstore is not a good idea. It's only one store. I'd rather buy my clothing from a Marshall Fields or Old Navy. And so would lots of other people. Let's face it, the shopping (mild expletive deleted) in this town."
A male reader wants Brainerd and Baxter to merge and then have a naming contest for the resulting city. His vision: "The city is known for the arts. At night the downtown is alive and safe with arts, movies, music and food. There is an excellent state-of-the art auditorium. Transportation to the Twin Cities is fast, safe, convenient and affordable. It is a bicycle-friendly city with many designated bike paths.
"Walking is a good way to get around. There are sidewalks that are in good repair and they are even plowed in the winter.
"The river is lined with parks and trails. There is an excellent public transportation system that operates early, late and frequently, even on weekends and holidays. Inadequate homes are replaced with quality housing. There are many choices for apartments and assisted living for the elderly. There are many parks within walking distance of most homes.
"And, as long as I'm dreaming, winter ends just after Christmas."
A woman wants to improve "our beautiful riverfront." And she adds, "If everybody does a little, nobody has to do a lot."
Another woman says, "What I want is for Brainerd NOT to look like Baxter. To have a downtown that is the heart of the community and shops that don't look like the same ones every other town has.
A man feels the Northland Arboretum needs a restroom.
Another e-mailer wants the auditorium and sidewalks and "also we need to save the swamps. They help purify water and prevent flooding. With all the new construction the wetlands are getting smaller and smaller."
A woman wants an auditorium that is attached to the high school with an art gallery in the lobby and an office for the Crossing Arts Alliance. The size? Large enough to accommodate all the ninth through 12th-graders. "A good question to ask is what do most artists require that go on tour. If it's too big the bad seats become a concern."
The same woman wants bike trails that head to the downtown and signs. And chalk up another vote for a restroom at the arb.
Her needs also include a reasonable school busing plan and a coordinated parks plan.
For one caller, an auditorium should be more. "We need a world-class performing arts center. We can do it."
Another auditorium supporter also wants a skate park for youths, green space preserved and added and a downtown revitalization. This reader wants a comprehensive plan that doesn't support superstores.
From the sound of things, the Brainerd of the future needs an auditorium next to a bunch of unique small stores with plenty of bike racks.
Our thanks to all who assisted in this project. Now, dang it, let's get to work on the auditorium, er, performing arts center.
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