The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association held its annual meeting Nov. 13 at Norway Ridge Supper Club. It was clear before the meeting even started that this group operates on a level not commonly seen.
The typical registration table was made memorable by the hovering costumed Fredrik, the Bearclawed, an alter-ego of Manhattan Beach Mayor Fred Gridley. Fred, adorned in his Viking garb, is featured on the PBSBA's newest deck of playing cards, along with 12 other sites and people of the byway.
From the registration table, attendees moved to the exhibits that covered three tables. JM Plein Consulting had on display a computerized photo show using shots of the byway taken this summer by photographer Paul Stafford, of the Minnesota Office of Tourism. Art of the Byway, stunningly painted by Crosslake artist Tom Ottoson, sat casually on knotty pine chairs, eliciting constant comments from impressed viewers.
A display of PBSBA projects, including free items like tear-off maps and Birds of the Byway brochures to for-sale items such as the series 1 and series 2 decks of collectible playing cards, showcased the diversity this organization embraces in its projects.
PBSBA chairperson Lynn Scharenbroich welcomed the group of approximately 30 people. Carol Altepeter, regional Minnesota Office of Tourism representative, gave a quick history of how the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway idea was born in November 1997. She also commended the active group for its enthusiasm and reminded everyone that those things that benefit tourism benefit all of us in the area.
Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, keynote speaker, gave a review of the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources program and highlighted the importance of partnering when seeking LCMR funding. She serves on the LCMR board. An avid inline skater, Ruud also thanked the group for its successful efforts, along with other groups, to secure shoulder paving along much of the 54 miles of the byway route and encouraged the group to keep working with the county to complete shoulder paving along County State Aid Highway 11.
A rousing report was given by John Wetrosky, board member and Pine River Chamber of Commerce director. He stressed the need for employees of area businesses to be made aware of the many amenities of the byway.
Other reports included community connections, membership and funding, cards and art, Web site and grants and monitoring. Linda Ulland, consultant to the group, outlined the progress to date for the development of both the bedrock guidance document, the Corridor Management Plan, and the current Interpretive Plan, as well as two other DNR grants that produced the Gateway Gazebo, Chiarella Hiking Trail and Veterans Hiking Trail and footbridge at Island Lake Woods. All are completed except the Interpretive Plan, scheduled to be done by Feb. 1, 2004.
Throughout the annual meeting there were door prizes donated by byway association members, appetizers provided by member and host Norway Ridge, and plenty of enthusiasm emanating from every table. When the meeting adjourned, there was no rush for the door. In fact, the majority of the group, including Fredrik, the Bearclawed, stayed for dinner and kept talking.
When an organization has almost 20 projects either currently in progress or under consideration for a future date, there's plenty to talk about.
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