Wish lists aren't just for the holiday season. Most of us have a year-round wish list made up of amenities we'd like to see in the Brainerd lakes area someday.
Let's start this wish list with a disclaimer. The Brainerd area shouldn't aspire to be another Minneapolis or even another St. Cloud. This river /railroad /tourist /retail center/health services town has its own peculiar identity. There's no sense pretending to be something we're not.
But what exactly are we and what do we need to become what we'd like to be?
My own wish list starts with clean water. The kind of water you aren't afraid to have your kids run into at breakneck speed when they arrive at the beach. Water that's been protected from chemicals and livestock waste because we had the good sense not to farm or raise animals too close to rivers, streams or lakes.
Clean soil is on my list. Rich, black dirt that's not contaminated by creosote or other misplaced chemicals or eroded by the actions of the few careless all-terrain drivers who give the responsible ones a bad name.
Quiet also is on my list. The stillness that greets the early riser who finds a serene spot in the woods, away from diesel trucks, leaf blowers and cell phones. I want to hear squirrels scrambling from branch to branch and crows cawing at each other like two irritated old men.
Good food is a must. Cooking and eating should be adventures, experiences to savor and not just chores to get out of the way. Whether it's great restaurants or ingredients that can be brought home for a self-made feast, good food and drink add joy to our lives.
Books and music would be readily available if I was running this shebang. How about a choice of quality book stores with the latest releases and sections spotlighting regional writers? Think of the musical talent or interesting speakers we could attract with a classy convention center overlooking the Mississippi River. St. Cloud, Red Wing and St. Paul all had the right idea on this score. Look how those cities incorporate the river into their community attractions.
Trees are another must on my wish list. Nice, big old ones that have seen a little of this area's history. Not the scraggly little ones that'll take years to mature. Bulldozers have their place if you need to extend an airport runway, but there's no need to sic 'em on every grove of trees that's still standing.
Finally, keep the wrecking ball far away from Brainerd's stately old water tower. Brainerd lost its train station and the old Paramount Theatre. Until Paul Bunyan gets settled in at his new digs, the water tower is the only icon we have left.
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