How Does It Feel to Attend a Listening Session? Ask the People in Granite Falls.

The people of Granite Falls want to make sure you find them, and celebrate their charming town and river front.

How?  Tourist applications with cloud technology for those on the road. A shared city bus and ride-sharing to make commuting affordable from nearby towns.  Published and centralized youth programs to help youth choose where to go for art, music, fun and theatre.

Katie Lewardowski. a new resident and elementary school art teacher in Granite Falls, advocates for more centralized youth-based programs in the arts.

Avis Freitag, a long-time resident and retired insurance executive, wants visitors to easily access a mobile tour of the Granite Falls area through internet and cloud technology.

Once you arrive downtown, the plan, according to many in this group, is to stick around and enjoy it.

Drop in at Art Night on Wednesdays at the KK Berge building. Play frisbee golf along the river for free; in the open green space across from recently cleared buildings downtown, walk or bike new trails connecting all of the way to Memorial Park, take a scenic train ride, enjoy live music at a bandshell and public art along the way. Enter the Minnesota River with easier, safer access and with new portage points. Enjoy more wildlife from protected habitat after buckthorn is removed.

Nicole Zempel, Director of Granite Falls Chamber of Commerce, presents a plan for safe access over rip rap rocks along the shoreline of the Minnesota River.

Megan Ulrich, water quality specialist, describes a broad vision of a river riparian with invasive species like buckthorn removed to ensure a stronger eco system.

These ideas with great potential now demand to be brought to life.  Who can make it happen? The people right here attending this Listening Session.

Everyday people of Granite Falls and western Minnesota.  Their determination made the difference for the K.K. Berge building, once slated for demolition, and now restored and thriving as the home and heart of life in the community.

Art murals about the MN River Valley for barren walls along the river will come from high school students; public bike racks from the sixth graders; public art expressions of ducks, similar to St. Paul’s larger-than-life characters from The Peanuts, from community groups like the art therapy programs at the local hospital.

The approach?  Collaboration.  Local residents will network with citizens leading similar established programs from other towns like Montevideo; take note of successful river restoration techniques by the Upper Sioux Community; partner with CURE on river restoration efforts; engage the National Park Service for new designs, and consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Upper Minnesota River has been considered for designation as a National Blueway by the U.S. Department of Interior, which means that now, more than ever, there’s momentum to pull together at the local level and find new ways to connect and celebrate the communities along the river. Many more resources will become available through the growing InCommons network.  (See our InCommons page on this blog to connect.)

Tom Cherveny, Editor, West Central Tribune

The press, regional and statewide, continue to welcome covering stories of encouraging progress.

Sarina Otaibi

The open space format of the meeting on Tuesday, March 20th, facilitated by young historic preservationist and newest member of CURE’s staff, Sarina Otaibi, encouraged participants to bring out their ideas.  This catalyzed support and common interest from many.  Some convened the group based on the idea, others contributed suggestions at the table of the topic of their choice.  Everyone listened to each other, including the General Manager of Pioneer Public Television, Les Heen, Julie Rath, the Tatanka Bluffs, Redwood County Economic Development Coordinator from Redwood Falls and Jacki Anderson, Community Development Senior Planner at the Upper Minnesota Regional Development Planning Commission.

Here’s what Sarina’s co-facilitator, Patrick Moore, had to say about the event:

And here’s how each participant described in one word how it felt to attend the Granite Falls Listening Session.

It surely seems like this is the energy Granite Falls will use to keep things moving forward in western Minnesota.

# # #