All about Angle Days

Column 32 Published in the August 2, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Angle Days is this coming weekend – August 5-6. Our crew has opted to put what little event budget we have to work in different ways this year, instead of into direct advertising…so, can you guess what I want to talk about in this column?

Thirty years ago, someone had the idea for the chili cook-off and the blueberry dessert challenge, and those two competitions are still the cornerstone of our little festival. The public gets to taste the chili and pick the winner. The variety never disappoints, even when some years there are only four cooks and other years there are 18.

It’s The Angle; you just never know what’s going to happen, and no matter what does, it all works out.

A small panel of blueberry discerning judges get to decide who used this local “blue gold” best in a sweet treat.  Then, of course, we all get to eat them.

In the four years since renaming it Angle Days (it used to be the Blueberry Festival), we’ve added many different events that represent a little piece of what The Angle is all about.

There’s a Fun Run – which is more like a trail walk. The High Noon Shoot Out is a clay pigeon tournament. The Golf Cart Race & Obstacle Course has been popular with all ages and is a highlight to both participate in and watch. The Trash-to-Treasure competition is themed “garden art” this year; it represents the resourcefulness and ingenuity it takes to live at The Angle.

The Edge Riders snowmobile club will put on their annual fish fry, and the Girl Scouts will host the Sunday morning community breakfast. Angle Outpost does the Walleyeball (volleyball) Tournament and Anglewood Builders sponsors the Casting Competition. So many local businesses and the area resorts donate prizes and participate as best they can on what is usually a busy turnover day.

Linda Knight donated another gorgeous quilt this year for the raffle; it’s made with Minnesota Commemorative Cloth and at Linda’s request, the funds raised go specifically towards keeping all of the fun competitions either Free or at a very low cost of entry. For example, it used to be $30 to enter the chili competition and now it’s only $10.  (Thanks, Mom. Your generosity has always been something I aspire to live up to.)

Speaking of family, my dad’s band – The Knightlighters – will provide the live music. They’ve donated their musical gift in the past, but we’re actually legit enough now that we can give all the members gas money to get here. I’m excited to be joining them on keyboard for the first time on mainland turf. The home-made dance floor that was donated by several individuals a few years back will be set-up and ready.

We’re planning our gourmet lemonade flavors, painting a photo-board cut-out, mapping out where the vendors will set-up, and trying an Angle Flea Market for the first time this year. Fireworks are planned; they just need a ride from Fargo to Warroad, where Chris Ford has volunteered to bring them across the lake. The dunk tank will be back – thank you Warroad Chamber of Commerce! Hammerschlägen is on the docket if the right volunteer steps-up in time. And I’m sure there are more fun tidbits I’m forgetting.

It’s a small-town affair (wait, we’re not even a township), and it takes a little bit from a lot of people to make it happen. But, it sure is a good time, and it feels great to show people The Angle.

Of course, I’m still dreaming about making that fishing tournament I keep talking about happen someday, and a pontoon parade, and water races of some sort. And wondering how to get the islanders more involved….

Good thing there’s always next year.

If you want to check out the schedule of events for Angle Days, visit www.facebook.com/MinnesotaAngleDays.  You can also email nwangledays@gmail.com if you have questions, want to sell your wares or have ideas or feedback.  I’d love to hear from you and hope to see you at the ‘big’ event.

 

Walk a mile in their shoes

Column 31 Published in the July 19, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

We zip around our little community here at The Angle on all types of wheels: strollers, bikes, golf carts and go-carts, three-wheelers and quads, Rangers and other branded ATVs. Our children ride on laps and learn to steer early. They are safe yet unrestrained, and are able to enjoy this unique way of life in many of the same ways adults do.

Once, when I admonished my 3-year old that she at least needed to be sitting down while we were moving, she looked back at me, her hair wild and wind-blown, her face alight with adrenalin and the summer sun, and said quite plainly to me, “But Mom, I just want to be free.”

Freedom is certainly something we take for granted in this little corner of the country.

It occurred to me while out boating on our Independence Day, July 4th, that despite where we live – with our backs to an international border – we are still relatively free to move in all directions.  I have felt very little “patriotic” pride of late, and yet there I was enjoying the sensation of feeling “American”.

For those of us who choose and/or were born into this way of life, being able to travel unimpinged, crossing international boundaries regularly and often daily or twice-daily for long stretches at a time, this freedom is hugely important.

What would happen to this freedom, if we as a country began treating (based on the actions of a few) whole nations of people, especially our next-door neighbors, like thugs, criminals or terrorists?

My daughter got to continue feeling the wind in her face that day, even though the parenting books collecting dust in my Kindle dictate that I should have enforced my “sit down” command, if only for consistencies’ sake.

But sometimes, …ok, a lot of the time…I just let her Be.

I let her Be, because I want her to have that and know it and live it as a Right. I want her to internalize what it is to feel absolute freedom of movement, of choice, of sensation, of joy and life. Yes, even at three. Her plea “I just want to be free” wasn’t manipulative or even whiny for once. It came from the seat of her soul, where all she knows is freedom.

I’ve written before that The Angle is a microcosm for the rest of the world. But that’s not true really at all. We don’t have much for variety in religion. We don’t have much for variety in culture. We don’t have much for variety in much of anything, except for maybe insects that bite or suck our blood.

Sure, yeah, we’re all beautiful, unique snowflakes, blah, blah, blah. But except for a brave few, we all look and talk about the same, follow similar political beliefs, and subscribe to the same old unquestioned self-righteousness.

The restaurants here all serve basically the same kind of frozen-then-fried American fat-food.  The resorts all bring in the same sort of sells-well stuff year after year after year. The work-force all makes our living by supporting tourism or supporting the community members who support tourism. And yes, in its own way, The Angle is a beautifully oiled little mechanism that runs well even when kinks are put in the cog, accidentally or otherwise.

But…Sameness.

After forty years of eating Manna, even God’s chosen people began to complain about the lack of variety.

Let me clarify that I’m not complaining about the Sameness.  I’m complaining about the lack-of-acceptance of Other. I would hope that I’m one more small headlamp shining a ray of light on a darkness inherent in every community, big or small.

Our transgender community member still has a tough time of it up here, but at least she’s having to “act” less and less. She chose this tiny, wayward community years and years ago because here she feels safe. And shouldn’t she have the right to feel safe, just like every other human being? (I wonder if men in general have any idea how often we as women fear for our safety. If they really knew, maybe they’d curtail the lewd stares and the rude catcalls disguised as compliments.)

Freedom aside, shouldn’t everyone have the basic right of safety?

And shouldn’t we all feel safe when we have the rare interaction with law enforcement?

Yes, all lives matter, but I think what this un-listened-to group of people is trying to say, and sometimes imperfectly, is that “hey, we’re people too and our lives matter TOO. We’re getting killed or receiving harsher sentences for causes that others don’t really have to worry about.”  The Black Lives Matter movement is yet another headlamp shining a light on a darkness that we’ve ignored for too long.

Our little community of freedom fighters, as I’ve labeled us before in this column, certainly hasn’t had to walk a mile in their shoes. We haven’t fought for anyone else’s freedom but our own, and someday that selfishness will come at a price. We have lived with white-privilege for a long time in this neck of the woods. Just ask our Native American and First Nations people.

It takes no small amount of courage to live true to who you are, to ask for your rights and your freedom in the face of fear and aggression.

This is my public apology for still calling you “Davie,” Nicole. You’ve told me your name is Nicole Annie and I will honor that from this day forward.

This is my public apology to everyone of color for letting those racist comments slide for fear of confrontation. I will honor us all as a people by remaining silent no longer.

We live on the outskirts of society here at The Angle and we feel different, special. For that and many other reasons, I expect better of us. We can start setting a better example for everyone in our community, for everyone who travels here, and for all the children who hang their heads out the window just to feel the wind and sky and freedom of this beautiful life.

The Task at Hand

 

Column 31 Published in the July 5,2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Well hello there, July. Welcome, and we’ll take you, biting black flies and all.

June, the moody mistress that she was, blessed us with an abundance of variety. Steady? No, not she. She took us from whipping winds and bone chilling wet to sweltering heat that sat heavy and dense like a used towel left to dry in a heap.

A recent June day, I remarked to no one in particular in my otherwise unoccupied vehicle, “You know it’s a Windy day when there are miniature white caps on the standing water in the farmers’ fields.”

I love the long drive into town passing the many fields in their different states of dress and undress. The neighboring farmers are the buffer as we move from our densely wooded community to the progressively more open and populated, albeit still sparsely, outskirts of these rural towns. The hearts of their downtown areas and the bustle of their local commerce is a welcome change to the remote day-to-day life that is The Angle’s.

Our tourism economy here at The Angle gives the impression of busy-ness everywhere you look, and indeed we are a hard-working community. But there’s also a hint of loneliness that hangs in the air just as it does on the busiest city streets.

Peculiar to our species, no doubt, we are seeking. We are aching. Wondering. We get so consumed with taking care of our own egoic pursuits that we often fail to make the heart connections that are so vital to our growth, our happiness.

The tabloid of my life at The Angle: the off and on relationship, the ragged, yet wholehearted endeavors to find my place in our misfit community, the craving and searching for soulful, authentic connections, it all continually points me back to learning about love, forgiveness and God.

A Course in Miracles continues to be an almost daily guide for me. It has reminded me yet again that ANYTHING, if it’s not Love, is fear. If a thought doesn’t bring joy, then it is riding on fear, however deeply hidden. Stress equals fear equals illusion equals false, no matter how fiercely I believe in it. If a thought brings anything other than an abiding joy, it is not of God, not of reality. What a bonanza that knowledge is! I write it again and again solely so that I may continue to learn it. We’ve created all these illusions ourselves, and I can finally see that breaking down the fear-based illusions is my life’s work.

There is a certain peace that has settled in now that I no longer have to strive to learn unconditional love. It seemed such an impossible task even mere months ago. I would fail and fail again at every test, judging this, fearing that.

In fact, “unconditional love” is redundant. If it’s not unconditional, it’s not Love. Fear can create love-like feelings, but it takes only a careful look and I’ll see the cracks in the foundation.

Love is our true nature, and we’ll return to it regardless of our earthly wanderings, our raging Get and Keep egos, our ramshackle life stories created largely on fear.

Recognizing what fear has built in my life is my task now. Perhaps that is why my journey led me here, back to Minnesota, to The Angle, so that I may lead a simpler life closer to family and closer to the land.

It would seem there are less trappings here and that living more wholesomely would be a boon. Oh, but Egos are tricky beasts. They will latch on to anything, wrap their fear tentacles around it and create stress under the guise of achievement. Mine has built the illusion of “so much to do” that at times, I can barely breathe.

I was a steady drinker for two decades of my life because my ego had run rampant. Escaping felt like part of surviving, but in fact it only slowed my recognition. I see now that addictions are so prevalent in our culture because we are so mind-identified. Alcoholism has a nasty social stigma, for sure, but if I’ve learned anything over the past many years, it’s that addiction is addiction is addiction.

Guilt seems like a noble cloak to wear in the aftermath of addiction, but it’s not. Guilt comes from fear.

There are many who would argue to the death that what they fear is indeed real. Fear seems real to us because we believe in it and we believe in it because we created it.

I don’t want a life lived in defense of what I’m afraid of. I want a life broken open to Love. Raw and real. Graceful in it’s slow reveal, like the pregnant fields on my drive to town. Like the beauty in my three-year-old’s sly smile as she learns new and better hide-and-seek spots. Like the subdued glory of the pink and white lady slippers that pepper the ditches along our rural highways for just these few shorts weeks this time of year.

I want to see it all. Especially my fears. Bring it on, July.

 

 

(Alas, my lady slipper photo was too blurry. The above photo was pulled from Flickr via the MSFT bank of online photos using the Common Creative content licensing. I don’t know the person’s name to give them credit, unfortunately. So beautiful.)

Peace is Imminent

Column 29 Published in the June 21, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

 

This past winter, I had an irksome conversation with a relatively new visitor to The Angle. He was a guest of one of the larger resorts and has only been coming here for a year or two. Clearly, he doesn’t quite “get” this way of life and was joking about the naivety of our trusting nature and how he had “lucked out” as a result.

I can’t recall the exact situation that he was recounting or how the conversation came about even, but I do remember my reaction to something he said about “lifting.”  Aghast, I looked at him in disbelief and said quite vehemently, “Angle people don’t steal!”

“Well, I’m not from The Angle,” he countered, quickly.

That stunned me into silence, but the disdain must have soured my face because he said no more and left.

His words have stayed with me for months.

The proclamation that he’s “not from The Angle” was justification enough in his mind for whatever quasi-wrongdoing he was up to.

Sure, he spends a tidy sum to vacation here, and perhaps that left him feeling entitled to something we have that he does not. Or perhaps he’s a simple, sorry sought, an emotional vandal wherever he goes. Or maybe he’s aching to capture what The Angle is about in the only bully way he knows how.

Or more likely than not, he’s a lost child of the divine and lives a life run by the ego as most of us do.

I’ve come to believe that we have something to learn from everyone we encounter. In Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, one passage stands clear in my memory: “What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job?”

Slowing down and patiently waiting to receive the lesson can be the true test in today’s immediate gratification society.

Along that vein, my patience is being sorely tested by the reactions of family, friends and neighbors about the latest senseless mass shooting.  Instead of responding with love and sympathy, the fearful ones are gearing up to defend their right to bear military-style assault rifles. These are not weapons of self-defense or hunting; automatic weapons, like the Sigsauer MCX assault rifle used by Omar Mateen in Orlando, are designed solely for the mass slaughter of human beings.

I’m going to write those words one more time and then I pray I’ll never have to write them again: “assault rifles are designed solely for the mass slaughter of human beings.”

It’s disgusting, isn’t it?

Barring a zombie apocalypse, I don’t understand why any responsible gun-owner would insist that these be readily available to whomever wants them in our society.

And so, I wait patiently for the lesson, trying my best not to judge and giving love to those who live in fear.

The Beatles, the Bible, A Course in Miracles and a multitude of others all teach that love is all there is, that love is The Answer. Always.

To my family members, who are so certain the government is coming for your guns and equate assault rifles with freedom…I love you. I really do. I hope you will soon know that your fear is unfounded, that your fear is senseless, that in fact, your fear is in your mind, born of nothing.  Love is the only answer to fear.

To my neighbors at The Angle and in Warroad, who didn’t lower their flags after the POTUS ordered all flags at federal buildings and ships at sea to fly at half-staff…I love you. Even though you’ve lowered them before when federal flags were lowered, at the recent deaths of a supreme court justice or a former first lady, for example, I will assume you simply didn’t get the memo this time. I’d rather not believe you’re trying to make a statement about the lifestyles of the youth who were killed while dancing in a nightclub. Love is the only answer to fear.

To the bully Angle visitor whose face I don’t even remember but who thinks it’s okay to steal while here because you’re not from here…I love you. Please come back and let me show you the real Angle, beyond your big-box resort and the bars where you get your drunk on. You’ll grow to love this place as we all do. And then you’ll be a steward, not a vandal. Love is the only answer to fear.

Fear does not make us stronger or braver. Fear does not protect us from enemies. Fear builds walls between countries. Fear bans people of specific religions. Fear keeps you trying to control all minorities because you most fear becoming one yourself.  Fear makes you loathe people who are simply trying to get a foothold on life: refugees, immigrants, minorities of all sorts, shapes, colors, disabilities, preferences, and women (though we are the majority in world population and college education now). Ha!

You fear our presence because at the root of it all you fear the power of love.

FEAR.

Snap out of it. Go hug your pet. Go look in the mirror right now and tell your eyes “I CHOOSE LOVE.” We live in a beautiful world. Our lives are brilliant. We, as a people, are the most amazing, perfect creatures.

I’m so bored of the fear-mongering I could scream. Wake up, people! Wake up, Kellie!

And we all will, in good time. Peace is imminent.

Live with it.

Now.

 

Welcoming Growth & Change + Northerly Park Explained – Part 3

Column 28 Published in the June 7, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

 

The growing season has arrived.

Our wily Angle kids will run free and far this summer. Barefoot and sun-freckled, they are trail-making, fort-building little workers who help hold up many a business around The Angle. They’ll grow in inches, confidence and a resourcefulness that child pavement pounders responsible only for their activity performance may never have the luxury of knowing.

Gardens are planted, flowers are on display and the smells of black dirt and freshly cut grass are a late-spring healing tonic all their own.

Business at The Angle is growing about as fast as my new basil plants.

Dahlia’s & Dirt, The Angle’s beautiful little greenhouse opened for its short season over the Memorial Day weekend. US-grown plants and soil aren’t allowed through the Canadian border, so we Angleites rely heavily on this little jem, now in its third year.

Long-time mechanical repair business D&S has sold to Jordan Story, a young hard-working Angle resident of five years and the great-grandson of Prothero’s Post owners Dale & Grace Prothero. He’s got Angle DNA in his blood, and the business, renamed Story’s Service and Storage, will offer service and storage, of course, and also parts, oil, batteries, boat detailing and a few items after Jordan’s own passions – Muskie tackle and premium coolers. They’ll also have an E-TEC diagnostics system up and running soon, which will save many distraught boat owners a dusty trip to town.

Oak Island Resort has new owners as well. Jenny and Kyle Kruidenier, whose family has been coming to The Angle for a combined thirty-odd years, just recently took the reins from Lori and Paul Jenson. The Krudienier’s are starting their first season this busy summer with a full book of business, and the community wishes them well.

New Flag Island Resort owners Andrea and Chuck Haggenmiller follow in the familial footsteps of many other family-run businesses here at The Angle.  After a winter full of adventures, they are well on their way to seasoned veteran status now in their second season.

I hope to profile some of our Angle newcomers in upcoming columns, giving them a proper meet and greet Angle Full of Grace style. *~*

This will be the last of my chatter about “Northerly Park” for a while. Now we wait. Within a month or two we’ll hear back from the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails commission on the priority ranking, and if it’s what we hope then the real work begins. Here are the final two criteria applicants are asked to provide explaining how our park idea qualifies for regional designation and subsequent funding.

Criteria #3: Well-located to Serve a Regional Need and/or Tourist Destination

“Northerly Park” is exactly centrally located in Angle Inlet or “The Angle,” as it is known by the locals.  The park is at the intersection of two main roads; all vehicular traffic in and out of The Angle passes by the park.

Though The Angle is generally remote, according to the Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau, $1.9M was spent on lodging at The Angle in 2015, which has an economic impact to the area in excess of $10M. This is an increase of 15% over 2014 lodging expenditures, which means The Angle is growing. There are currently 16 lodging facilities in The Angle but no public facilities whatsoever. Day-trip visitors can’t even use the restroom without walking into a bar or a resort lodge.

Keeping the park as Day-Use Only (at least in the beginning) would maintain no- to low-impact on the two neighboring resorts that offer minimal camping spaces.

A new airport is in pre-construction planning stages, which would add another port of entry to the NW Angle. Visitors arrive primarily by road and secondarily by boat across Lake of the Woods. It is a hugely popular snowmobiling destination and the park’s central trail would connect the groomed lake trails to the Outlying Area Reporting Station (OARS) and the southbound land trails.

Mostly, the area is in need of an iconic emblem within a representative environment that denotes arrival at the northernmost spot in the lower 48. GPS units put that spot out in the shallow, weedy waters of Angle Inlet Bay and the locals believe it is a rock on the far side of Magnuson Island. Regardless, it is either inaccessible or on private property. The observation tower, and “Northerly Park” as a whole, gives visitors the opportunity to “be” at that northernmost spot.

Criteria #4: Fills a Gap in Recreational Opportunity within the Region

The nearest park to The Angle is the Roseau City park, 67 miles away, and there are other regional parks near Warroad, MN, 73 miles away. A remote state park exists on Garden Island of Lake of the Woods and at Zipple Bay on the south shores of Lake of the Woods, 87 miles away.

Currently, there is no trail system in the area for walking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.  People utilize the main road, which is heavily traveled by vehicles towing boat and RV trailers.  All roads at The Angle are gravel with no sidewalks or side ATV trails, which poses a risk for pedestrians due to dust and flying rocks. The park would fill a huge safety gap for locals and resort goers who want outdoor exercise, bird watchers needing amenities, and winter sports enthusiasts needing a business-neutral warming location. It would also provide budget-conscious families with a public summer fishing spot and canoe access, something that does not currently exist at The Angle.

In the whole of the NW Angle, there exists one small educational or historical sign. The park would serve as an outdoor community museum of sorts, cataloging and documenting the varied and incredible history of this unique place.

 

Angle Days Planning Underway and Northerly Park Explained – Part 2

Column 27 Published in the May 24, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Last column marked a year of Angle Full of Grace and I celebrated by talking about my latest passion:  building a public park here at The Angle.

Before this vision started taking shape, there was the dream of growing The Angle’s summer event, the Blueberry Festival, into an inclusive representation of the unique facets of The Angle. We renamed it “Angle Days” and over the last three years its personality has started unfolding: family fun, quirky competitions, displays of resourcefulness, good cooking, and outdoor music and movies.

The planning is just getting underway now for the August 5-6th event. We are still a very small volunteer crew (2-3 of us) with a handful of folks in the wings who step-up to help as needed. I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in joining the fun!

If you haven’t been to Angle Days, book a cabin or a campsite now. The Angle fills up. The kids come out in droves. The weather almost always pleasantly surprises us. (Knock on wood.)  You can surely plan a day-trip too, just make certain to pack for all adventures. You may just end up sitting in a dunk tank or taking a spill off of a paddle board or dribbling epic chili down your front while navigating the crowd or singing your heart out with the band while dancing with your sweetie under the stars.

Angle Days is a great time and you’ll get a good taste of what this community is all about. Follow us at www.facebook.com/MinnesotaAngleDays for updates and tidbits leading up to the festival.

Back to “Northerly Park” – which is its working name – I want to share more of our application to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. We were asked to explain how our park idea meets four specific state-wide criteria for regional designation and subsequent funding. Here are the first two:

LOCATION DESCRIPTION: This parcel of land is the southwest corner of Township 168, Range 35, Section 28. Lake of the Woods County is in process of purchasing the parcel from the state (for the agreed price of the closing costs) with sole purpose being construction of a public park. It is approximately .25 square miles or 162 acres. Currently untouched forest, the land is centrally located within the NW Angle community and borders the main road. The northwest corner of the parcel is partial muskeg on the waters of Angle Inlet Bay, near Minnesota Historic Site Fort St. Charles on Lake of the Woods.  The land encapsulates a near-perfect representation of Northwest Angle terrain and vegetation, missing only the exposed bedrock that is common and unique to the area.

CRITERIA #1: PROVIDES A HIGH-QUALITY OUTDOOR RECREATION EXPERIENCE

“Northerly Park” will attract outdoor enthusiasts in all seasons. Winter snowmobilers can pass from the nearby Outlying Area Reporting Station (OARS), to the park’s Warming Hut and directly out to trails on the frozen lake or southbound trails along the main roads. Snow-shoers and cross-country skiers will have access to wooded trails and lake trails, as well. Spring, summer and fall will provide flora and fauna tours, walking and biking trails, public fishing opportunities, and historical and educational experiences. The location of the park, along with the history of its land, makes this the most unique park in northern Minnesota.

The high-focus areas would include an observation tower overlooking the lake, cedar boardwalks over the muskeg and through the beautiful “cedar swamp,” as well as the primary structure, a 30×50 cedar log pavilion with six log picnic tables, all built from the trees logged during the park’s construction. Cement floor and steel roof provide durability and protection from the elements. A grand stone fireplace built from local stone can be used for cooking, heat and light. There would be a children’s natural play area and structure, as well as a rugged log outdoor fitness area with push-up logs, sit-up planks and pull-up bars. A small grass amphitheater (and future cedar log stage) would host local and visiting musicians, outdoor movies, weddings and other events, and possibly even the one-room school’s annual Spring Play.

The area has significant history. Local schools already journey to The Angle for class field trips. “Northerly Park” would be a natural extension and educational experience for existing field trips and would attract additional groups.

Criteria #2: Provides a Natural and Scenic Setting Offering a Compelling Sense of Place

Arriving at The Angle by vehicle, all visitors would see the entrance to “Northerly Park” – a naturally-wooded, picturesque day-use area for outdoor enthusiasts of all seasons. It will be a peaceful place to decompress after a dusty drive, get a first glimpse of beautiful Lake of the Woods, and learn about The Angle’s unique history.  Apart from asking the community elders, no other such educational opportunity has existed in the past. And apart from the small church and the one-room school’s playground structure, there are no other public facilities at The Angle. They are sorely needed.

It is a remote area and yet a very popular outdoor destination at the same time. The park would serve as a representative microcosm for all that The Angle has to offer: winter and summer trails, wildlife, fishing, birding, and the perfection and solitude of untouched nature.  A four-mile circuit of intersecting trails with unique stopping points would highlight the park’s main activities, including the Observation Tower, foot bridge over a spring stream, boardwalk through the cedar swamp, Showy Lady Slipper observation, bird watching, fishing, etc.  The boardwalks would help provide access for all ages to the pristine natural environment of The Angle.  A muskeg boardwalk leads visitors to a floating dock system and fishing platform, the first public access to Lake of the Woods at The Angle proper.

Many visitors come simply to document being at the northernmost spot in the contiguous US, but they are quickly enthralled with the uniquely rugged attributes and quaint remote lifestyle. They stay on, or often return again, to learn more about how life came to be as it is here. Northerly Park would be a first-of-its-kind public place at The Angle, a place to take it all in, learn and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Explaining “Northerly Park” – Part 1

Column 26 Published in the May 10, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

 

The Angle was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning. The long-running program’s Lee Cowan made the trip to The Angle, interviewed a few locals, went fishing and filmed all the usual spots. It’s a six-minute video glimpse into the quaint and remote lifestyle I try to capture every other week in this, our nearest newspaper.

For me, it’s column 26. For anyone who’s followed along since the beginning, after a full-year of Angle Full of Grace at about five minutes a pop, you’ve invested 130 minutes into learning about The Angle, my personal journey here at The Angle and whatever else I feel like “spewing.” Columns are nifty like that.

National coverage, like the CBS Sunday Morning spot, is always a treat and happens in some fashion almost yearly. The one-room school house has been a popular topic nationally, but it’s the “geographic oddity” of the place, as Cowan put it, that is the primary draw.

It’s this oddity that makes The Northwest Angle a perfect location for a regional park, and because I felt in my gut that some unnamed thing was somehow missing in the CBS spot, I’d like to devote the rest of my space this week to the application submitted to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. (They help divvy up the state monies allocated specifically for recreational purposes.)

Elevator Pitch: “Northerly Park” would serve as an iconic landmark for the tens of thousands of visitors who journey to this most northern point in the contiguous United States each year. It would provide a much-needed budget-friendly, business-neutral location for historic and educational purposes, day-use picnicking, public fishing access, summer- and winter-use trails, and small-group assembly. The park would also unite a growing rural community by providing centrally-located amenities neutral of any area business or land ownership.

Park Overview (which needed to include regional significance, target users, facilities and programs, and proximity to other parks and trails): “Northerly Park” would be the most northern park in the lower 48, providing equitable access to the Northwest Angle, a unique and beautiful landmark location. Currently, unless you have a resort reservation or know a cabin owner, The Angle is generally inaccessible to budget-conscious outdoor enthusiasts due to the lack of public day-use facilities or even a public restroom. The park would serve resort goers, day-trip visitors and the local community with outdoor recreation, group gathering amenities, and educational experiences ideal for area school field trips. “Northerly Park” would allow thousands of tourists to document (via photos, geocache and other social media) their visit to this northernmost spot with a special iconic marker, similar to the buoy in Key West, Florida.

Built in phases, “Northerly Park” begins as a rustic, low-maintenance day-use only destination, with outhouses in lieu of plumbing and gravel roads and parking lots. Two acres of open grassy area with shade trees holds a rugged children’s play structure, exercise equipment, and several trail heads.  A 30×50 cedar log pavilion is the primary structure, complete with cement floor, steel roof, six log picnic tables, cooking grills and a stone fireplace. The park contains ten additional separate picnicking spots. A unique grass amphitheater is built off the main area and is used for outdoor movies, weddings, and music festivals. In later phases, the park will evolve to plumbing and its own well. Compost toilets are a goal.

The looping trail system is four miles long and culminates at a remote picnic area with an observation tower overlooking Lake of the Woods and the bountiful muskeg bird- and wildlife. From this higher vantage, visitors can point to the northernmost spot, take photographs and learn the history. The tower would surely become a Must-See attraction at The Angle.  A floating dock system would allow additional park recreation, such as fishing, canoeing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Durable park signage, trail maps and natural insect control, i.e., Bat Houses and Lake Swallow Houses, would be a priority.

Educational signage compliments the natural scenery. Visitors learn about local Native American history, European explorers, Benjamin Franklin’s contribution to obtaining The Angle, Fort St. Charles, the homesteaders, historical logging and fishing industries, flora and fauna, and present day life, including The Angle’s one-room school house, Minnesota’s last. Park volunteers are available for educational tours.

A cedar boardwalk would allow better accessibility for all ages and keep visitors on-trail in the delicate cedar swamp areas, protecting the state flower, the Showy Lady Slipper, a wild orchard that abounds in the area. The central trail is open to snowmobilers in the winter, connecting the park to hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails throughout Minnesota, Ontario and Manitoba.

There are no parks in the Northwest Angle; the closest are in neighboring towns, Warroad and Roseau, 60+ miles away. There is a remote state park on Garden Island of Lake of the Woods and at Zipple Bay on the south shores of Lake of the Woods, 87 miles away.**

Next column, I plan to continue this glimpse into the future possibility of “Northerly Park” for The Angle. Putting it out there into the universe is powerful, and using this small pulpit is one little thing I can do to help make a dream become a reality.

To view the CBS Sunday Morning spot on The Angle, visit cbsnews.com/news/minnesotas-northwest-angle-an-american-geographic-oddity/. To learn more about “Northerly Park,” stay tuned until next column.