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.

Northerly Park Part 3

 

 

 

 

The World is Too Much With Us

Column 8 Published in the August 11 Warroad Pioneer

It occurred to me some time ago, as I watched my two-year old run joyously up and down the grassy ditches of our driveway, that this glacier-smoothed prairie land isn’t flat to her. She has mountains to climb every day, valleys to explore, caverns and arroyos. There is no cellular longing in her for the great pines that used to anchor the soil and the wolves here. No ancestral guilt for the unchecked logging of a century ago that left us with only the fast growing birch, popple and balm of gilead. “Junk wood” as I’ve heard it called by the old timers. When you’ve survived sixty some winters on the sweat of your own labor cutting, hauling, stacking, and tending to the fires, I suppose you’ve earned the right to judge the wood that warms your family.

The land feels flat to me of late. I walked the road, and the curing crunch of gravel underfoot offered up only a minor healing tonic. “The world is too much with us, late and soon. Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” Wordsworth knew. He saw clearly the growing disconnect with nature. My distracted mind can’t see the summer moss and mushroom patches. The wild lilies bloomed and broke, and I barely noticed.

This place, this Angle drew me home four years ago this September and never have I regretted it. But the worldly world still pulls and tugs and busy-ness erodes the rhythm of deep, barefoot breathing. The sunrise and sunset of the harvest blue moon sang quietly through my window as I worked diligently at my computer, its ghastly light interrupting sleep patterns and dream therapy.

We’ve moved from one reactive happening to the next this spring and summer. Northerly Park grant planning, a friend’s death, a sibling’s wedding, a 300+ person community event, and oh  my  gosh, potty training. Why did no one tell me it’s so hard!? I read a how-to book, for goodness sake, and felt like a fool doing so, but I’ve been at my wit’s end too many times these last many months. Still it drags on.

Our Angle Days event will be behind me when this goes to press, but now, as it breathes down my neck like a disorganized dragon, I wonder how it always comes together like it does. Each year, we bite off more and more, plan bigger and broader, invite, advertise, market – all in hopes to share this place, this simple beautiful life.

And as the stress roils, the Angle works its silent magic to gently bring me back.

Today it was the east wind and a soft blanket of rain that reminded me, brought me home. I stared over a flat gray lake and let the mist meet my skin just as I used to in the monotone winters of the Pacific Northwest.

You have forgotten, the wind breathed to me. This is The Angle. This is the truth of life. Somehow, someway it all always works out perfectly. Everything is as it should be. Even the spending and getting. Even the flatness.

You have chosen to remember, it said, sweeping across the miles of rocky shorelines and untouched islands of Lake of the Woods, bringing the cleansing rain as easterlies always seem to do. Remember you are home. Remember you are whole. Remember you are enough.

Now go. Get up. Run with the wolves again. Show your little one just how majestic these flatland hills truly are.