Rural America Rising – Roseau’s Bear and Bean might just change the face of rural communities, for the better

 

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Iris walks into the Bear and Bean for the first time. She LOVED it, especially her grilled cheese sandwich (which was indeed heavenly). She made several new friends. too

Walk into Bear and Bean Coffee Company, Roseau’s cosmopolitan yet decidedly hometown coffee shop, and you might forget for a minute that you’re in Northern Minnesota.

But that’s not exactly what owners and Roseau residents of six years Keith and Tom Pringle are going for. Yes, they’re tapping into the warmth and funk of a trendy spot in St. Paul or Seattle – where Keith hales from, but it’s also an atmosphere that makes you feel right at home in your own north woods. From the man reading his Bible by the fireplace to the insurance agent meeting with an old farmer to the groups of Roseau students and Polaris employees, Bear and Bean makes it clear that everyone is welcome in their living room. Continue reading “Rural America Rising – Roseau’s Bear and Bean might just change the face of rural communities, for the better”

The Badger Community Heritage Wall – How a Public Art Project Tells the True Story of One Rural Community

(Published in the October 3, 2017 issue of the Warroad Pioneer)

A century from now, our descendants will travel the widened yet familiar section of Highway 11 that runs at a diagonal from Lake of the Woods to the North Dakota border. When they reach the small but thriving community of Badger, someone in the vehicle will inevitably say, “Watch for the Wall!”, and as their vehicle slows, all eyes will strain towards a small green space a block beyond the highway. What they watch for is eye-catching even on a gray day, when the light through the clouds still plays with the colorful hundred-year old glass shards, thousands and thousands of them, painstakingly cut, set and cared for over the years by loving fingers that have long since returned to the Earth.

It’s a very likely scenario and one that artist Sherri Kruger says she prays for. “Forever. I pray that it lasts forever,” she said, when asked about the possible longevity of her creation. Said creation is her brainchild, but in its short lifespan to date, the project as a whole has become much more than just “hers.” Continue reading “The Badger Community Heritage Wall – How a Public Art Project Tells the True Story of One Rural Community”

VFW Supports Angle School

Representatives from the Warroad VFW Post 4930, Jeff Ploof and Gordon Heurd, journeyed to the Northwest Angle on Saturday, September 30 to present a $600 check to the Angle Inlet School. The funds are earmarked for a new flag pole, installation and lighting. The existing pole is a rough cut log and no longer has a pully system attached. When it was functional, it tore the flags to shreds in a matter of weeks. Mr. Ploof and Mr. Heurd met schoolteacher Linda LaMie for a tour of the one-room school house and shared stories about community history and the new updates to the building.

The donation came about as a result of the school fundraising efforts at this past summer’s Angle Days event. Community member Deb Butler reached out to pulltab auditor Gail Haugen, who then involved the VFW’s gambling manager Dan Demolee and the rest of his team.

On behalf of The Angle community, teacher Mrs. Lamie, paraprofessional Mrs. Shoen, and all “The Angle Kids”, THANK YOU to the entire group at the VFW and to everyone involved. Also, a big Thank You to Mr. Ploof and Mr. Heurd for making the trek all the way to The Angle.

(Published in the October 3 Warroad Pioneer)

 

A Hurricane of Support

(Published in the September 5th Warroad Pioneer)

Something beautiful happened at The Angle this past weekend, this whole past summer, in fact. Our little one-room school house was in need, and people showed up en masse to donate and volunteer.

Thanks to District 690 and construction company NW Angle Services, the building finally got a much-needed face-lift – new roof, ceiling, external siding, windows, carpet, renovated bathrooms and storage closet, wheelchair accessible front entryway, and rear steps.

When the construction was complete, the interior needed a paint job and the entire classroom had to be put back to rights in the six short days before classes were to begin. Continue reading “A Hurricane of Support”

The Goings On of School Kids and Grown Ups

(Published Tuesday, May 30 in the Warroad Pioneer)

Last week was a busy one at The Angle before the holiday weekend even started.

The Angle Ladies Adventure Society, with leaders Bre Gjovik and Sara Magoon, finished painting the new northernmost point landmark, a project sponsored by Lake of the Woods County Commissioners and organized by the NW Angle Edge Riders. The icon is similar to the southernmost landmark in the Florida Keys but for color. The ladies chose the colors yellow, blue and green to represent the sun, water and land of the NW Angle, as well as the elusive muskie that brings so many visitors to our area. The landmark is currently located at the end of Young’s Bay Drive on Lake of the Woods and awaits your photos! Continue reading “The Goings On of School Kids and Grown Ups”

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.

Our feathers don’t dictate our flock

 

For the last many weeks, I’ve watched the birds gather for their long migrations south. The northern flickers, Canadian geese, black birds, winter wrens and even trumpeter swans know without knowing to gather together in times of transition. It is born into them that isolation is unsafe and unnatural at these critical life junctures.

For the most part, in times of great change humans naturally follow this same flocking instinct as well, but there are those of us who buck that norm for whatever reason. Change often keeps company in our minds with grief or anger or mistrust, which can compound to send us spiraling into loneliness.

The Angle tends to gather all kinds; those seeking connection and those seeking separation. It is a place that almost encourages isolation, escape and a disquieted seeking of solace and respite in nature. I’ve watched the lifecycle of my own false sense of moral righteousness in living close to the land, getting back to the Earth.

But the longer I stay at The Angle, the more certain I become that it is the currents of the Earth in all their great mysteries that are pushing us back into connection with our people.

Greater Minnesota already knows about the three missing boaters who left Sunset Lodge on Oak Island, Lake of the Woods, late on Friday, October 3rd but didn’t make it to their cabin an island away. Their 16 foot Lund was found the following day capsized on the NE corner of Flag Island, about a nautical mile from Sunset Lodge. As of this writing, the body of Justin Haugtvedt, 22, was recovered and the two other men remain missing.

When tragedy happens, communities like The Angle rise up and band together. People spring into action to help however they can. Isolation is set aside and replaced by neighborliness with a sense of urgency that remote and extreme lifestyles like The Angle’s understand well.

But in this particular case, it has been a long and lonely week. Now, in the latter part of the search, there are a few volunteers in the ranks, but for the first many days, help from the locals had been refused by the agencies in charge. Seasoned guides, knowledgeable about the lake and its currents were asked to leave the area. Land owners near where the boat was found and where the men may have made it to shore were not enlisted to help search, despite knowing the land and shoreline and having access to all-terrain vehicles. News bulletins repeated the sentiment that “County Law enforcement is being assisted by several agencies and is not looking for civilian volunteers.”

If something should happen to my daughter or me, let this serve as a call for anyone who wants to help to be invited and welcomed. At the behest of the lost, all agencies involved must deal with the chaos that we civilians bring in exchange for our resources, manpower and depth of knowledge of this remote land and its unforgiving waterways. This is not said out of mistrust for any officials but rather a wholesome knowing that we would fight for life and we would hope anyone who could help would indeed be allowed to do so. South of here, the search for the missing Monticello man was aided by volunteers, and it was indeed a volunteer who found his body and helped bring closure to the family.

This is, of course, one Angleite’s perspective after speaking to a variety of folk around the area, and it seems like an achingly lonely conclusion to come to. I hope others have had a different experience. Gratitude is definitely owed to the hard-working officials who have been involved in the search to date, but the Angle works best when our people work together and being refused the chance to help feels so opposite of all that we stand for.

There is another way. Please consider donating at http://www.gofundme.com/lotwboys to help the families with all expenses incurred during this time of waiting. Our community heart goes out to the friends and families of these young men, Justin, Cody and Keith, as well as heartbroken Baudette, MN.

Despite the many who live here in solitude and quiet unspoken loneliness, there is an age-old Angle recipe for Being. Despite the propensity toward addiction, which I’ve written about in previous columns, and other domestic and emotional malaise that are a byproduct of loneliness, that recipe for Being centers on connection. Despite our odd collection of all ways and walks of life, this Angle community could and would come together with such compassion and force that it would surely make a difference in whatever event served to unite it.

We are like the birds, some of us busy wrens, some of us stoic flickers, some of us trumpeter swans. But unlike the birds, our feathers don’t dictate our flocks.

We may be separate in our minds, but there is a greater knowing here that we are indeed all One. Mother Earth wants only that her children should come back together, and she will make it so, with our cooperation or without. It is on us to heed the migration call and rise up through grief and loneliness, in grace and goodwill.

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A U.S. Border Patrol Air Unit conducts an air search at the Northwest Angle for the three missing Baudette men. (Both photos courtesy of Joe Laurin.)