Submitted by Kay Hegge
Have you ever heard this saying: French journalist and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in the early 20th century penned the expression, “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” I say that we have a great downtown plan by JLG Architects, but a plan without a goal is just a dream. Over the years, I have developed a personal vision of how to accomplish the plan. It includes the daycare (or maker fair) ideas of Prairie Skyline Foundation for the old Methodist Church and much much more. My vision looks at the Downtown Square area and Central Park as a mini or sub plan of JLG Architects Downtown Plan, which recommends doing a project like the “Community Center with Art and Heart” in the old Cathedral and saving the Methodist Church for something equally outstanding as well. Also recommended by JLG is an outdoor swimming pool in the area where the Red Barn sits. As recommended, the Red Barn would be moved to Central Park for a better warming house with bathrooms for bringing back the outdoor skating rinks. The proposed “Young at Hart Center” would be completed in the old Cathedral bringing more kids and families downtown and tourists as well. Central Park is saved for huge playful sculptures made from pallet wood and trimmed shrubbery around the edges while keeping the middle for events like “Nite to Unite,” etc. Tim Persson thought of a bowling alley in the old Central High School gym. Central Square can move to where First Community Credit Union may be torn down or any other space nearby, we have plenty! And the old Bus Garage can become a petting zoo. Families and tourists will be able to spend money on gas, food, gifts, and sundries downtown EVERY DAY! All ages can attend activities at the Library, the Carnegie Library, and the Grand Theater as well. I’m sure good people like Shannon Stassen, Shirley Seddon Iverson, Tom Amiot, Terri Heggie and many others have already imagined a “rent a bike stand, “rent a kayak stand,”, artsy benches, and more public art in the “Kids Zone.”
Now to develop this “Kids Zone.” It’s going to take more than $350,000. Luckily our City is in a position to do so. Sometimes, you must do the things that cost more for the sake of the bigger picture. But not without a financial plan for how the work will be funded and operating costs subsidized. Remember the “Flood Fund” folks? Like that successful vision, this is could be the new successful vision. The City and CHEDA could pay for architect design fees and have the architects determine proposed costs, then look at sources and uses for funding these projects, taking the “Kids Zone” into the next Bonding Bill if needs be.
As projects, spin-off ideas and businesses evolve, there should be a process like the CHEDA loan fund to apply for grants from the “Fun Fund” which is modeled after the Flood Fund. Fortunately, we have the Downtown Plan, but it is without the “How to do it” part. Although the City has excelled at addressing housing needs, there doesn’t seem to be one overarching goal to unite staff, council, and the public. Nor is there a fair, transparent, and reasonable process to spend money beyond infrastructure. We expect our governments to have paperwork and we expect a way for the community to have more than their five minutes of input at City Council or 15 minutes at Ways and Means. We have to get everyone talking! Town halls whether virtual or not could be one way. Developing the Community Center in the old Cathedral is another. In the meantime, , put the $350,000 into the “Fun Fund,” call your Councilman (see https://www.crookston.mn.us/ns/gov/elected scroll down for the Ward map) and if you like these ideas, like the new Facebook Page and/or join the Group discussion: “Just say “Yes” to Kids Zone in Downtown Crookston,” and “Just say “No” to RV Park in Central Park.”