You didn't think I'd write all of this about Brainerd's past, without including a section on the future, did you? I have some ideas on that, as I'm sure many residents do, and here would be a good place to let your opinions be known. Send them on in!
Perhaps the new Brainerd restoration/renovation group would like to post their ideas on a separate sub-page from here. LMK!
-BOOM LAKE: There is perhaps more EARLY history here than anwhere else in the city, with the short-lived sawmill, log booming inlets (there were 2), railroad spur, and brewery sites all but dissappeard. It also is one of the most scenic, and has the most potential for recreation. Unfortunately I don't know who owns what, since the Kiwanis maintains some, as does Parks & Rec., and there are landowners on top of the hill who may own property to the lake. Can anyone enlighten me on this? I can envision clearing off the dirt from the slab of the brewery's Bottlng House and using it to support a picnic table and BBQ grill! What a patio, and it's still intact and only 21' from the paved trail!!! The above-mentioned business enterprises should be marked with the City's stone monuments (see below). The dirt exercise trails built a few years back up in the hills could be widened and opened up a bit to prevent vandalism. Perhaps some MILD lighting, like pathway lighting, not those awful security flood lights would be appropriate.
-CITY PLAN FOR BRAINERD, MN, 1946: What if we had followed it...Merrifield the new Baxter, an underpass? Yes, the route to the northern lakes would have gone up through Merrifield, not Baxter.
3/1/2008: There's a book at the library that most fascinates me, especially every time there is another "Downtown Revival", which is about every decade. I don't own a copy but would like to get at least a photocopy of it some time. It's called City Plan For Brainerd, Minnesota, 1946 by S. R. De Boer, city planning consultant, Denver CO. The 2008 Downtown Renovation folks might find it interesting as it is all about economic development, but in an uncanny 2008-ish environmental sort of way. It slays me that not one of the suggestions mentioned every came to fruition. One plan included a roadway from the paper mill all the way south to past Boom Lake, AND it went under the bridge, a much talked about scheme in the past several years to let emergency vehicles past a slow train. Also, it very much utilized the river. I know people that have been here a decade and don't know there is a river here! Look how other cities such as Little Falls or St. Cloud bring it to view. Last winter/2006 at near-record low water levels I walked the entire stretch mentioned above, upstream not up on the bank as I've done before, but on the river bed, and back again. It's just like how I cruise an antique store, first counter-clockwise looking high, then clockwise, looking low...you find more stuff that way!
-FACADE, ORIGINAL: How about reclaiming some of the original facads on the few remaining classic buildings? I'm not sure, but I think the 4 pillars on the former Brainerd State Bank/Citizens State Bank, now/2008 Downtown Art and Frame Co. are still locked behind the brick enclosures, SW corner of 7th & Laurel. The First National Bank, now/2008 a pawn shop on the SE corner of 6th & Front St. is on it's 3rd. facad, but what might be lurking underneath? The Elks Building, now/2008 Northwind Grille, NE corner of 6th & Laurel has been wonderfully restored. The same can be said for the later Citizens State Bank, now/2008 E. L. Menk building, NW corner of 7th & Laurel is looking good!
PUBLIC COMMENTS ON APPEARANCE:
• Appearance of downtown streets needs to be cleaned up - weeds and trash pick up
• Downtown not comfortable to walk
• Downtown is no longer aesthetically attractive
• Downtown needs consistent look - flowers, attractive places to sit Seedy bars deter family use of downtown
• Improvements should not block views to business signage
• Walking to church through downtown is not pleasant
Guiding Principle developed from public input:
•Downtown Brainerd is a place for people.
The Historic Downtown District should be a pedestrian area. People want to be where there are other people, and will have a greater sense of security where there is more activity. The Historic Downtown, streets and parking areas should be designed to be flexible, attractive and ensure a safe pedestrian environment.
PUBLIC COMMENTS ON CHARACTER:
• An historic theme downtown would build pride in Brainerd's History
• Nicollet Mall down Laurel?
• Downtown should be an enjoyable environment
• Downtown is the heart of the city
• Murals and other creative ways to beautify should be considered
• Classic Historical theme - Eat & Shop downtown
Guiding Principle developed from public input:
•An opportunity to establish a unique sense of place.
By weaving a common theme or historical reference through the Downtown, it will provide a unique sense of place, which will become a signature for the City of Brainerd. Possible sources of inspiration include Mississippi River, Paul Bunyan, Railroad, Gregory Park, lumber industry, neighborhoods and downtown schools.
Was the above from 2008 with the recent history talk? No, it was 2001!
-HISTORY WALKS: Read on...http://lakesarea.brainerddispatch.com/groups/brainerdhistorywalk
-LIGHTING WASTED: This is one of my pet peeves, and a lot of people will disagree, but I am not in agreement with the new retro street lights recently/2007 put on Laurel St. They do indeed look like the originals but send too much light upward, and not on the street, creating a light that is too glaring, and contributing to light pollution. Light what you say? Well, go out in the country at night and look up...there's stars out there! For more on this just Google Light Pollution. Sorry, most of the time Old Is Good, but not this time.
-MARKERS: Add more stone marker/plaques, as were done for the 1971 centennial.I think these were built by the Green Thumb group. Already I can see some that were missed:
--Brewery, Boom Lake
--Ferry (wanigan) landing, football field area, before the Laurel St. bridge was built
--Planing Mill, Boom Lake (there is a stone marker indicating the J.J. Howe sawmill, but it lacks information).
--Rail Line (abandoned) leading to the sawmill and brewery, now the paved and striped hogsback used as a walking trail around Boom lake. It came through the alley between Laurel and Maple, roughly through the present/2008 US Bank, and diagonally down present College Drive to the sawmill near the present fishing dock on the river. It then curved east around to the easternmost side of the lake to the brewery. I have not yet found evidence of the line actually being used to service the brewery, other than making that assumption based on the 1883 map.
--Sawmill, Boom Lake
-RIVER: What River?: It is my belief that having the Mighty Mississippi going smack through our town is one of the most unique features of the city. So why do we hide it so? Here again, I'm all for leaving Mother Nature to her devices, but a neatly cleared river bank while still staying within the Upper Mississippi Headwaters Board regulations would show off this great asset.
-SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT: I'm not too up on this subject, but I believe all that remains active on the east side of the river is a pumping station to get the sewage across the river to the Brainerd/Baxter treatment plant. The old building on the river's edge south of Boom lake is vacated, and not worth re-occupying since it was erroneously built back in the 19__'s (?) in a flood plain.
-WALKING PATHS: There is SO much emphasis these days placed on excercise and fitness and walking and jogging, and cites now spend much effort and expense laying miles of paved trails, especially our neighbors to the west, Baxter. They seem to lay them alongside most of their new roads, yet they don't have nearly the scenery we have here especially along the river. I know the Paul Bunyan Trail is being extended somewhere through the ciry and some walking paths are planned, but I need more info on the subject. I'd like to see:
-Make many more walking paths along the river, hopefully from the paper mill/cemetery area to the sewage treatment plant (some would be in a flood plain so would need to be gravel, and closeable on high water years). BTW, these paths already exist, at least unofficially, and are used a lot...I know, I hang out down there all the time, have been for 50 years/2008, and I meet a lot of hikers there.
-Install mileage markers so one would know how far he traveled.
-Create a map with a guided tour again with mileage, but indicating the stone monuments that were erected in the 1971 era for the centennial. These monuments are already out there, but who knows where? Add markers, with only the plaque without the stone pedestal, on the few remaining vintage buildings. Also indicate which paths are paved and level for the handicapped or motorized wheelchairs. One could make different legs of the system with different degrees of difficulty. The Boom Lake section could include an optional hike up to the top of the ski jump hill for instance, for the more hearty. They could be coded with numbers in case you didn't have a map with you, or a map could be posted at the start of each leg.
-WATER PLANT: Another subject I could use some help on. Apparently this facility is still all being used as the pumping and filtration system, using water from about 7 wells, located in those small brick buildings south of the main plant