The town is accepting the changes needed to grow and prosper
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
The Minnesota Design Team (MDT), a group of 14 professional architects, engineers and designers, spent the weekend with members of the Randall community from May 31 to June 2. Its purpose was to help the town develop a vision for the future.
The MDT was brought to Randall through the efforts of both the Vision Randall group and the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls.
The group stayed with residents of the area, from Camp Ripley to the Lincoln Lakes Area. They listened and learned what type of vision people had for their community, toured the area and then developed what they felt were feasible ideas and projects that the Randall community could implement.
On the last day of MDT’s visit, the group presented its ideas during a community meeting. There the residents learned it should focus on both ensuring the Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail (CRVST) came through town and creating rental housing, at least 25-50 units, to make it attractive to live in Randall.
MDT members said of the entire proposed multi-use CRVST, the area between Pillager and Randall is the least complex to implement. The city needed to take full advantage of its implementation.
“Because Camp Ripley is willing to move its fence along County Road 1 to accommodate the trail, there will be few land access issues,” said Randall State Bank President Neil Anderson. “There are also few wetlands to deal with. The cost could be less than $7 million, far less than other areas.”
Randall wants to see the trail come through town, bringing people to the area. The community plans for it to follow the Little Elk River to the east of Pacific Avenue.
“By getting traffic through town, it can only revitalize the area,” said Anderson. “Another idea discussed was lengthening County Road 1 to County Road 115, again increasing traffic in town.”
Camp Ripley owns a railroad line between it and Little Falls. In town, it crosses the Mississippi River and connects to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) main line.
“Camp will not ever give that line up,” said Anderson. “Unless, it’s given an alternative.”
That alternative would be to add a spur to the BNSF line near Randall. That spur would enter Camp Ripley on its west side. The old railroad bed from Camp to Little Falls could then be used for the Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail on the east side of the Mississippi River.
“The new seven-mile railroad would not be as expensive to build as getting rights of way for a trail from Little Falls to Brainerd would be,” said Anderson. “Few easement rights would need to be obtained as it would go through farmland.”
On the old railroad spur, Anderson said there is area for businesses to be built.
“BNSF is currently looking for new spur opportunities along its line. It would like more mini-transition sites to load and unload goods,” said Anderson. “Randall is a perfect area with room for such a site.”
Anderson said one of the key components for the state trails is connecting parks, both state and local. Randall has Bingo Park on the Little Elk River and makes a perfect stop for a picnic or rest area.
“Randall is the perfect town to accommodate the trail. It has one of the lowest funding needs and few complications. It has a park which is a state requirement and legacy funding is available because it’s a new project,” said Anderson.
Anderson said that towns that don’t have a vision and that don’t work at making that vision a reality will die. Randall plans to survive and thrive.
Another concept discussed by the MDT and the community was the need for an increase in population. Residents named a few businesses and amenities they would like to see in Randall, but without population growth, each one would have a hard time making it.
With home ownership down 15 percent in the state, the Vision Randall team and the residents of Randall agreed the city needs more rental property. The city has several sites where building rental property would be feasible.
The MDT will return in six months, then again in one year to see what progress is being made on the ideas. The Initiative Foundation will also follow up with the community.
The MDT is one of a kind in the United States. Its mission is to use design to help small Minnesota communities develop a shared vision of a healthy future.
While members may come from different states, the group focuses only on Minnesota communities. The $4,000 cost for the team’s input was paid for in part by a grant from the Initiative Foundation. Randall was one of only two chosen communities the Design Team will work with in 2012.