Community members learn how the bike trail impacted that town
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
On June 12, 33 members of several Morrison County communities got on a bus and traveled to southeastern Minnesota and the town of Lanesboro. They went to gather information on how the Root River Bike Trail has impacted the town.
The first item on the agenda was touring two live-performance theaters built in the last couple of years in Lanesboro. City officials told the Morrison County group that the arts and the trail users go hand in hand. The city built the first theater and it was consistently packed during the summer performances. The city then built the second one.
“Actors and staff come from all over the United States to perform and work there,” said Bob Reinitz, the chair of the Camp Ripley/Veterans State Trail committee (CRVST). “Lanesboro is now one of the top 12 destinations in the United States for arts.”
The group, made up of people from Little Falls, Royalton, Bowlus, Upsala, Holdingford and Randall then toured the town. Little Falls City Councilman Frank Gosiak said he was impressed with how Lanesboro’s ambiance resembled the 1950s.
“The city has decided to not allow any big-box stores, chains or franchises to set up shop. It’s just like it was 60 years ago with its small-town charm,” he said.
What the group found was a pie shop, a wine store, antiques, a business which rented bikes, canoes and kayaks, and a shop called “Local Flavor” which showcased only local artisans.
During lunch, people with different ideas on how Little Falls should proceed sat with members of the Lanesboro group. The time was spent brainstorming.
“We talked about how to incorporate what we saw and learned in Lanesboro to help Little Falls,” said the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Director Kristina VonBerge.
After lunch, the group met with people from local businesses, the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau, city council members and the city’s administrator.
“Those we spoke with said they were lucky to have received the trail from the Department of Natural Resources,” said Reinitz. “They did not understand the trail’s importance at first, but the city embraced the idea and made a plan right away.”
Reinitz said Little Falls is starting out with so much more to offer than Lanesboro did. It has a large downtown, historic flair and ample parking for visitors.
“What I liked most about Lanesboro was the 1950s feel of the town. It was almost stressless,” said Gosiak. “The businesses work together by referring customers and they kept the history of the town intact which is important. Lanesboro is unique.”
Gosiak said Little Falls needs to take what it already has and expand on it.
“The Chamber and the CVB both have an interest in Little Falls. One for the businesses and the other for visitors. We need to give people a reason to come to Little Falls, walk around, enjoy the atmosphere and frequent its businesses. The entire town needs to work together,” said VonBerge.
The next step will be to set up a committee consisting of people from the Chamber, the CVB, the West Side Improvement Association, the Little Falls Business Association, the Historic Preservation Committee, Little Falls Public School, Public Health and those involved in economical development, the CRVST and more. All the ideas brought forth will be whittled down to several of the most important ideas to tackle and energy will be focused there.
“When the trail opens, we will be ready,” said Reinitz.
Gosiak said that several years ago, a study was done for downtown and how to rejuvenate it, but it was shelved. He would like to see it dusted off and given a second look.
“Towns neighboring Little Falls are working hard to be ready for the CRVST when it comes through and I don’t want Little Falls to be left behind,” said Gosiak. “I don’t want to see Little Falls die; we all need to work together and be prepared.”
The CRVST committee, while not receiving any bonding money this year, is looking to the next legislation session. With money, land can be acquired to start the trail.
For more information or to volunteer, call Kris VonBerge at the Little Falls CVB at (320) 616-4959