Group plans to ‘open streets’ in Little Falls for 2014 event

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

Plans are under way for an open streets event in Little Falls June 15, 2014.

The Open Streets Project website describes such events: “Open streets initiatives temporarily close streets to automobile traffic, so that people may use them for walking, bicycling, dancing, playing and socializing.”

Dr. Ben Grams, a leader with the Live Better, Live Longer (LBLL) team through Health Communities Collaborative said the two goals in holding such an event are to educate and to motivate the community in terms of living a healthy lifestyle.

He, along with Kris VonBerge, executive director of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sheila Funk with Public Health, asked the Little Falls City Council for the go-ahead to pursue the plans for the event.

The group is looking to close streets from Fifth Avenue Southeast along First Street to Fifth Avenue Northeast and along Broadway from Lindbergh Drive to the Courthouse. A few details need to be worked out with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), such as whether the department will allow main thoroughfares to be closed.

Some of the activities that may go on during the family-focused, health-centered event, besides walking and biking, may include such things as yoga in the park or a little kids’ tricycle race, a time for people to slow down and enjoy their environment.

Grams said health habits are related to the environment one lives in. The mission of LBLL is to inspire residents of Morrison County to live better through eating, moving and community involvement.

Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem called the idea “wonderful” and Council Member Greg Zylka said that even if MnDOT didn’t cooperate with closing the streets mentioned, the group should find another area to hold the event.

Council Member Frank Gosiak noted that groups pushing for a skate park were looking to the same thing, get people away from their TV sets.

Grams cited the fact that Morrison County is ranked 82nd out of 87 in health rankings.

Funk said that part of the low ranking has to do with the fact that Morrison County has an aging population and a higher number of people living at the poverty level, both factors contributing to the low ranking.

The Council supported the group’s efforts. VonBerge said the next hurdle would be MnDOT.

VonBerge noted that in New York the Manhattan Bridge was closed for such an event.

“If they can close down the Manhattan bridge, maybe they could close down the Little Falls bridge,” she said.

For more information on the Open Street Project, visit

For more information on the plans in Little Falls, call the Healthy Communities Collaborative office at (320) 631-5675 or the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (320) 616-4959.