This month we've begun writing more regularly about a sustainable future for the St. Croix River Valley. By coincidence, just yesterday the Center for Small Towns, at the U of M's Morris campus, just wrapped up this year's symposium on small towns. MPR picked up one of the significant threads that needs to be woven into conversations about a sustainable future for the St. Croix River Valley. Dave Peters reports "Rural communities trying to thrive should think about three ways to do it: attracting immigrants, hanging on to retiring baby boomers and appealing to millenials in need of affordable housing." We may have some interesting insights on the latter two topics, since we're a household comprised of one boomer couple and one millenial couple who are trying to work out a beneficial, non-tradition, or, perhaps better described as an old-fashioned, extended-family traditional way to address affordable housing for both couples. This relates to the nationwide issue flagged as student loan debt is hindering the recovery of the housing market. It also helps explain why the boomer couple can no longer be considered empty nesters. Conversely, extended families helps reduce the "drive 'til you qualify" market, which, if we take into account transportation costs, may never have actually existed. One threat to the St. Croix Valley we presently enjoy stems from a need to recognize that inexpensive housing being built outside existing community centers isn't necessarily "more affordable" when housing plus transportation are added together. The Center for Neighborhood Technology has some worthwhile insights into that topic. My Minnesota will continue to to argue that jobs versus the environment is a false choice and that housing costs can't be considered in a vacuum. Even global warming gets dragged into this conversation. The University of Minnesota's current issue of their Alumni Magazine has a number of articles on what we can do about global warming (although they refer to it as "climate change"). One, Imagine New Ways To Live, by Thomas Fisher, Dean of the College of Design, proposes that "This new economy will encourage us to make things in new ways and to live in much closer proximity to each other, so we can more easily share equipment, ideas and innovations." My Minnesota believes that such a prospect can offer as much benefit to rural centers and communities as to larger urban cores if most of us get over thinking that living in "the country" means something like this:
"country living" or rural sprawl? © harrington
When I worked for the City of Minneapolis, each neighborhood I worked in wanted lots of coffee shops of their own. According to this source, the ideal ratio of population to coffee shops is 10,000:1. More coffee shops meant more people in the neighborhood or community. Being accessible by foot and bike plus cars reduces the need for parking spaces. All the pieces need to work together for success of most small businesses. A similar statement can be made about the St. Croix River Valley's future and it's ability to thrive. Coffee shops and characters often go together, as Kiki Petrosino writes.
Even at my favorite coffeeshop downtown, Redfordis a hard man to feed. This morning, he picksat his Grilled Asiago Mastercrust with a slow, disdainful frown.Could they spare the fromage on this so-called "treat?"
He takes a sip of hazelnut coffee, then winces delicatelyinto the neck of his sweater vest. I bite powerfullythrough my Cinnamon Frenchroll: Well, if you really don't think
you got enough—"fromage"—you should just go back up there& tell the girl. I start on Redford's coffee while he looks glumlyat the metal napkin dispenser. Just then, the electric chimeabove the door sounds. A man sweeps in & restshis guitar case on one of the slim café chairs.His dark hair is arranged in a series of perpetuallybreak wavefronts. A small muscle jumps in his jawas he orders a Cinnamon Frenchroll, toasted, with cream cheese.I lean foward, jabbing Redford with my plastic coffee wand.Check out that guy over there I say. Intense.Redford shrugs. I think he's Irish I say, watching the man biteinto his bagel. The instrument case hovers on the chair edge.He could have a guitar in there, or else—a sword from the Crusades.I press my tongue into the square-shaped hole in the lidof my coffee cup. Listen Redford says. If we're going to be together
you have to take this. He pushes a small velvet box across the table.What are you doing? I ask, but Redford doesn't answer.He just looks down at the table, one hand pressedto each of his temples. In the box is a square of chocolatelike the top of a signet ring, smooth, but edgedin something bright. It's smoked salt from Wales, Redford says.Handmade in limited quantities. I turn the little boxin my hands. The salt sparkles like an arctic church.I have to blink against it all.
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.