Five years ago, people in the Brainerd lakes area saw growth streaming their way from the Twin Cities, possibly threatening the very natural resources that were drawing newcomers. So a variety of local government, business and non-profits got together to set priorities.
Out of that came a pilot project focusing on Gull Lake and involving two counties, three cities and a township that wanted to compare notes and maybe work together on lake quality, land use, recreational trails and a few other matters.
Now, the economy has caused the growth pressure to subside but has also put the squeeze on local budgets. Different forces, same desired outcome, says John Sumption, a consultant who is putting the finishing touches on a report about the cooperative effort.
“Before it was desire; now it’s out of necessity,” he said.
Officials in Crow Wing and Cass counites, East Gull Lake, Lake Shore, Nisswa and Fairview Township tell Sumption they have benefited substantially from the knowledge transfer they’ve been able to conduct. Examples range from discussing a trade of sewer services where political entities are broken up by the waters of Gull Lake to trading expertise on getting trails built.
“For almost every challenge that one jurisdiction identified, there was someone else with a successful program or idea,” Sumption’s report says.