Starting small: Defining Baldwin with micro-communities

In a comment on a recent post about the future of urban sprawl, Sherburne County Planner Jon Sevald brought up an interesting idea about how to build community in Baldwin:

“It is difficult to notice the difference where one community ends and

one begins whether it’s a township or a fully developed city. It is

even more difficult when townships like Baldwin lack a physical

community center, such as a downtown or a lake that defines the

community. Baldwin has a number of lakes, but I don’t think the

lakes themselves define Baldwin. The township is more than just a lake


What Baldwin may want to consider rather than trying to define the

township as one community, is what are the distinctive neighborhoods

within the township, and how can those neighborhoods be improved to

further establish micro-communities.”

Baldwin certainly already has established neighborhoods, particularly around its lakes. Could focusing on building up these individual neighborhoods be key to creating the identity of the township as a whole? Does the whole township need to be defined one way, or can it find strength in a diversity of definitions among its neighborhoods?

There are also some benefits that can come from micro-community concepts where groups of neighbors share similar interests or desires for their land, as well

I could see a group of people wanting an agriburbia-type development growing their own food in backyard gardens and setting up a central framers market within the community.

Or a outdoor recreation community built near trails where they’d have easy access and could enjoy hiking, biking, and snowmobiling with their neighbors.

Perhaps an artist community could emerge, as well, with a centralized exhibit area.

But I wonder if micro-communities would just cause further isolation in an already isolated population. Perhaps instead of building physical micro-communities, Baldwin could build intellectual ones within the matrix of something that would bring all of these neighborhoods together.

Creating a community center received 45 votes at the June visioning session. Perhaps a community center could be a central space of activities for a variety of micro-community groups to form — where gardeners, snowmobilers, artists and other like-minded individuals could connect.

What do you think about the micro-community idea?

  • Dave Peters

    When MPR News reporters were focusing heavily on Baldwin Township earlier this year, one of the themes that emerged was that for some residents the housing developments, as opposed to the township as a whole, were what people identified with. Backyard picnics, national night out gatherings, etc. formed a sense of community more than connections at the government level.

    Perhaps that’s the level of “micro-community” for some.

  • Jeff Holm

    I agree with the micro-community concept. We already have two strong lake associations in Baldwin. In edition there are number subdivisions and neighborhoods that have formed informal social groups as well. I would like to see some form of outreach to these groups in an effort build ties between the groups and the township. It would be an efficient way to communicate with a larger number of residents. The outreach could be customized to fit the differing interest that each group has.