Four questions for tornado-torn Wadena

A deer hunter’s dinner, a chance to watch the volleyball team protect its winning record and a beautiful pre-Halloween evening didn’t keep 264 Wadena residents from peering into the future.

This past Friday and Saturday, the Minnesota Design Team held a series of meetings in Wadena to help people there figure out what the town should look like after this year’s tornado.

The June 17 storm ripped up the part of town that held the high school, community center, ice arena and fairgrounds. But the visioning process this weekend went beyond just how to repair and replace what was lost. It was all about how to keep the town going.

Wadena councilman Don Niles says the process was like attending a crash course on everything that makes up the town, from geology to economic development.

The all-volunteer Design Team, led by Minneapolis architect Michael Lamb, posed the following questions:

Your cousin from (insert odd town name here) is visiting. What would you say are your reasons for living in Wadena?

What do you think could be improved in Wadena?

What could be done to improve collaboration in Wadena?

If you were sailing over Wadena in hot air balloon in the year 2030, what would you expect to see?

Niles says the questions were meant to be both fun and get at the heart of the issues the town faces: how to create jobs and convince more people to stay in town.

Concrete suggestions included linking Wadena-Deer Creek High School with the community center, ice arena and perhaps a National Guard armory, at least with a covered walkway.

Another idea was to build a small lake on the old airport land a few miles from town to keep some who work in Wadena closer to town. Niles says some of the wealthier professionals live on lake shore in Perham or Detroit Lakes and commute.

The Design Team also sketched a possible solution to the number of highways converging on the town, especially the heavily traveled Highway 29, which runs by the schools. Don Niles says the Design Team had a solution involving Highway 10 and the railroad tracks, which carry 60 trains a day.

We have the only stretch of two-lane highway on Highway 10 from LaCrosse, Wisconsin to Fargo-Moorhead and the city has been pushing for 50 years to make it four lane…So the Design Team’s suggestion when that occurs five to 10 years off, is to have Highway 29 reconfigured, too, to get rid of that safety issue and have an overpass (over the railroad tracks).

Niles says that latest project is part of a jobs bill that may be introduced by the current House Transportation committee chairman Democrat James Oberstar in the spring.

  • Marnie K.

    My Dad and his 4 sisters grew up in Wadena but none of them stayed and raised their families there.

    I think Wadena needs to find a way to attract its young people to stay in town and not move away.

  • John Fixsen

    This is a perfect opportunity to make home-town supply chains and public transport match the efficiencies of the internet . Think of something out of the box that would take away inefficiencies of existing supply chains and make direct links to potential markets in the far corners of the world. Once seamless links to markets are established and the world becomes aware of what Wadena has to offer, then we can think of Forth of July parades, ice rinks, and county fairs.