West End News April 28

Crocus in the Snow
Crocus in the Snow

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This is the time of year when most of Cook County takes a deep breath and enjoys the lull between the busy winter season and the even busier summer season. In stores and restaurants you only see locals and people have a little more time for chatting. We decided the other day that if we are stopping at the post office and the grocery store, we need to plan an extra 45 minutes for visiting.

Of course, in true Minnesota fashion, the most popular topic of conversation has been the weather. As everyone knows we’ve been careening between snowy winter days and balmy spring-like days. As I write this, there is 4” of fresh snow on the ground at Sawbill and snow is still falling. Two days ago we were putting the skis away and getting out the deck furniture. Somewhere in the back yard, under the snow, there are crocuses blooming and tulip leaves sprouting. The current ice report is 18” remaining on Sawbill Lake. Lichen Lake, along the Grade Road, went out completely during the last warm spell and two loons have already taken up residence.

There is a double sense of relief this spring. In addition to the normal off-season breath catching, there are strong indications that the local economy is picking up after a tough couple of years. The extra sales tax on lodging gives us a good barometer on the health of the local tourism economy, which in turn, comprises most of the county’s economy. The numbers show that tourism was up 8% county wide in 2010 and is on track to be up at least 9% so far in 2011. Of course, having a good summer will depend on the snow melting and the blueberries ripening at some point.

It’s been interesting to hear some of the comments recently about the Superior National Golf Course in Lutsen. It seems like there is a profound lack of understanding of the benefit that the golf course has brought to the whole county. First of all, it’s a beautiful golf course and another wonderful asset for local recreation. I am completely uninterested in golf. I only watch golf on TV when I feel like taking a nap because it puts me right to sleep. However, my son Carl is an avid golfer and participated for several years in the wonderful youth golfing program at Superior National. The golf pros and the staff always treated him very well and as parents we were delighted that he was eager to participate in a safe, healthy, and fun activity.

The golf course has been a big financial success too. The bonds have been paid by lodging tax dollars and have never come from local taxpayers. The surrounding property, which would not have been developed if it wasn’t adjacent to the golf course, now pays well over a hundred thousand dollars a year in property taxes, while requiring very little in the way of county services. The lodging businesses from Schroeder to Grand Marais have seen a hefty increase in their occupancy from golfers. Even a conservative estimate of this business would be in the millions of dollars, resulting in many direct and indirect jobs. Finally, the golf course itself provides a small, but important number of living wage jobs, supporting several young families. There are many other ways that the golf course contributes to Cook County’s economy and quality of life, too numerous to mention here. In my opinion, Superior National has done exactly what it was designed to do. Now if I could only figure out why someone would want to spend a few hours chasing a little white ball around.

Airdate: April 28, 2011

Photo courtesy of Carrie Eberhardt via Flickr.

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