West End News May 5

Ice on Sawbill Lake is still 15 inces thick!
Ice on Sawbill Lake is still 15 inces thick!

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Finaclut_WEN_20110505.mp34.7 MB

The winter of 2010/2011 has been one to remember. It started early, stayed true to itself for many months, and now is having trouble finding the exit. Aside from the scientific statistical evidence of this winter’s severity, I know that I burned half again more firewood than last year. Sawbill Lake still has about 15” of ice on it. Just a few days ago, we were walking on it, shuffling through snowdrifts and leaning into an ice-cold north wind. The Forest Service pilot has just reported that the large BWCA Wilderness lakes, like Cherokee, Little Sag, and Tuscarora, are still covered with white ice. In spite of this, I’m predicting that all the lakes will be well clear of ice by the opening of fishing on May 14th.

We have a mystery here at Sawbill. A few days ago, a car with a canoe on top pulled into the Sawbill Lake campground. We wondered about it because the canoeing is extremely slow right now. The party stayed overnight in the campground and the next morning their car, with the canoe still on top, was parked in the public parking lot. Peeking in the windows, we could see that there is no camping gear and no sign of the occupants. We checked the campground and they weren’t there either. Our best guess is that they decided to hike into the wilderness, which is a fairly daunting prospect with no trails, dense brush and crusty knee-deep snow in many places. We’re hoping they didn’t choose to hike on the lake ice, which is no longer trustworthy and getting thinner by the hour.

Richard Louv, author of the popular book, “Last Child in the Woods” speaks frequently on the subject of what he calls “nature deficit disorder.” Basically, he has studied research from many fields that shows conclusively that modern American children are spending much less time out of doors in contact with nature. He argues that the growing problems of attention deficit disorder, obesity, declining creativity and depression can be at least partially be traced to a nature deficient childhood. He has spawned an international movement to reintroduce children to nature. Here in Cook County, the Gunflint Trail Association and the Cook County Visitors Bureau have created an innovative program called “Becoming a Boundary Waters Family.” It combines a wonderful book with a series of events that are designed to give families the skills and enthusiasm to become life-long BWCA Wilderness campers. Recently, the program won a prestigious regional award celebrating cooperation between the Forest Service and local residents.

Next week, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen will be hosting Richard Louv for a lecture, followed by a distinguished panel discussion, including Lutsen’s own Jim Vick, representing the Cook County Visitors Bureau. The “Becoming a Boundary Waters Family” program is the lead sponsor for the event, positioning Cook County as a leader in this important effort to get kids back in the woods.

Planning is moving ahead for the new Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais. Projected to cost more than 10 million dollars, it would include, among other things, a swimming pool, wellness center, kitchen and banquet facilities and host several existing programs like Minnesota Extension and Community Education. This project is part of the 1% sales tax initiative that we voted in awhile back, but has serious ramifications for ongoing taxpayer expense in the future. A public meeting about the project is scheduled for Wednesday, May 11th at 7:00 p.m. at the Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte. I urge everyone to attend, get informed, and share your input on this important issue. If you can’t make the meeting on the 11th, there is another meeting scheduled at the Courthouse in Grand Marais at 7 PM on Tuesday, May 10th.

All the recent news from around the world has reminded me once again how lucky we are to live where we do. I get as wound up about local, regional and national issues as anyone, but when I read about the tsunami in Japan, or the violence in Pakistan, or even the tornadoes in Alabama, it really changes my perspective. Our problems seem pretty tame in comparison. Even our most controversial issues are disagreements on exactly how to make our already great quality of life even better. Our government, at all levels, is remarkably responsive and representative. Our police are honest and protective. Our neighbors try hard to be friendly and helpful. I’m all for making things better, but once and awhile we need to step back and appreciate what we have.

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