Column 26 Published in the May 10, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer
The Angle was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning. The long-running program’s Lee Cowan made the trip to The Angle, interviewed a few locals, went fishing and filmed all the usual spots. It’s a six-minute video glimpse into the quaint and remote lifestyle I try to capture every other week in this, our nearest newspaper.
For me, it’s column 26. For anyone who’s followed along since the beginning, after a full-year of Angle Full of Grace at about five minutes a pop, you’ve invested 130 minutes into learning about The Angle, my personal journey here at The Angle and whatever else I feel like “spewing.” Columns are nifty like that.
National coverage, like the CBS Sunday Morning spot, is always a treat and happens in some fashion almost yearly. The one-room school house has been a popular topic nationally, but it’s the “geographic oddity” of the place, as Cowan put it, that is the primary draw.
It’s this oddity that makes The Northwest Angle a perfect location for a regional park, and because I felt in my gut that some unnamed thing was somehow missing in the CBS spot, I’d like to devote the rest of my space this week to the application submitted to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. (They help divvy up the state monies allocated specifically for recreational purposes.)
Elevator Pitch: “Northerly Park” would serve as an iconic landmark for the tens of thousands of visitors who journey to this most northern point in the contiguous United States each year. It would provide a much-needed budget-friendly, business-neutral location for historic and educational purposes, day-use picnicking, public fishing access, summer- and winter-use trails, and small-group assembly. The park would also unite a growing rural community by providing centrally-located amenities neutral of any area business or land ownership.
Park Overview (which needed to include regional significance, target users, facilities and programs, and proximity to other parks and trails): “Northerly Park” would be the most northern park in the lower 48, providing equitable access to the Northwest Angle, a unique and beautiful landmark location. Currently, unless you have a resort reservation or know a cabin owner, The Angle is generally inaccessible to budget-conscious outdoor enthusiasts due to the lack of public day-use facilities or even a public restroom. The park would serve resort goers, day-trip visitors and the local community with outdoor recreation, group gathering amenities, and educational experiences ideal for area school field trips. “Northerly Park” would allow thousands of tourists to document (via photos, geocache and other social media) their visit to this northernmost spot with a special iconic marker, similar to the buoy in Key West, Florida.
Built in phases, “Northerly Park” begins as a rustic, low-maintenance day-use only destination, with outhouses in lieu of plumbing and gravel roads and parking lots. Two acres of open grassy area with shade trees holds a rugged children’s play structure, exercise equipment, and several trail heads. A 30×50 cedar log pavilion is the primary structure, complete with cement floor, steel roof, six log picnic tables, cooking grills and a stone fireplace. The park contains ten additional separate picnicking spots. A unique grass amphitheater is built off the main area and is used for outdoor movies, weddings, and music festivals. In later phases, the park will evolve to plumbing and its own well. Compost toilets are a goal.
The looping trail system is four miles long and culminates at a remote picnic area with an observation tower overlooking Lake of the Woods and the bountiful muskeg bird- and wildlife. From this higher vantage, visitors can point to the northernmost spot, take photographs and learn the history. The tower would surely become a Must-See attraction at The Angle. A floating dock system would allow additional park recreation, such as fishing, canoeing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Durable park signage, trail maps and natural insect control, i.e., Bat Houses and Lake Swallow Houses, would be a priority.
Educational signage compliments the natural scenery. Visitors learn about local Native American history, European explorers, Benjamin Franklin’s contribution to obtaining The Angle, Fort St. Charles, the homesteaders, historical logging and fishing industries, flora and fauna, and present day life, including The Angle’s one-room school house, Minnesota’s last. Park volunteers are available for educational tours.
A cedar boardwalk would allow better accessibility for all ages and keep visitors on-trail in the delicate cedar swamp areas, protecting the state flower, the Showy Lady Slipper, a wild orchard that abounds in the area. The central trail is open to snowmobilers in the winter, connecting the park to hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails throughout Minnesota, Ontario and Manitoba.
There are no parks in the Northwest Angle; the closest are in neighboring towns, Warroad and Roseau, 60+ miles away. There is a remote state park on Garden Island of Lake of the Woods and at Zipple Bay on the south shores of Lake of the Woods, 87 miles away.**
Next column, I plan to continue this glimpse into the future possibility of “Northerly Park” for The Angle. Putting it out there into the universe is powerful, and using this small pulpit is one little thing I can do to help make a dream become a reality.
To view the CBS Sunday Morning spot on The Angle, visit cbsnews.com/news/minnesotas-northwest-angle-an-american-geographic-oddity/. To learn more about “Northerly Park,” stay tuned until next column.