By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN What do people envision for the future of Delano?
Whether it’s beautifying historic downtown or building a community pool, Delano Dream Team Two is imagining the possibilities, and a grant from the Initiative Foundation is helping to make it happen.
The public is invited to give input at a strategy meeting Wednesday, Aug. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Delano Middle School commons area.
“Come join us,” Dream Team Two Vice President Harlan Lewis said. “Take a look at it and see what projects we’re going to tackle.”
“Those especially encouraged to come are those involved in the city of Delano,” Dream Team Two President Chris Brazelton said, which includes people who live, work, worship, or spend leisure time in the community.
Earlier this summer, Dream Team Two had a brainstorming meeting led by Dan Frank, the Initiative Foundation’s program manager for community development.
“We discussed what’s working and what are our struggles,” Brazelton said. “Ideas were brought forward, and people then had the opportunity to vote on those ideas.”
From there, a list of nearly 78 project ideas was established and prioritized. The purpose of the Aug. 12 meeting is to analyze these priorities.
“We need to identify the top 10 projects, and from there, come up with four or five to do right now,” Lewis said. “Now is kind of the action part.”
Some of the project considerations include beautifying historic downtown, building an outdoor community pool, and constructing a cultural center for arts, theatre, and music.
Creating new industrial park jobs, preserving the old city hall, and building a new school were also among the ideas.
One project Brazelton would like to work on is utilizing the Crow River by adding a canoe launch, benches, or a river walk within city limits.
“It’s this wonderful resource that we really aren’t using to its full potential,” she said.
Lewis said he hopes more business owners will come to the meetings.
“We also need their input,” he said. “We don’t know what the business people want. They might have very specific requests.”
“Businesses have been very stressed with Highway 12 redevelopment,” Brazelton added. Attending the Dream Team meeting could help businesses plan for the future and discuss what projects will benefit them the most.
One idea Brazelton has is to make downtown Delano more of a “pedestrian-busy area” by adding a town square or a community gathering spot to draw people in.
“The crux of it is, if you want to see it happen, come forward,” she said. “Otherwise, it will die on the vine.”
Once projects are decided upon, volunteers will divide into smaller committees, with one core group to keep things moving forward, Brazelton said.
A training meeting will take place Tuesday, Aug. 25 in Little Falls.
“Any new volunteers are free to come,” she said.
Delano is one of four cities in the state to receive the Initiative Foundation grant for 2009-10. Long Prairie, Pine River, and Royalton were also chosen, based on economic need, strong volunteer commitment from residents, and the willingness of their local governments to work with citizens in creating a more sustainable future.
As part of the grant program, Delano is eligible to receive an initial grant of up to $10,000 for planning, and then will be eligible for an additional grant of up to $10,000 per year for implementation of community projects over the following four years.
In order to receive the money, the volunteers must create a plan of how to best use the grant money, Lewis said.
“They want us to be certain of our topics,” he said. “They try to hold our hands. They’re not just handing us $10,000 and saying, ‘go to it.’”
The more involved the community is with the planning and implementation of the projects, the more that can be accomplished, Brazelton said.
“What really makes it happen is when people bounce ideas off each other,” she said. “People come up with ideas that never would have happened had those people not been there.”
Delano also received a grant in 2000, which was used to develop three initiatives of the community to expand Common Grounds’ youth outreach program, the beautification of downtown, and improved visibility and accessibility of area parks and green space.
Projects that came from the Dream Team included the annual river clean-up, the city’s adopt-a-pot program, Paint the Town, and a Sunday brunch community fundraiser, among other things.
“Dream Team Two is kind of a sequel to what was done in 2000,” Brazelton said.