Stay Tuned! 2018 Great Place Project Coming Soon

Cook County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Jim Boyd, and Local Artist, Betsy Bowen, at Como Oil & Propane’s 2014 Great Place

Soon the fifth annual Great Place Project will kick off, looking for applications of your great idea to create a Great Place in 2018. Thanks to a fundraiser spearheaded by Jim Boyd and the Cook County Chamber, $11,000 of funds will be available for mini-grants. Stay tuned!

Walk Left, Ride Right Back to School and Work

The new school year has begun, with students, parents, school staff, and the whole county getting back into the school year routine. As the weather holds, many children and adults are making use of their feet and bikes to get to and from school, work, and other destinations. To help us all be safer, whether behind the wheel of a motor vehicle or using our own power, the Safe Routes to School Committee is sharing a reminder: “Walk Left and Ride Right.”

While a catchy little phrase, it also has great significance in keeping everyone safe while sharing roadways. When there is no sidewalk or trail option, by walking on the left side of the road, against traffic, people on foot are able to see oncoming vehicles and establish eye contact with drivers. Wearing brightly colored and reflective clothing also helps make pedestrians more visible to others using the roadway, especially at dawn, dusk, and other low-light hours. As fall progresses into winter, darkness will be the new norm for the main commute hours, making visibility even more important. Parents and other adults are encouraged to share these safety lessons with the children in their lives, to help make for a safe and active fall.

“Both pedestrians and vehicle operators have a shared responsibility for safety. Pedestrians must be aware off their surroundings especially when traveling on roadways without sidewalks. Drivers must be aware of all pedestrian traffic and in areas where it’s higher or there is more congestion, give the roadway your full focus,” said Cook County Sheriff, Pat Eliasen.

Just as motor vehicles stay on the right, bicyclists also need to ride on the right hand side of the road. Bicycles are considered vehicles, so when riding on the street, traffic laws apply. Riding against traffic, on the left, increases risk of collision with vehicles, especially at intersections where drivers are not expecting a fast moving bicycle riding on the left side of the road. Over the past three years, 3rd graders at Sawtooth Elementary and Great Expectations School have learned the importance of “Ride Right” through in-school bike education. A relaunch of this program, with 4th grade students, will be coming in the 2018-2019 school year.

The Safe Routes to School Committee works year-round to make it safer and easier for children to walk and bike to and from school. Studies have found that physical activity, such as walking or biking to school, allows students to concentrate better during the school day. And while many students in our county do not live in Grand Marais, many walk or bike to an afterschool destination in Grand Marais. In September, Slow Down lawn signs, school zone speed enforcement, and other efforts were all at work reminding our community that school has started and drive carefully to keep students safe. International Walk to School Day will be celebrated on Wed., October 4th, with three routes of Walking School Buses in Grand Marais accompanied by law enforcement and community volunteers. For more information, visit the event page.

Cook County Safe Routes to School (SRTS) strives to improve the health of kids and our community by making walking and bicycling to school safer, easier, and more enjoyable. For more information about Safe Routes to School Walk to School Day, to volunteer, or for a Slow Down lawn sign, contact SRTS Coordinator, Maren Webb, at 218-387-2330 or

Originally published in the Cook County News-Herald, September 9, 2017.

2016 Great Place Projects Announced!

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Congratulations to the 15 projects across Cook County chosen as part of the 2016 Great Place Project!

An art-history mural, several playgrounds, a colorful wayfinding sign for Grand Marais, an outdoor ping pong table at the library and several similar projects will receive funding from the 2016 Great Place Project, announced Maren Webb of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and Jim Boyd of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce.

An eight-member evaluation panel met recently to make selections from among the 25 excellent applications. “Unfortunately, we had only $14,000 to distribute,” Boyd said, “and about $26,000 in first-rate requests. Deciding which to fund was difficult.” The panel evaluated each project independently on half a dozen criteria, from visual impact and encouragement of active living, to amount of match and ‘playability.’ The project adopted ‘playability’ as a theme this year and gave additional points to projects that ‘enhance or create a place that welcomes people with a playfulness or whimsy, especially for children.’ Ultimately, the panel decided on funding 15 projects, some with a bit less money than requested in order to make the available funds spread as far as possible.

Major funding for the 2016 Great Place Race came in a $10,000 grant from the Minnesota Power Foundation. Additional funding came from the Chamber and may be offset through additional, pending grant applications.

“We are very grateful to the Minnesota Power Foundation,” said Maren Webb of the Clinic’s Moving Matters project, co-sponsor with the Chamber of the Great Place Project. “Without its help, the 2016 program would have been in doubt.”

Projects funded in the 2016 Great Place Project include:

  • Grand Marais Art Colony: $1,250. A joint project with Grand Marais Art Colony, Voyageur Brewing, Cook County Higher Ed, Betsy Bowen Gallery and Studios, and First Congregational Church for a colorful wayfinding sign to be erected in front of the brewery on Highway 61.
  • Shore Girl Studios/Birchbark Books and Gifts: $1,250. Paint-by-number murals to be created by public during Arts Festival (July 9-10), then installed on north wall of Birchbark Books and Gifts.
  • Sivertson Gallery: $1,250. Phase 1 of 3-phase mural by Dave Gilsvik wrapping around two sides of Sivertson Gallery. Mural will depict the history of art in Cook County and Grand Marais.
  • Sarah Hamilton and Beaver House: $1,250. Restoration of murals and other elements on Beaver House exterior.
  • Cooperation Station Daycare: $1,150. Whimsical figures painted on fence around child care center’s playground.
  • Joy & Co.: $1,100. Sound wall and other child-friendly enhancements to playground area behind store.
  • Cook County Historical Society: $1,075. Project to beautify northwest corner of Bally Blacksmith Shop lot.
  • Cook County Community YMCA: $1,000. Outdoor play space for children ages birth-5 in front of YMCA building.
  • Schroeder Township: $930. Refurbish playground and public gathering area around Schroeder Town Hall.
  • Putt ‘n Pets: $800: Stand-behind face cutouts of farm scenes to be erected next to Putt ‘n Pets miniature golf.
  • Lockport Marketplace & Grill: $750. Creation of a colorful rest area for bicyclists near Highway 61 at Lockport Marketplace & Grill.
  • Nordic Wooden Ware: $550. Beautify area behind workshop next to Joy & Co.
  • Ann Possis: $500. Installation of outdoor ping pong table on grassy area in front of Grand Marais Library for free use by public.
  • Chris and Anne Hegg: $400. Construction and installation of two wooden benches at wildflower sanctuary at intersection of Gunflint Trail and County Road 60, on site of original Hedstrom mill.
  • Flybox and Company: $750. Transformation of a gravel parking lot into a retail store, with a deck, plants, and benches.

Projects will be implemented over the coming months. For more information, visit

Published in the Cook County News-Herald, 4/23/16 edition.