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Paynesville Press - October 11, 2006

Community preparing for Minnesota Design Team
visit next spring thru Healthy Communities Partnership

By Addi Larson

Planning for a visit from the Minnesota Design Team next spring has begun.

A kickoff luncheon was held at the American Legion in Paynesville on Tuesday, Oct. 3, with representatives from the Healthy Communities Partnership giving a 45-minute presentation to highlight preparations that will take place in Paynesville over the next six months.

Attended by about 50 Paynesville residents, the complimentary lunch included an introduction by city administrator Renee Eckerly, who said that public input is the key to success in this process.

Congratulations were offered to the city of Paynesville by representatives of the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation for being selected for both the Minnesota Design Team and the Healthy Communities Partnership, which is a branch of the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

The Minnesota Design Team, according to its website, began as the Governor's Design Team in 1983 and has since involved more than 80 communities in growth through shared, grassroots visions. The design team incorporates professionals (architects, landscape architects, planners, and urban designers) to listen to ideas of community residents and present plans for the community to pursue.

The Minnesota Design Team is tentatively scheduled to visit Paynesville for a weekend in April 02007, either the second or fourth weekend. (A final decision about the timing of their visit should be made this week.) Design team members will stay with host families (starting on Thursday night), will listen to community presentations on Friday morning and tour the community on Friday afternoon.

On Friday evening, a community meeting with the design team will allow inquiries and input about what Paynesville area residents desire for the future. On Saturday, the design team will meet to create maps, drawings, and designs for the community to actualize residents' desires, which will be shared with the community at another meeting on Saturday night. A Sunday brunch will conclude the visit.

Created in 1986, the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation was formed due to a trend in the mid-1980s, when rural residents opted to leave for metropolitan areas. Today, the foundation addresses issues related to community strength and economic growth in 14 Minnesota counties.

"We just like to see people giving back to the places that they love," said Curt Hanson, vice president of donor services, who spoke on behalf of Healthy Communities Partnership at the kickoff luncheon last Tuesday.

The purpose of the Healthy Communities Partnership, said Dan Frank, program director for community development, is to help Paynesville prepare for the design team visit and to help the community accomplish the community vision presented by the design team.

Healthy Communities Partner-ship selected Paynesville as one of two Minnesota cities to receive an initial grant of $15,000 this year. This can be used to cover costs for the Minnesota Design Team visit. More grant opportunities will be available to achieve the vision set forth by the design team.

According to the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Healthy Communities Partnership will work independent of the Minnesota Design Team to "help envision, plan, and build a brighter future" for the Paynesville area. When the design team visits in the spring of 2007, Paynesville area residents will have received training from Healthy Communities Partnership in areas such as community development, effective team building, grant writing and other resource referrals, technical assistance, and visioning.

Task forces will be formed and preparatory work will be done in four training sessions - set to take place from October to March. "What we do is provide the framework, and the citizens provide the steps," Hanson said.

Once the design team has visited, additional committees will be formed, action plans created, and the goals accomplished.

The Minnesota Design Team, which last visited Paynesville in 1990, will work with residents to incorporate beautification and utility for the growing community. Paynesville's resulting accomplishments from the design team's visit 16 years ago include: a new airport, a community center, lake restoration, parks and trails, repairing of city streets, a senior center, and Star City designation.

In 1991, civic officials invited the design team to come because they thought the community was stagnant. Now, with annexations to the city, with the future expansion of Highway 23, and with Paynesville possibly becoming more of a bedroom community, civic officials lobbied for a return visit from the design team because they believe the community is poised for growth.

Hopefully, participation in the Heathy Communities Partnership and the visit by the Minnesota Design Team will help the community focus and accomplish a vision to improve the community.

On the website for the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation (, Frank stated, "There is a place in this for everyone.  You can give a little time or a whole bunch of time.  You can offer financial support. You can even offer friendly support and optimism.  We'll take anything we can get, because we need all of it to make things happen."

In the upcoming months, there will be volunteer opportunities for local residents to prepare for the Minnesota Design Team's visit next spring. Since community improvements will be both aesthetic and economic, diverse representation among Paynesville's material, professional, and social backgrounds will be sought.

Healthy Communities chart

For more information on involvement, contact Jennifer Welling at city hall at 320-243-3714.

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