I was born and raised in St. Cloud, MN. My family lived 4 blocks south of Tech High School and 1 block east of South Junior High. Growing up, I spent hundreds of hours at Eastman Park (skating at Lake George, swimming at Municipal Pool), South Junior High (tennis courts), and Southside Park (playground) which was recently and appropriately renamed “Haws Park.” I had the good fortune of working alongside longtime City of St. Cloud Parks Director Larry Haws when I was Planning Director for the City of St. Cloud.
Over the course of time, the ‘Southside neighborhood’ I so fondly remember from my youth has gone through a multitude of changes – some of which have not been for the better. “A troubled neighborhood” is probably one of the softer descriptions used. High levels of crime, deteriorating property conditions and an air of lost hope seem to prevail. That is until just recently when the community celebrated the opening of the Richard C. Wilson Community OutPost (COP House) right in the heart of the Southside neighborhood. This first-in-Minnesota innovation has, deservedly, attracted great media attention and coverage, such as this article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: St. Cloud Opens New Police Community Outpost, First-of-Its Kind Program in Minnesota.
Through the efforts of the Greater St. Cloud Public Safety Foundation, a deep and broad cadre of community and city leaders embraced the concept of the Community OutPost House and forged ahead to bring it to fruition. Bravo! Bravo! In addition to being an exciting new addition to and game changer for ‘a troubled neighborhood’, it is yet another phenomenal example of the power of collaboration, collective impact and what it means to truly be stewards of place. And that makes me think of Wendell Berry.
Wendell Berry is an American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. His writings focus on place and its importance, and his concern for a societal trend of disconnection and self-focus. Arguably, this trend has been in play for a long time, not only in the broader south-side neighborhood I grew up in, but across many sectors of our community and society.
The Richard C. Wilson Community OutPost is an inspiring example of how our community is working to turn the tide on this trend as it creates and strengthens community through personal connections and relationships.
I am reminded that seven years ago community leaders identified a need for a new approach to regional economic development and created the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation. I think Wendell Berry would be impressed and encouraged by how leaders from all sectors of our greater community are steadfast in their commitment to solving our most challenging community issues through collaboration and collective impact.
If you haven’t gone to the COP House yet or been to Haws Park recently, please make it a point to do so. I know you’ll be ‘wowed’ and feel a strong sense of pride. And, if you’re wondering how you can help ensure the COP House is able to maximize its impact to the neighborhood and the broader community, consider a contribution through their gift registry at Target: St. Cloud COP House Gift Registry.
Great things are happening in the Greater St. Cloud community. Thank you for all that you individually and collectively do to make this region an amazing place to live, work and engage!
Patti Gartland, GSDC President