The Long Way Home June 10

When our oldest daughter was entering the fourth grade, we moved the family from East Bloomington, MN to West Bloomington, MN. To understand the cultural ramifications of this move, think about moving from Hovland to Lutsen. Or maybe think about the Jeffersons moving to that deluxe apartment in the sky.

As young parents with four kids, we were hyper-alert to their happiness and safety. Other than an occasional night away from us, staying with siblings and grandparents, our kids had never been away from their doting parents. So when we heard that fourth-grade teacher Mr. Porter was planning a several-night field trip at a camp in Northern Minnesota, I had many questions.

Attending the information meeting at the school I quickly raised my hand when question time was called.

First, if I am paying taxes in Hennepin County to fund parks and nature centers, why do we have to send kids on an overnight trip to a nature center? Murmurs were heard in the crowd.

Next, what about kids like mine who haven’t yet been away from Mom on an overnight trip? More murmurs.

Finally, what about kids who couldn’t afford the $40 to $50 costs? Again, more murmurs.

Mr. Porter answered every question. Not necessarily to my satisfaction, but then I wasn’t ready to be satisfied. It was only several months later when he and I became fast friends and I found him to be a selfless and excellent educator that I was satisfied that his field trips were a great idea. Plus, my daughter thoroughly enjoyed her first field trip.

As the meeting drew to a close, I realized that the murmurs I heard might have meant I’d drawn unwanted attention from the crowd. Maybe I had stirred the pot, so to speak. Expecting to be chastised for haranguing a beloved teacher, a group of school moms instead thanked me for speaking up and asking questions they wanted to ask. Then they recruited me to run for PTA President. Me, of all people.

So I won the election (being the only candidate). What an experience. If you think it is easy running a PTA meeting, think again.

It seemed like all these people who had questions for Mr. Porter were afraid to speak up. I was reminded of this after seeing the responses this newspaper and I received to a recent column I wrote about the calamity that is “Overtourism.”

It’s not unusual that we get an email or call about something the paper has printed, both positive and negative. The sheer number of responses to the “Overtourism” piece is significant though. And not one person has chastised me yet for trying to kill the Golden Goose that is tourism.

A significant number of positive comments have come from people in the tourism food chain.
Some examples:

            Thought-provoking write-up. Stir this pot.

            Growth does have its limits

            We need to address these issues as a community.

            We are losing who we are and why we are that way. It is not just happening on the North Shore, but everywhere something special sets that place apart.

The people of Two Harbors have shown one way, maybe the best way, to come together to regain their community in the successful “Resign or Recall” effort against their unpopular mayor. The people of the North Shore need to come together now to salvage what they can of their community from the promoters and profiteers of Overtourism.

Hearing the murmurs from the crowd after that column, I think the pot has been stirred.