Showing posts from February, 2024

Little Snow and Warm Temperatures Having Huge Impact on Local Economy

The lack of snow and unseasonably warm temperatures are hurting almost every business in the Arrowhead Region this winter. According to Susan Butler Rian, the owner of the Trestle Inn in Finland, “This is the worst winter I can remember.” Rian has owned and operated the Trestle Inn for almost 25 years.  Even as summer and fall traffic grows for the historic Trestle Inn, Rian says snowmobile season has always been a big part of her business and is almost non-existent this winter. Trestle Inn was scheduled to be the terminus of the John Beargrease 120 last month. The cancellation of the Beargrease, along with the Gunflint Mail Run, meant further declines in customers.  “Fortunately, we have wonderful local people to keep our boat afloat,” Rian said. She also reports that her usual staff of five people has been reduced to three and that they have reduced hours of operation. “It’s not smart to be open some days,” she said.  Loggers in the area were sidelined when sustained temperatures abo

The Long Way Home 2.23.24

Two things weigh on my mind when deciding on a topic for my weekly column. First, have I told this story before?  As I get older, my eyesight and hearing are weaker. Worse than that, I never remember if I’ve told a story before, and I dread boring anyone with a repeat.  Nothing used to irritate me more than hearing the same story told again and again by an older person. I should have been more sympathetic. Second, should I be writing a scathing column criticizing someone in a position of power over us little people, or should I take a light-hearted and self-deprecating approach that might bring a smile to someone who needs it?  So here’s a lighthearted approach.  A Super Bowl joke I reposted boosted my presence on the Book of Face. I got lots of new followers. All by accident, my name appeared on all the reposts, and they went viral. Those familiar with this version of Social Media know to share a post that makes you LOL; you click the share button, click share to feed, and go on to th

The Long Way Home 2.16.24

“A skeptic is a person who doubts or questions something.” I wasn’t born a skeptic but became one early in life.  My parents grew up during the Depression and came of age during World War II. They raised us in a modest house as they struggled to pay the bills. If we were middle class, it was on the lowest rung.  I saw my employers implode and shut down more than once, leaving my dad unmoored. Constant uncertainty about who/what to trust made me skeptical.   I learned early and often that an event eventually occurs that reveals a darker side of a prominent person or business. Those who benefit from that person or business gloss over the dark side. The skeptics' BS indicator sees the phony playing wizard behind the curtain. Knowing the darker sides exist from personal and often painful experiences, I’m not surprised when those revealing events happen.  Oft-maligned social media sites offer a public service when real people post their own experiences about these people and events.  Co

Snow Drought and El Nino This Winter 2.9.24

This winter, we’ve seen surprisingly little snow and warmer-than-normal temperatures.  After last winter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared that “from heavy snow to strong winds and mixed precipitation, the 2022-2023 winter season was one for the record books!” Snow totals of 12 to 15 feet here in the Arrowhead put us into the top ten snowiest winters on record. But are we in a snow drought? According to the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Glossary of Meteorology, “snow drought occurs when there is a period of abnormally low snowpack for the time of year in question.”  The 2022/23 winter was affected by a La Nina climate event. With La Nina,  one would expect record-low temperatures as well. But the result last year was a snowier and warmer-than-average winter. After three years of El Nina, her bigger brother, El Nino, took over our weather this past October in an unpredictable but repeating pattern.  El Nino arises from warmer than normal surfac

Raging Fire Consumes the Lodge at Lutsen Resort 2.9.24

Photo by Edward Vanegas, Lutsen Resort Shortly after midnight on February 6, Cook County Law Enforcement was notified of a fire alarm at the historic main lodge at Lutsen Resort. The dispatcher reported that employees had seen smoke rising from the floor in the main lobby. Eight fire departments, Tofte First Responders, and Cook County Sheriff’s deputies responded.  By 6 a.m., the sheriff’s office reported that the building was completely engulfed, and social media posts showed pictures and videos confirming the building had been destroyed. According to the sheriff’s press release, no guests were in the building last night. No injuries were reported as of press time.  The Lutsen, Tofte, Grand Marais, Maple Hill, Gunflint Trail, Finland, Silver Bay, and Grand Portage fire departments were on hand to contain the blaze. According to the press release, the State Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the fire.  On its social media page, Lutsen Resort announced its intention to rebuild. Hi

Chili Feed Fundraiser Feb. 10 for “Love the HUB Month” in Grand Marais 2.2.24

The place to be in Grand Marais on Saturday, February 10th, is the HUB. Chili will be served from 11 am to 2 pm, and a good time will be had. According to the Programs and Activity Director for the HUB, Chris Bautch, there will be a variety of chilis, from traditional beans and beef to a vegetarian chili donated by the local restaurant Up Yonder.  She said the meal includes cornbread, a variety of toppings for the chili, dessert, and beverages. The meal prices are  $10 for adults and $5 for kids. The HUB is a non-profit organization under the Cook County Council on Aging umbrella.  “We started our fundraisers last year with the first “Love The Hub Month” events,”  Chris said. A pancake breakfast was served and exceeded expectations, according to Chris. It inspired another successful pancake breakfast the Saturday before Father’s Day last year. Upper Lakes Foods, the leading food supplier for the HUB, donated the food for the fundraiser. The HUB started over half a century ago when a gr

North Shore Health Media Release States its Case About Recent Public Scrutiny 2.2.24

On Thursday, January 12, North Shore Health (NSH), which operates the hospital in Grand Marais, issued a lengthy media release titled “Findings of Facts and Conclusions” about three issues that have seen public comment in social media and newspapers. Board members met in a closed-door session under the “attorney-client privilege to discuss legal strategy related to potential litigation; to consider certain Review Organization Matters; and to consider contracts related to the Hospital’s competitive position.”  The release states that NSH CEO Kimber Wraalstad was absent at the closed-door meeting. The three issues the release addressed were:  Termination of ER physician Dr. Dahlman by the firm Wapiti, which has secured ER doctors at NSH for many years.  Ambulance service Hospital Lab Regarding Dr. Dahlman, the release reports that his contract with Wapiti was terminated after he was asked repeatedly by Wapiti to cease undermining their administrative decisions. He didn’t stop his behavio

Construction Boom in Grand Marais 2.2.24

This year will see unprecedented construction activity across Grand Marais.  Great Expectations School (GES) on the east side of town began a significant expansion project last October after years of planning and fundraising. GES is a charter school serving students in grades K-8. Many of the materials used for construction have been purchased locally.  The expansion makes maximum use of space and will allow for expansion in a second story as the school grows. The project includes six new classrooms and a new kitchen for school meals. North House Folk School An educational facility of another kind, North House Folk School, is building what it calls a “new front door” at its Grand Marais campus.  For many years, what was called the Yellow House, served as the school store and entry point for visitors and students. Last summer, the  Yellow House was moved to a new location on County Road 7 by its new owner, local resident Dave Walter. Walter indicated that the house will be a long-term r

The Long Way Home 2.9.24

In December, Joe Friedrichs asked me to join him in producing a podcast focused on local issues. Our guests would have information on those issues to share with the community.   Joe was the news director at radio station WTIP in Grand Marais, and the buzz was that he left there to “pursue other interests.” Before agreeing, I had two questions. What’s a podcast?  Podcasts began as so-called “audio blogs” in the 1980s. In 2003, the RSS feed was created, and within a year, podcasting began to catch on. Now, podcasts are everywhere (Thank you, Apple) and cover almost every topic.  Like, talk radio without the bad word police.  What are these “other interests”? If you know Joe, you know that he came to our neck of the woods because of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  He married his love of the BWCAW with his calling to journalism and has started a media company called Paddle and Portage. It offers “a unique perspective on the intersection of news, adventure, and storytelling from

The Long Way Home 2.2.24

North Shore Health (NSH), after a closed session meeting with its legal counsel, submitted its first brief to the court of public opinion late on January 25. Titled appropriately enough, “Findings of Facts and Conclusions,” a legal term of art, it was presented as a press release of almost 3,000 words.  It was, in sum, tedious and condescending to former employees and members of the public who have complained over the last few months in social media and news outlets about management failings and an opaque response from elected directors. Complaints about the management and work environment at North Shore Health aren’t exactly news. Many of us in Cook County know, at least in passing, several employees and former employees who have shared stories of management failures there.  In 2022, local radio station WTIP presented an in-depth article about the complaints they’d uncovered. There isn’t much evidence that the article led to meaningful changes, so one assumes those issues have simmere