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TRF community leaders consider action after survey released

Thief River Falls lacks retail stores and restaurants, as well as recreational opportunities, according to a community survey of more than 1,800 residents.

Thief River Falls lacks retail stores and restaurants, as well as recreational opportunities, according to a community survey of more than 1,800 residents.

Now, community leaders are talking about how to address those and other issues.

TR Forward, a community group formed to create a vision for the Thief River Falls area, is conducting a series of public meetings to discuss the survey results, according to co-chair Cody Hempel.

The first meetings were held this week. Other meetings are:

- Monday: Noon and 7 p.m., Black Cat Sports Bar and Grill.

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- Tuesday: Noon and 7 p.m., Digi-Key Corp.

- Wednesday: 5 p.m., Digi-Key.

- Aug. 27: 5 p.m., Northland Community and Technical College.

The survey highlighted six issues that deserve attention, according to Hempel. They are:

- Retail/services/restaurants.

- Recreational opportunities.

- Sustainable growth goal.

- Beautification/trees/recycling.

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- Local public transportation.

- Crime and drugs.

More than 80 percent of the 1,800 people responding said Thief River Falls "should strive to be an economic, cultural and recreational center for northwest Minnesota."

But more than 80 percent said the community lacks retail stores, 70 percent said it lacks services, and almost 80 percent said it needs more restaurants.

After the public sessions, we will take that information and put together a list of goals, or what we call 'destiny drivers,' and get people to focus on those things," Hempel said.

One group might concentrate on retail and restaurant services, another on recreation, and perhaps another on population.

A majority of survey respondents indicated Thief River Falls should have a population of about 10,000. It now has about 8,400 residents.

People rated the Thief River Falls area as a good place to raise a family and as a good place for senior citizens. But they disagreed slightly with the idea that it's a good place for young, single adults.

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"We should have a restaurant along the river," one person said at the first follow-up meeting this week. "It would be a nice place to sit in the summer and have a cool drink. We don't have any nice places along the river for the public like East Grand Forks."

The Thief and Red Lake rivers meet in Thief River Falls.

More than 70 percent said the community needs an outdoor swimming pool and slightly more than half said it needs an indoor swimming pool. But less than half thought local taxes should be used to build the amenities.

About 60 percent said Thief River Falls has a growing drug problem and that more effort should be made to fight it.

Hempel said perception apparently doesn't match reality, at least on the issue of drugs.

"That was the only surprise, the amount of people who thought we had a real problem with drugs," Hempel said. "Drug crimes are down. A lot of communities should be so lucky."

Here is a sampling of comments about Thief River Falls, from the first follow-up meeting this week:

- "Need more selection in clothing stores."

- "If we had stores, people would come and be willing to walk from store to store, like they used to 20 years ago."

- "An Italian restaurant would be good. Or Mexican. Some genuine ethnic foods would be good."

- "A larger population allows for niche activities or groups to form. We need a population large enough to support those types of activities."

- "Thief River is a well-kept secret. Maybe that's our marketing campaign/slogan."

Complete survey results are available online at www.trforward.com

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to kbonham@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: THIEF RIVER FALLS
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