Hometown heart: Red Lake Falls residents highlight beauty of small town
RED LAKE FALLS, Minn.—Residents of Red Lake Falls say the town's natural beauty and its people are what makes the small community at the confluence of the Red Lake and Clearwater rivers so special.
"I think we have a beautiful community, I really do," Red Lake Falls Mayor Allen Bertilrud said.
Back in 2015, Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham wrote a story using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that ranked counties based on factors such as topography and climate, and Red Lake County was dead last.
Though many residents were slightly insulted by the ranking, Bertilrud said they used the ranking to improve their community and to recognize the beauty Red Lake County has to offer.
"I think what it did is it opened up the eyes of a lot of people in Red Lake Falls and Red Lake County in recognizing how pretty and great this area is to live in," Bertilrud said. "We're a low-crime area, we've got great job opportunities, good school systems, close to medical facilities, close to airports. It's kind of a unique area to live in."
People from all over the region come to Red Lake Falls every year to visit Voyageur's View, a camping site just outside of town, to go tubing down the Red Lake River, said Dick Brumwell, who previously owned the campground.
"We hear so many positive things about Red Lake Falls (from tourists) and it's just neat," Brumwell said.
Brumwell said Red Lake Falls and Voyageur's View always try to find new activities for tourists that will keep them in the town and adding money to the local economy.
Last summer, Brumwell said Voyageur's View added 30 long-term, full-service camping sites, hoping that would help bring in more people to come and stay for longer periods of time.
In addition to Red Lake Falls, Brumwell said they rely on area communities such as Grand Forks and Crookston to provide entertainment for people and keep them in the area.
"There's only 1,400 of us in this town so there's a limit of how much we can we spend," he said. "So we need (other people) to come over and spend some of (their) money, too."
In addition to Voyageur's View, there are other recreational opportunities in Red Lake Falls, including local parks, hiking and biking trails and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter.
"We call ourselves a city of four seasons so we try to have something going on during each of the four seasons," Bertilrud said.
Ingraham ultimately ended up moving to Red Lake Falls, where he and his wife, Briana, are raising their three sons.
Chris Ingraham said the natural beauty of the city sets it apart from other small towns, while Briana says it's the people.
"The people here are just fascinating and just actually genuinely nice and care about others," she said. "Everyone is involved with making the community better."
While people are involved in their community in cities such as Baltimore, where the couple previously lived, Briana Ingraham said volunteering is much more competitive and harder to get involved with than in a small town.
"As an individual, you can make a bigger difference and have a bigger impact in a small place like this," Chris Ingraham said.
She also will be joining the city council at the beginning of the year.
People in Red Lake Falls are genuinely friendly to people passing through, while that's not always the case in a place like rural upstate New York, Chris Ingraham said.
"Small town Minnesota is very different from small town New York," he said with a laugh.