Letter: Let’s turn Albert Lea, Freeborn County into a tourist destination

Published 8:30 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

One of the primary reasons for developing Albert Lea/Freeborn County into a tourist destination is not just putting heads on beds. But to introduce tourists to our community with the intent of encouraging them to move here and open businesses here.

This needs to be a countywide effort. Let’s get the mayor from each village, a representative from the city council, county commissioners, the chamber and CVB together and begin exchanging ideas on how to promote the county as a whole. Invite businesses, clubs, organizations and concerned citizens to join this open forum.

Local citizens have a wealth of knowledge and ideas —they just need to be asked and listened to.

Many villages host annual celebrations with parades. If coordinated, listed and promoted in a county/city publication, they would attract visitors from outside the area.

How about listing all the bars, grills and specialty shops in villages around the county and locate them on a map?

The possibility of establishing an RV park at the old treatment plant has been proposed a number of times. Think about it, you could have campsites overlooking the lake with boat landing right around the corner, a city park with tennis, pickle ball courts, a kids play park and city pool all within walking distance. The Blazing Star bike trail is close.

There are very few small cities that offer what Albert Lea could in this one small area. As we travel, we look for campgrounds like this site could become. If we enjoy the area, we extend our stay.

Years ago there was a mayor’s canoe race from the city beach to the park on North Broadway. Why not revive it on the Fourth of July?

The area has a great number of collector car enthusiasts. Why not turn a vacant building into a car museum? Done right, it would provide a space for local car nuts to display, store and perhaps work on their cars.

My favorite bike loop is around Fountain Lake, but there is not an established marked trail. The old rail bed from Albert Lea to New Richland would make an excellent trail. The Blazing Star Trail needs to be upgraded and finished.

The airport used to host aerobatic and sailplane competitions. Our restaurant hosted their banquets. These fellas and their families were big spenders. Can we entice them back?

This is a bit macabre, but my wife likes to visit old cemeteries as we travel. As she walks, she imagines the stories behind the gravestones. Freeborn County has a number of old cemeteries, perhaps their location should be noted on a county map with a brief history.

The Itasca Rock Garden is in the process of restoration. There was a time when it was a great Sunday afternoon destination, and it was a favorite site for wedding photos.

Fountain Lake is a good fishing hole. Could it be better? Why not work with the DNR to improve it?

The list of potential activities is limitless.


Don Sorensen

Albert Lea