Letter: Yes, we can

Published 8:30 pm Friday, October 15, 2021

Albert Lea sits at the cross roads of southern Minnesota. Countless recreational travelers pass by daily. Except for fuel fills and overnight stays, the city sees little benefit from its location.

Albert Lea and Freeborn County have all the amenities needed to become a boutique city/county; we need to put them together in an attractive package.

The words “It can’t be done” do not exist in my vocabulary. I always think in terms of “What if” and “Why not.” My wife’s favorite saying is “There has to be a way.”

My wife and I traveled America for over 30 years representing the American Canoe Association. We carried International Canoe Federation/Olympic Committee credentials.

We helped local clubs and cities across America organize regional championships, national championships, team trials, international competitions, World Cup and world championship events in canoe sport.

Our first stop was the Chamber of Commerce to gauge interest and then the Parks and Recreation Department to ask for cooperation. One could determine very quickly if a city was open to new events. Many cities were too lazy to consider the potential, in that case we walked away. Albert Lea was a walk away city.

The ideal city was willing to consider an event that it had no experience with, cut red tape, waive unneeded rules and regulations. Local citizen volunteer support was always appreciated. We found citizen volunteer enthusiasm went hand and hand with elected officials and city staff enthusiasm. We never requested financial support from a city. Don’t dismiss this as pie in the sky dreams. Most RV, automobile and motorcycle tourists are financially independent.

Big city residents are always looking for a place for a weekend trip. With a little enhancement, village celebrations and parades tied into Albert Lea events and attractions and properly promoted, we could become a major draw. Two hours is an ideal weekend getaway.

If you establish the city as a great place to visit and play, you will have opened the door to possible investments as many of these visitors will have business connections.

If a group of volunteers could, against all odds, raise the money needed to attract and build medical clinic, anything is possible. The question becomes, do we have the courage to dream big? Albert Lea/Freeborn County could become something unique or it can languish in the doldrums.

To become a destination county will require inspired visionaries willing to listen, be able to coordinate and be willing to act. City councils, county commissioners, Chamber of Commerce, CVB, school board, clubs and organizations must unite with a common goal in mind.

Let’s cut the negative crap and build on what we have. Instead of complaining, volunteer. There is no reason that Albert Lea cannot thrive!

This is the last in a four-part series that ran over five weeks. If you missed an installment or would like the entire series in one document, send your email address to donandeleanor@gmail.com, and I will send you the entire document.

Don Sorensen

Albert Lea