While #mprraccoon was grabbing the attention of the world for scaling a building in an urban center, a conversation in Grand Rapids, Minn. last week focused on foxes playing in the yard, loons calling in the evening, and other interactions with nature. The great outdoors, as we heard at an event at the Blandin Foundation, is a key reason why people choose to live in Grand Rapids.
The event Wednesday evening was part of MPR's Ground Level series, which is a listening tour of issues around Minnesota. For this event, the conversation revolved around why people choose Grand Rapids, what they worry about and celebrate in daily life, and what issues they believe leaders should focus on.
A survey for Ground Level from the APM Research Lab had found that within Minnesota there are significant regional differences in the way people feel about the direction our state is heading. There are differences in how hopeful we feel, how much confidence we have in institutions and how confident we are about the future.
While metro area Minnesotans might consider Grand Rapids a rural city, people in the city view it as a regional population center. There are nearly 11,000 people live within the borders of Grand Rapids, but as one guest pointed out, the surrounding areas and townships increase that number to about 20,000.
MPR news host Tom Weber moderated the event before about 50 people, along with Ben Winchester, a rural sociologist and research fellow with UMN Extensions, who offered context and data-driven insight to the conversation.