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West End News May 17

Campground scene at the Sawbill Campground, September 1937/ photograph courtesy of the Forest History Society, Durham, N.C
Campground scene at the Sawbill Campground, September 1937/ photograph courtesy of the Forest History Society, Durham, N.C

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A few weeks ago, I talked about the change in management at the North Shore Market in Tofte. I can now report that the North Shore Market has been sold to Joe and Jill Sanders, who own the neighboring business, Big Joe’s Auto Salvage. They bought the store from Nancy and Cliff Iverson, who owned it for the last ten years.

As I reported before, Lisa Nelson, of Tofte, will be operating the store. The Sanders plan to let Lisa be fully in charge. They are backing a complete remodel of the store, which will be happening very soon. The inside of the store will be gutted and new flooring, shelving and refrigeration equipment will be installed. On the outside, new half log siding and decking are planned. The entrance will be brought up to modern accessibility standards. Also, the name has been changed to the “Tofte General Store.”

Lisa is eager to serve both the local people and the many visitors to the area. She has already lowered prices on many items to encourage more local people to shop. Many new items are already in stock and more will be added after the renovation is complete. Lisa encourages everyone to let her know what they want from the store and she will do her best to accommodate. For instance, the store is already carrying organic milk, which many parents demand for their children.

Smaller, full service grocery stores have nearly disappeared from the market place in the last thirty years or so with the rise of the big box store. This has left many communities in what is often called a “food desert.” These food deserts end up being low-income city neighborhoods and small rural towns. Typically, convenience stores then become the only local option, leading to higher prices, less variety and an increase in obesity and health problems.

We are very lucky to have a local grocery store in the West End and I strongly encourage everyone to do as much of their shopping there as possible. It creates local jobs, keeps money in the local economy and makes the whole community healthier. And, it’s a great place to visit with neighbors and get the latest local news.

Last Sunday was Roger Michaelson’s 81st birthday. Roger is a Tofte resident who manages the solid waste transfer station, which he calls “The Tofte Mall” on the Sawbill Trail. This birthday was significant for Roger because he completed his goal of riding his bicycle around the world before he turned 81. Back in 2004, Roger had heart surgery and as part of his re-hab his doctor advised him to start exercising regularly. Roger fished a discarded stationary bike out of the inventory at the Tofte Mall, fixed it up, and set out to ride the 24,000 miles around the equator - riding 30 minutes per day - without ever leaving his basement. When he started he could only make about 3 miles in 30 minutes. Now, he easily rides 10 miles or more at once. He isn’t resting after completing the journey, but has already started off on his second trip around the world. The next time you see Roger, wish him a happy birthday, welcome him home, and wish him a good trip around the world for the second time.

The Birch Grove Foundation in Tofte has scheduled a public brain storming session for Thursday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. The goal is to think of ways to better use the Birch Grove facility once the construction projects are done this fall. For instance, might the local resorts like to use the tennis courts, skating rink or wood fired oven to provide another activity for their guests. Or, perhaps you are a parent with an idea for youth activities at Birch Grove. There are no bad ideas. Everyone is welcome and, as always, yummy treats will be provided. Call Patty Nordahl at 663-7977 for more information.

One hundred years ago, in May of 1922, congress passed a bill appropriating money to create and maintain campgrounds in National Forests, including the Superior National Forest. In the prosperous times after the World War One, the popularity of camping exploded in the United States. The national forests already had some campgrounds, but many were sort of ad hoc, without water supplies, sanitation, garbage collection or established fire places. The legislation emphasized the fire danger created by inexperienced campers building campfires wherever they pleased. Testimony at the congressional hearings made it clear that the Forest Service was essentially being forced into the recreation business by public demand. The appropriation approved by Congress for the 1923 fiscal year was a whopping $22,000 for all the campgrounds in the nation. The next year the appropriation doubled. In hindsight, it has to be considered money very well spent.

Back in those days, many people felt that national parks should be in the recreation business and the national forests should be in the timber production business. Arthur Carhart was an early Forest Service leader who strongly advocated for recreation in national forests. As part of the legislative testimony back in 1922, he wrote the following: “If we are to have broad-thinking men and women of high mentality, of good physique, and with a true perspective on life, we must allow our populace a communion with nature in areas of more or less wilderness conditions.”