West End News: June 5

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The Great Place Race micro grants provided by Cook County Moving Matters and the Cook County Chamber of Commerce included several awards in the West End.  Tofte and Schroeder will install bike racks and improve wheelchair accessible picnic spots at Tofte Park and Father Baraga’s Cross.  The Birch Grove Foundation will create a more comfortable gathering spot around the wood fired oven, including seating, a garden and an info board.
 
The Great Place Race also funded the placing of four Little Free Libraries around Cook County.  Little Free Libraries are an informal national phenomenon of people placing tiny roadside libraries that can be used by anyone.  Volunteers build and maintain them and they’ve proven to be very popular.  Anyone can take a book whenever they like. They can either return the book when they’re done, or donate a different book, or just keep the book, if they want to.  Many of the tiny libraries are whimsically designed and many are targeted toward children’s books. We are building a Little Free Library here at Sawbill, which should prove popular with campers and canoeists.
 
The Cook County Invasives Team will lead two hikes in the West End in the coming weeks.  The hikes will concentrate on learning about native and non-native plant species.  The hikes are free and no registration is required.  The first hike will be along the Cascade River Monday, June 16 and the second will be along the Temperance River  Monday, June 30.  If you want to go, just meet in the parking lot at 5 p.m.  You can get more information by calling Angelique Edgerton at 387-3772.  Or you can contact WTIP, if you missed that phone number.
 
April Knight, the adventurous nurse who is paddling from Sawbill to Hudson Bay this summer, is already in the International Falls area and heading north to the Winnepeg River.  She called this week from Ranier, Minnesota where she was waiting for the Rainy River to drop below flood stage and picking up new supplies.
 
She reports that she is having the time of her life.  Her travel kit is serving her well and her fitness level is increasing daily.  She is making excellent time and has no doubts that she will finish the trip on schedule.
 
When I asked her if she was lonely, she said that she has only had one bout of loneliness when she had a particularly great day and wished for someone to talk to about it.
 
The people of Ranier have welcomed her with open arms and invited her to a potluck celebrating the life of a man named Oscar who recently passed away.
 
For the next few weeks, she’ll be passing through relatively populated areas, so I’m sure she’ll have a lot of interaction with locals who are interested in her trip.
 
Driving up the Sawbill Trail a few nights ago, I saw a pair of eyes lit up by my headlights in the road ahead. They stared at me without blinking or moving, and when I got close enough, they resolved into a big, fat bear. He was the first bear that I’ve seen this season.  He was in no hurry to run off, so I got a good look at him.  He slowly rolled down and up through the ditch and melted into the dark woods.
 
Seeing a friendly bear is just another reminder of why it’s great to live here in the wild West End.
 

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