Small Town Sprawl in Pine City

My friend Nate wrote a great post today about how small cities and towns often build new schools out in farm fields on the edge of town.

He looked at the new high school being built in his home town of Mankato as an example. Here's the punchline:

It’s widely accepted that many schools built-in the last 20 years were deliberately designed to discourage walking. What’s puzzling is that more people weren’t concerned about this? The freedom to roam was one of the most rewarding experiences of growing up. It teaches us not only navigational skills, but personal responsibility. Children need to experience this.
It might be forgivable if student walkers were overlooked, or just an afterthought. That’s not the case. They were specifically considered and the general consensus was to ignore them. It was aconscious decision to save money on initial land costs.

On bicycle trips around Minnesota and Wisconsin, I've noticed these sprawl schools a lot. Probably the worst one I've seen recently is in Pine City, Minnesota (pop, 3000).

The school is only two years old, and located in a farm field on the edge of town. Pine City has a lovely Main Street, but it's a mile and a half away along old US Highway 61.

[High school to the heart of town.]

I always wonder why civic leaders choose not to put the high school in the middle of town, and I wondered it again as I went past the school.

But then on my way North, I saw the brand new County Courthouse complex, an even larger sprawling complex even farther away from downtown out on the other far edge of town. The courthouse complex is literally surrounded by empty lots and a freeway onramp.

Compare this to the days when courthouses used to be the absolute center of a town, and kids walking to schools was a common sight. All I can think is that whoever makes decision in Pine City must really hate where they live, or love parking lots, or have a good friend with some land to sell.

[Courthouse to the heart of town.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When cost is the only deciding factor, this happens, just like it did with Rondo and the routing of 94.