For years, there have been mutual interests of cities, townships and drivers on both sides of the Mississippi River, primarily focused on getting a third bridge crossing on the Mississippi River to connect Wright and Sherburne counties. The two existing bridges (in Monticello and Clearwater) are both extremely overloaded with traffic.
However, there are other shared concerns that go beyond just working together to get another bridge crossing. It was these overlapping commonalities that led to the creation of the Central Mississippi River Regional Planning Partnership (CMRP) – the first regional planning partnership of its kind in the area.
CMRP is a collection of cities and townships from both Sherburne and Wright County, including the cities of Becker, Big Lake and Monticello and four townships – Becker, Big Lake, Monticello and Silver Creek. The coalition was formed in 2016 with a focus on transportation but its vision has transformed to look at other challenges and opportunities that are communally shared.
Wright County Commissioner Darek Vetsch is the CMRP chairman and said that the collaboration between the cities and townships is to find common ground as the growth along the river on both sides continues.
“What we’re looking at is trying to get a holistic view of what is going to be in the best interests of the cities and township on either side of the river,” Vetsch said. “What may be good for Monticello may not be good for Big Lake or Becker. It’s an opportunity for us to work together, because urbanization is coming to our areas – both in Wright County and Sherburne County. This allows us to be at the table together and work collaboratively from the same page.”
At the heart of CMRP’s current efforts is its “Framework 2030” initiative, which is looking to engage the public in a conversion about the future of the region and its communities, create a unified set of goals, policies and priorities to achieve the vision and to develop strategies to leverage opportunities that would be of benefit to both Wright and Sherburne counties.
Vetsch said that the opportunities to work in conjunction with one another makes the CMRP a unique and potentially valuable asset for not just attempting to land federal dollars to build another bridge connection to the two counties, but to work together to harness the benefits of the continued growth that is expected in the area.
“We sit within a dynamic region and, as change occurs, we want to be sure we absorb the very best of this growth, while maintaining our community’s character and appeal,” Vetsch said. “To do this, however, we need to find ways to work in closer collaboration. Framework 2030 is an incredible opportunity for our communities to begin defining the quality of life in the future in a partnered approach.”
The Framework 2030 project will last into early 2021. Most of 2020 will spent looking to build on community engagement and technical analysis of the opportunities that the region is facing. The final component will be finalizing a action plan that will serve as a template for future planning and collaboration.
“This is a long-term approach,” Vetsch said. “We don’t want people to think that we’re going to be going into these cities and townships and tell them we want to change their land use plans. That won’t be happening. This is just an opportunity to form a partnership that looks at the issues that face all parties involved. It’s not just about trying to get a bridge crossing. There’s a lot more involved to the partnership than that.”
To see a link to the Frequently Asked Questions put out the CMRP, click here: https://regionalplanningpartnership.org/projects/framework2030/frequently-asked-questions/