Warren, Minnesota hosts state pilot program to design a sustainable future – Grand Forks Herald


WARREN, Minnesota – Nestled among food trucks, carnival rides and 4-H competitions at the Marshall County Fairgrounds this year, ideas created as part of a community project to design a sustainable, clean future for Warren, Minnesota.

Since 2020, the city of 1,600 people has been participating in a Minnesota Design Center pilot project called Design for Community Regeneration, or D4CR, to imagine a future that addresses food, water and energy security, economic opportunity and social cohesion.

D4CR builds on what Warren already has to offer, says city administrator Shannon Mortenson, and is the community’s latest project to improve the lives of Warren residents.

“I think that’s why the projects are successful here,” she said. “Because you have to remember that you are there for the residents.”

Warren is the first of three cities chosen for the D4CR pilot project, which is funded by a grant from the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership. The other towns involved are Hallock and Crookston.

The D4CR project is divided into four parts: discover, dream, decide and do.

The project began in Warren in October 2020 with community meetings consisting of residents, businesses, people new to the community, government officials and investors. These groups talked about the assets Warren already owns and what a regenerative future for Warren might look like.

“Regenerative” in D4CR projects refers to resource efficiency, explained Tim Griffin, D4CR co-lead and principal investigator at the Minnesota Design Center. The ideas produced in D4CR reimagine the way resources such as land and energy are used in Warren.

“On the energy side, create more energy than is used,” Griffin said.

Community groups created possible projects that could help Warren achieve goals for a regenerative future and narrowed down a list of practical projects for the town.

“It was quite a process as it was a pilot project and they hadn’t done it before so it took a long time to get to the dream and design but they were able to narrow it down now in the last two months to the four sectors we are currently working on,” Mortenson said.

Now, on the last part, “do”, the project has resulted in four “prototypes” which are presented to the public for comments. The prototypes emphasize energy independence, the use of public lands, a pedestrian path and the reception of visitors and potential residents.

The prototypes offer a series of projects for Warren. In the past, Warren had its own power plant, so the Energy Independence Prototype proposes placing solar panels in different locations around town to bring power production back to Warren. To make public lands more regenerative, trees, sidewalks and community gathering spaces could be added to the city. A prototype proposes to construct a recreational pathway on the existing community flood diversion dyke that surrounds the town. Another offers an interactive online map that would show what Warren has to offer.

At the county fair from July 20-24, posters explaining the four prototypes will be available for visitors to view and give feedback on the ideas.

Construction of a new bike path through Warren began earlier this week, and Mortenson suspects the excitement around the project will make the prototype recreational trail a popular option among community members. The path would stretch for miles out of Warren, around the town’s fields and sewage treatment lagoons, which are a popular spot for birdwatching.

“It takes you quite a distance from the city, but that’s vision,” she says, “You never know. Maybe your community is growing so that it doesn’t seem so far from the city. town.

Mortenson says Warren was chosen for his history with environmental sustainability projects. In 2016, Warren was part of the Climate Smart Municipalities program, which paired him with a city in Germany for an international exchange of ideas on sustainable energy.

“A lot of the reason Warren was chosen is that we have a pretty progressive thought process,” Mortenson said.

The D4CR program will leave ideas and feedback from the community to Warren, but to implement plans after the design process, the community will need to find funding. Projects like this, Mortenson says, often allow communities like Warren to be successful when applying for grants because the research has already been completed.

In the past, Warren was part of a Minnesota Department of Health walking workshop, and with feedback from that workshop, the city received a $5,000 grant to pay for signage and benches on along the city’s designated walking paths.

“So we know it works when you do these little pilots,” she said.


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