As summer begins on the shores of White Bear Lake, the beauty of this land comes into full view. Lush green trees stretch over winding trails. Birds sing and swoop over local beaches. It has been this way for as long as residents remember, and the Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative (MAGI) is working to keep it that way.
MAGI’s story began 15 years ago on the sidelines of a Mahtomedi High School sports field. Parents, stirred by the brisk winds and budding environmental crisis, discussed whether they could perhaps harness the wind and help their kids work towards a renewable future. The result of this founding inspiration, the Zephyr Wind Turbine, now sits beside the football field and produces electric power that is credited to the school district.
Following that success, MAGI chair Paul Hoff says, “We decided the group should stay together and work on other issues.”
Since then, MAGI hasn’t slowed down. It’s contributed to conversations and projects regarding the water level issues on White Bear Lake, partnered with the Wildwood Lions Club to provide a $1,000 environmental leadership scholarship to an outstanding Mahtomedi High School senior and promoted and organized events such as the Mahtomedi Area Farmers Market and the Earth Day R.I.T.E of Spring.
In recent years, the group has pivoted toward the issue of safe pedestrian trails across the region. Some of the new changes occurring this summer, including new traffic lights at busy intersections, wider shoulders and flashing beacons at crossing, will promote the safety of the trails for travelers of all ages.
MAGI’s efforts, in tandem with the Lake Links Association, will help to complete the Lake Links project conceived in 2001. The path will allow pedestrians to travel entirely around White Bear Lake when completed. With South Shore Boulevard due for construction, it’s an ideal time to extend the path through Mahtomedi.
Though construction will cause some delays and disruptions, Hoff is enthusiastic about the opportunity it will soon bring to residents and visitors alike.
“We ask that people bear with the construction efforts,” Hoff says. “[The end result] will be better for both drivers and pedestrians.”
While building trails may not be the first thing to come to mind when you consider environmental sustainability, better opportunities for green transportation will bring many benefits.
“Trails are not just recreational amenities, nice as they are for that. They are becoming practical transportation routes within our communities so people can support local businesses, get to the library, go to church, school and parks without always getting in the car,” says Hoff. “It’s a bit of an economic engine.”
Environmental sustainability goes farther than recycling cans and decreasing water and gas usage. MAGI volunteers continue to investigate ways to produce renewable energy and encourage community commitment to sustainability— and there’s always more work to be done. All are welcome at the organization’s meetings, held on the first Monday of every month.
“Not everyone is interested in everything we do,” Hoff says. “But there’s something for everyone to be interested in.”