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Harry's Gang: Girl Scouts get it done

When Esko kids want safer crosswalks, they get safer crosswalks, even if it means they have to make some noise to get it done.

There’s a wide, paved trail running from the high school to the playing fields a half-mile away that passes the town’s only public park, Northridge Park. But kids need to cross busy Canosia Road to get to the park, and it’s dangerous. Until recently, the crosswalk was marked only with faded stripes on the road and a lone “Crosswalk” sign, partially obscured by overgrown trees and facing only one direction.

Three Esko kids, all Girl Scouts working on their Silver Award, noticed that it can be pretty frightening to cross the road to get to the park. The scouts, Annika Halvorson, Claire Fontaine and Carli Bloom, were bothered by how dangerous it was and decided to do something about it.

At first, they didn’t know what to do. So, with the help of their scout leader Sybil Halverson, they sent a letter to the town board. The girls asked them to accent the crosswalk with wide stripes, signage, and a flashing yellow light. They got no reply. So, the girls wrote another letter. And another. Finally, they called one of the town supervisors directly. That supervisor, Bill Gerard, brought up the issue at the next meeting, and the town passed a resolution in favor of fixing that crosswalk with appropriate signage.

That was just the beginning. Since Canosia Road is a county road, the scouts got in contact with county officials and the highway department to find out how they could get one of those solar-powered signs that light up when someone pushes the crosswalk button. Initially deterred by the high cost and red tape, the girls kept working on their project, motivated by service to their community and their Silver Award from the Girl Scouts.

I had a chance to chat with the girls this week before the dedication. Annika Halverson and her friends were in the eighth grade when they started this project. When I first introduced myself to Annika, I said, “So, you’re the brainchild behind the new crosswalk, huh?” She laughed. “No, it wasn’t me. It was the whole troop — Claire Fontaine and Carli Bloom and me. We wanted to do something that would make our community more safe that would last a long time, long after we’re gone off to college or whatever.” She also gave credit to Bill Gerard and other county officials, and her scout leaders. “It was a community effort,” she said.

Once they got encouragement from government officials, fundraising was the next step. Fundraising was daunting, and they weren’t even sure exactly where they could buy one of those flashing crosswalk signs even if they had the money. They continued to brainstorm, but then the pandemic hit, and the scouts had to meet via Zoom. Eventually, they discovered a company in the Twin Cities that makes the signs: Mobo Trex, Inc. They called the company and ended up speaking with Don Van Gorp, the regional sales manager for the company’s Minneapolis office. After several conversations, Van Gorp offered to donate one of the flashing signs, if the Girl Scouts could get the rest of the work done.

The girls got the work done, and the new crosswalk was dedicated this week, marking a safe entry into the newly refurbished entrance to Northridge Park.

“We were just driving down Canosia Road last week when mom yelled, “Hey, look!” Annika told me. “The sign had been installed, so we stopped the car and pushed the crosswalk button. We all yelled when the signs lit up.”

Oh, and the girls got their Silver Award, even though Covid claimed the troop’s existence. But now there’s a safe path to the park, all thanks to the tenacity of three Girl Scouts from Esko. Stop by and push the button.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News community newspaper and an attorney in Esko who hosts the cable access talk show Harry’s Gang on CAT-7. His opinions are his own. Contact him at [email protected].

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