Save Our Fire Tower - Today!
One year ago, anybody who wished, could climb the Fire Tower that sits along County Road 11 between Pequot Lakes and Breezy Point. Breathtaking views of the surrounding area were waiting for those who reached the top. Some toted cameras and captured those stunning visuals. Some were just looking for bragging rights. Others had heard stories from parents and grandparents about climbing the tower as youngsters and wanted to carry on the tradition. A few had family stories; like making paper airplanes at the kitchen table and carefully carrying them to the top of the Tower for launching.
Then, right before the State of Minnesota’s July 1, 2011, government shut-down, the Tower was shut down too. Citing a determination that it was now unsafe, Dave Branum of the Brainerd DNR office noted at the time, "The short-term plan is to put the fence up around the tower. The long-term plan for the tower site use is not yet determined."
Since then, Rod Nelson, Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association board member, has been tirelessly working to get the history-rich Fire Tower reopened to the public. Many meetings have transpired. Members of the SOFT-T (Save Our Fire Tower Today) committee have gathered together a capable and diverse group of people and have sketched out a plan of action aimed at a goal of reopening the Tower this summer. They also have been reaching out to educators in the science and arts fields for their input and participation as well. Recently retired DNR Forester, Keith Simar, has offered his help, providing a career’s worth of forestry knowledge that will be immeasurably helpful as this project moves forward.
Early steps in the process include starting paperwork with the DNR to allow work to happen at the site, fixing what’s currently in poor repair on the tower structure itself, and establishing a three-phased plan that would eventually include uncommon educational opportunities at the site. A potential opportunity like this has already come up. SOFT-T has been made aware of a ‘cab’ (the top enclosed portion of fire towers) that was taken down elsewhere and is now available for relocation. Placing a cab at ground level would provide a singular learning setting. This kind of opportunity fits well into SOFT-T’s view of the Fire Tower’s future role as not only a tourist and historic attraction, but also an educational resource.
The Pequot Lakes Area Historical Society (PLAHS) has agreed to be the responsible organization for receiving and dispersing funds for the Fire Tower project. A separate account has been established and those interested in financially supporting this project can donate through the Historical Society by noting ‘Fire Tower’ in the check memo line. Send to PLAHS, PO Box 493, Pequot Lakes, MN 56472.
The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association has an interpretive panel kiosk at the Fire Tower parking area. The panel mixes truth and lore to tell a brief history of the Tower. The parking and adjacent picnic area is maintained by the City of Pequot Lakes.