It was a year like few others. Here’s a look back at what happened in 2021: January 7
—The year 2021 in Cottage Grove started out on the ball, with Washington County beginning distribution of the first COVID-19 vaccines and Mayor Myron Bailey taking the oath for another term of office as the Mayor of Cottage Grove.
Washington County more broadly meanwhile, was working on business relief, as the economic effects of COVID were felt throughout the area.
—The second week of 2021 came with the news that the proposed community center would be on the ballot, while it was reported that organizers were working to make sure that the popular Strawberry Fest could take place. At the same time, it was reported that Crestview School, “could close.”
—The third week of 2021 answered the second, as Cottage Grove rallied to save Crestview. Horns were blared. Kids waved signs, and a resident named named Rebecca Cueller started a Change.org petition, “Save Crestview Elementary School.” Before long, over 2,000 people had signed on.
As to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, it was proceeding slowly but surely. Statewide data reported from Janaury 21 recorded that 184,943 people had received at least one dose of vaccine, while 35,800 had completed their series. On the 8000 block of Greene Avenue a house burned, but the family escaped with their dog, and unharmed.
—Having rallied to the cause in defense of Crestview, residents had reason to celebrate the fourth week of January, as Crestview Elementary was spared, while the school district was still called to make financial adjustments elsewhere to answer real budget questions.
Also reported the fourth week of January was that Teamsters Local 120 was on Strike, as the union sought to address safety concerns at the plant.
—The first week of February and fifth week of 2021 saw the Regional Labor Federation team up with Local 120 to give out food over two days, as the strike to address safety issues continued. A family ice fishing event was reported to be set for February 6 at Cottage Grove Park, and the vaccine rollout moved into phases, with health care personnel and long-term care residents in phase 1a, followed with pilot phase, 1b, 1c, and the general public.
—The second week of February saw the Mayor’s address, with Mayor Myron Bailey reporting that, “the city of Cottage Grove is in excellent position.” Sadies Jones gave a front page update on the vaccine rollout, while a Red Barn robbery was stopped by Good Samaritans.
February 18 —Announced the week of February 18, was that 21,408 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Washington County, while a $5,000 donation to public Safety by an appreciative spouse (Claire “Doc” Skieveland) of someone who had received EMS care, was heralded by the Council. Donating $500 to the Craig Woolery Scholarhship, meanwhile, were Justin and Kim Olsen, also recognized by the Council.
—Starting the first week of March it was reported that new housing permits were brisk in February, while East Ridge High School Student Riya Bharti was chosen for the 2021 Excellence Award. It was announced to Cottage Grove residents that they could win $200 in the 2021 Spring Medallion Hunt, while in Park boys hockey it was back-to-back wins against Woodbury and Irondale.
March 11 —The second week of March public safety made the news, as it was revealed that the city was holding a closed door meeting to prepare as the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was getting ready to take place in nearby Hennepin. Chauvin was charged with second-degree felony murder along with second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd the previous year, while Floyd’s death had sparked unrest in the Twin Cities downtown area, leaving many people on edge.
—The third week of March saw Park swimmers make a splash at state, as four swimmers in the 400-yard freestyle relay team won at Oltman Middle School. “It was a great section of all of our guys,” Park head coach Amanda Johnson said at the time.
At the same time, Hy-Vee surprised a woman dedicated to saving lives with one year of free groceries. Sheletta Brundidge, whose family experienced carbon monoxide poisoning and who had dedicated herself to educating others, was awarded the price on the TV show, “The Doctor.”
Meanwhile, there was sad news as well for the third week of March, as five teens were involved in a fatal crash at Woodbury. The single vehicle crash called in at 11:08 p.m. took five young lives, and left a community mourning.
March 25 —The final week of March 2021 saw the news that safety concerns were being addressed, while the Caribou Cabin (now complete) at 7702 80th Street was reported to be going ahead. It was further reported that Cottage Grove hoped to have Strawberry Fest and Fourth of July fireworks, while nothing was certain. “We have a lot of questions now that we are hearing about the proverbial dials being turned in the State of Minnesota around whether or not we will have Strawberry Fest this year and about whether we will have Fourth of July fireworks this year,” Council member Justin Olsen was quoted as saying, adding that the Cottage Grove Lions were ready to help if things went forward as hoped. “The Lions are very eager to be involved and back to serving the public at Strawberry Fest and with the Fourth of July fireworks,” Olsen wsaid.
—Opening the week of April Fool’s was something not so cool: an enrollment dip for ISD 833 that stood to drop the school budget by $4 million. At the same time, citizens were wondering just when Pizza Ranch would be coming to Cottage Grove, while eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine expanded for a second time, contenting the phased rollout that saw healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents go first, followed within months by the general public.
—Starting the second week of April was the news that local lawmakers Karla Bigham, Keith Franke, and Tony Jurgens had held a virtual town hall meeting with constituents the previous Thursday. The three gave descriptions of items they were working on and items of interest to local residents.At the same time it was reported that Washington County Parks had sent out a spring update, highlighting in turn Bird Hikes, History Strolls, and Sunset SUP, among other events.
Finally for the second week of April, an update on the Local 120 Teamsters lockout, in which things weren’t moving all that much.
—Coming in for notice the third week of April was the news that Cottage Grove was taking a second look at allowing chickens and ducks, while 360 Development out of LaCrosse was reportedly looking to restore and redevelop the Cedarhurst Mansion property. Park High School was rehearsing for the Saturday opening of its play, “The Theory of Relativity,” and it was reported that Fourth of July fireworks were still on, pending developments.
April 22 —Heading towards the close of April with a ceremonial tree planting April 28, it was time for Spring Clean up May 1, with residents directed to conserve water as well during Water Conservation Week. Pauline Schottmuller contributed a report on the Newport City Council meeting.
April 29 —Closing out the month of April it was reported that Cottage Grove Police had arrested a man with a felony kidnapping warrant, while the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighter released a statement on the ongoing strike at Marathon Refinery in St. Paul Park. The St. Paul Park Legion organized food for troops, while the Brundidge family made the news for a new book called, “Daniel Finds His voice.”
—Starting out Spring the Cottage Grove PD was looking to curb speeding, while the Council agenda had rental licenses and a Historic Preservationist award on the agenda. The Cottage Grove Council reviewed an arterial study for southwest Cottage Grove, and Park track runner Bri Hensel blew past the competition to win the 1,600-meter run.
May 13 —Starting the second week of May the Cottage Grove Fire Department was asking for safety with recreational fires, along with the advice to “never use gasoline or other combustible liquids to start a fire.” Windspeed was also a concern, with speeds of 15 miles per hour or less the absolute limit for when to start a fire.
Also reported for the second week of May was that Cottage Grove was “for the birds” in its Washington County Ravine Park hike. Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz address Minnesota to talk what was needed in order to withdraw nearly all COVID restrictions, while the Cottage Grove Council honored Herb Japs with the Historic Preservationist Award, accepted posthumously by a friend.
—Coming in May 20 was the report that the 434th Chemical Company was preparing to deploy, while a revival of in-person concerts saw the Bella Voce Mixed Choir perform. The Council, meanwhile, heard and considered a preliminary plat for Settler’s Bluff at its May 19 meeting.
—Coming in the last week of May it was reported that St. Paul Park police had turned a traffic stop into a drug bust for 29 grams of Meth, while firefighters brought a garage blaze under control. The City Council heard sustained comments on a planned development for Mississippi Dunes, and “Summer Nights” was due to debut at the Loft Stage soon.
—The first week of June saw a nod to the last week of May, as a Memorial Day ceremony at City Hall made the front page. Speaking at the Memorial Day ceremony were United States Navy Command Master Chief William “Billy” Heib, along with Council member Steve Dennis, who introduced Heib.
At the same time, South Washington County principals reflected on the past school year and its challenges, while the Council sent response letters to those who had spoken on Mississippi Dunes at the May 19 Council meeting.
—Marking the week of June 10 was an informal presentation by Three Sixty Development in the Training Room at City Hall, made with reference to Cedarhurst. Hosted by a team from Three Sixty and ISG, the plans for Cedarhurst included a great deal of parking lots and multi-story buildings surrounding the Mansion, while Jeremy Novak summed up the question thus: “Do the people want the Mansion preserved, or not?” he asked, with the idea that unless other properties made Cedarhurst commercially and economically viable, it risked getting sidelined and losing out in decades to come.
Also making the front page for June 10 was the Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area, a favorite with birdwatching. The sand dunes with restored prairie lands were also reported to provide habitat for many endangered species.
Notable the second week of June as well was the news that seven men had been charged with juvenile exploitation related to a sex trafficking ring, with police utilizing undercover officers to catch potential predators.
—Opening the week of June 17 was a drowning at Carver Lake Park Beach of a 9-year-old child, found unresponsive after being missing for an extended period of time.
At the same time, the informal presentation on Cedarhurst had sparked a change.org petition, with 405 electronic signatures as of Sunday June 13. Citizen concerns included the amount of parking space (too much blacktop), clustered buildings as multi-story apartments, and nearby property values, as it was felt the light from the apartments would reach into people’s backyards.
Finally the week of June 17, Park baseball was reported to have won its game against Eagan, thereby winning a trip to state.
—Making it to state with a win against Eagan, Park baseball made a historic second- place finish, coming in with a 12 – 10 finish in its game against Farmington. “I’m never surprised about that, they never give up,” head coach John McGowan said of keeping team efforts strong in the midst of contrary winds.
END OF PART ONE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK