The Politics of Beauty



“Why do you have to make everything political?” my brother asked.

“It’s not worth writing otherwise,” I replied.                  



A few years back Minnesota passed the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment, allocating tax dollars for environmental protection and the arts. It’s a great thing. I have already written here about projects receiving those funds: “Prep,” a play at Pillsbury Center providing $ for pay-what-you-can performances and the Loft Literary Center sponsoring free public readings such as the series More than a Single Story—both recipients of the Legacy Amendment.

This weekend I had the opportunity to enjoy another Legacy recipient: the Root River trail in Southeastern corner of Minnesota. It was the most beautiful weekend to ride: sunny, cool, enough leaves to provide brilliant color, enough leaves crunching underneath to allow the cyclist spectacular views river, farms and bluffs.

The Root River Trail is what this bicyclist calls pure gravy train.  The paved path puts you into some of the most beautiful bluff country in a minute. Every 5-10 miles there is a town with great places to stop and eat. Lovely Lanesboro in the heart of the trial, has a bikers cathedral – a public bathroom building right on the path.

The people using the trail had diverse bicycle abilities and experiences. They were males and females of all ages: small children, elders and everyone else in between. They utilized the entire spectrum of bicycles: tandems, tourers, big-box cheapos, and elite racers.  There were walkers and strollers and wheelchairs too.

The users were almost entirely White.

So here is what I want to know: What structures create knowledge and access to this place? How do people find out about it? How comfortable is it to stay in one of the many campgrounds, B and B and motels if you are not White? How could we expand public transportation access to the area?

Any recipient of the Legacy Amendment should be required to ask questions of access and assemble a coalition of stakeholders who can act on  the answers.

The Root River Trail is a Minnesota treasure. The only way to enhance such exquisite natural beauty is to add equity.

My edited answer to my brother’s question:

“I write about politics to imagine a more beautiful  world.”

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