I think many Minnesotans can relate to this experience; you’re talking to someone from another place and you mention that the Twin Cities is home to the headquarters of 3M/Target/Best Buy/General Mills/Pillsbury/Cargill and you are met with astonishment. Household names like those, Fortune 500 corporations are in “Minnesooootah”?
Well, imagine telling people that the Mayo Clinic, the world leader in healthcare and innovation isn’t just in Minnesota, it’s in Rochester—an hour from the Cities and a place most people from outside the state couldn’t point out on a map for all of their awareness of the Mayo’s prestige. But, that’s what makes Rochester so fascinating. I call it “Oz” because from any direction you approach, it’s fields all around, then suddenly, rising up out of the landscape is a modern skyline where miracles happen and the sick come to get healed by the world’s best and brightest medical talents
Despite being a destination, it really shares a lot of the same characteristics of other large towns in rural parts of Minnesota:
o State parks nearby
o Streams and rivers that are home to some of the nation’s best trout fishing
o A large migratory path making it birding destination and also home to a dynamic Audubon Minnesota chapter – the Zumbro Valley Society.
In addition, we have two large environmental centers in town—Cascade Meadows and Quarry Hill—that regularly host public events and informational classes and opportunities. Not to mention the city is dotted with great parks, connected by a large, well-marked trail system that runs along the river and through downtown, linking the neighborhoods that surround it.
Life is good in Rochester.
The City and Olmsted County take the job of maintaining their natural resources very seriously and they boast numerous committees and commissions dedicated to this mission, including the Environmental Commission, Energy Commission and Committee on Urban Development and Environment, to name a few. I’m fortunate enough to serve on the Energy Commission where we’re tasked with the work of shaping future policies for Rochester’s energy use. This is particularly important right now as the city continues down the path of planning for the Destination Medical Center expansion, which will grow the city exponentially over the next 20 years.
Currently, Rochester gets 80% of its power from coal. This reality flies in the face of the reputation it has as a health destination. Coal has been linked to asthma and increased rates of mercury in our environment, which we all know is linked to a variety of health problems.
In addition, as shown in our recent survey, many in the community are rallying behind the need for clean, healthy energy alternatives and support our local leaders when they take steps towards a clean future.
Recently, a group of local residents came together to plan and promote eco-friendly initiatives and activities over the week surrounding Earth Day. This first annual week finished off with an EcoFair at the Mayo Civic Center and featured green builders, solar panel installers, the local food cooperative, local conservation voices, local non-profits and guest speakers. The electric car show was a hit and meteorologist Paul Douglas drew a crowd of over 200 people for his talk about climate.
The event was a huge success and was attended by a wide variety of people from all factions of the community, and was a clear sign of the interest Rochester residents have in promoting and supporting sustainable initiatives. As the group put it, Healthy Earth, healthy community, and as a world renown health community, Rochester can and should lead the way in promoting all aspects of a healthy environment, clean energy and sustainable living, and it looks like the support is here and the opportunity is now.
I couldn’t agree more.
Life in Rochester is good and will get better as we transition from unhealthy energy to a more locally sourced energy that is also good for you.