After Nick and Katrina, ages three and two, visited Mille Lacs last weekend, I went around the house with a rag and glass cleaner, wiping almost everything at the three-foot level. As I did, I wondered what it would be like here when they are the adults using the Windex.

Will the little ones they bring in the future still be able to spend hours at the shore throwing rocks into clear water? Would the beach still have sticks and crayfish skeletons, or will it have debris and weeds which have proliferated with ecological changes? Will the gorgeous sunset that Nick and Katrina see from Grandpa’s lap still be visible, or will the air be gray and murky with pollution? Will future little ones still be able to sprinkle crumbs and bird seed and then watch with delight as chipmunks and wrens gobble it up? Guess the answer depends on us now.

Not only do the answers depend on the permanent residents of this area, but the huge recreational population as well. It’s definitely the responsibility of those who live here not to initiate and continue action to assure environmental safety.

For instance, Isle residents probably know where to drop off aluminum cans, glasses, and paper for recycling. A lot of the folks heading south late on a Sunday might feel good about being able to swing by a drop-off recycling bin, but where is it?

If the people of Isle, Onamia, and Garrison addresses refuse to buy groceries that are over-packaged in plastic, pretty soon extra plastic won’t be there for visitors to buy, either. And a few canvas or mesh bags which can go with on every trip to the grocery store will help make all those take home grocery bags obsolete. Next time someone whines at you because they never know what to buy you for a gift, impress them by requesting a permanent reusable grocery bag. Anything in a large, plastic containers, such as soft drinks and laundry detergent, can alternatively be purchased in other containers. In these ways, Nick and Katrina’s little ones will still be able to see sailboats and loons on Mille Lacs Lake.

It would be nice to see civic, community, church and school groups jump on the bandwagon to preserve the beauty of this area. Groups and individuals could voluntarily decide to focus on projects which will keep this area special.

Maybe two- and three-year-olds who put sticky hands on a patio door in the year 2020 will be looking at a beautiful, clean world. Maybe the fishhouses will be grouped in landscaped parks. Maybe people of all ages will be bicycling and walking while cars sit neglected unless really needed. There could be hundreds of yards full of beautiful bird houses and natural habitat for wildlife. Maybe the people will spend late summer and early fall harvesting and preserving the natural bounty from their gardens. It’s possible that the walleye will be vigorous and healthy when pulled from clean, clean water. The DNR could, by then, be directing its efforts and budget towards conserving natural resources instead of investigating illegal septic systems.

This special place depends on us for survival. What we do or don’t do – now – will make the difference.

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