Friday, October 23, 2009



Snow before Halloween.  Just a dusting is magical. 

When I look past this early reminder of what's ahead, I cringe.   It's not the cold and wet I dread, it's the impact snow has on getting around.  The shoveling, the salt and sand, the black ice.

Yah gotta have a car out here in dairy land.  The closest grocery store is 8 miles north in the city of Durand, the "seat" of Wisconsin's smallest county.  The closest box store is further north in Memomonie (25 miles away). 

What can I say about Durand.

It's one of those rural cities that hasn't taken advantage of its natural capital.  Instead, it looks to the kind of economic development of the past - light industry and chain stores.

Durand has something most small towns would give their eye teeth for:  an awesome  location. 

The city sits in the middle of the largest intact floodplain forest in the upper mid-west:  the Lower Chippewa River.   The 40 miles of "natural" river to the north and south of the city are a treasure trove, a living museum of Wisconsin's natural heritage containing:
  1.  more rare species (125) than any area of comparable size in Wisconsin
  2.  more native prairie (25% of the state total) than any area of comparable size in Wisconsin
  3.  50% of Wisconsin's plant species
  4.  70% of Wisconsin's fish species
  5.  75% of Wisconsin's nesting bird species
  6.  the largest and best remaining floodplain savannas in Wisconsin

And it's all easily accessible -
  by foot and bike - from the Chippewa River State Trail
  by rail - Tiffany nature train
  by car - Rustic Road 107
  by boat - canoe and kayak

The river and nature tourism are the future for the Durand area.

There's plenty of opportunity for investors:  empty store fronts, an historic downtown (quaint, if only they'd remove the ugly 1960's aluminum siding), a new "small" chain motel, a McDonalds (a sign that someone recognizes the retail potential - not an endorsement) and a great reputation for quality deer and turkey hunting.

Durand is a diamond in the rough for nature-based businesses:  a campground, bike shop, canoe livery, nature and birding tour company, art gallery, bed and breakfasts and signature restaurants.  

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