18 years ago, when we moved from Colorado to Minnesota, we had a pipedream that we’d find our “cabin in the north” with a lake, a big yard, privacy, and great neighbors. 17 years ago, we lucked into being the first buyers to visit our house on Lake Shore Avenue and we made an offer on the spot. We have worked on turning our little house into a more functional place for work, art, and living space for 17 years. We turned a minor disaster of a yard into what our friends call “a private park.” More than anything, Savage Lake has been a cornerstone of our life in Little Canada.
Every once in a while, I get an anonymous visitor (always anonymous) who takes me to task for imagining that our little ‘'watershed’' is a real lake. My last such visitor said, “The attention your blog is bringing to this nasty little ditch is drawing away funds and efforts from real lakes like Gervais and Round Lakes and our city parks. We'll be glad to see you gone and I hope no one takes over your pathetic blog. Savage is nothing more than a catch basin for freeway runoff as it should be.”
Wow! This is the third or fourth time I’ve had a response like this to the blog and my claim that this is a lake that should be valued and appreciated. Regardless, we’ve loved the wildlife on and around the lake. My wife regenerated her love of bird watching on Savage Lake’s banks. We’ve taken hundreds of canoe rides around the lake and the island. Our grandson grew up playing on the dock we built together and practicing catch-and-release with the frogs, turtles, and toads he found on our beach.
We’ve had a wedding, a college graduation party, several winter solstice parties, infamous sledding parties, a retirement party and celebrated Little Canada days with dozens of friends and family with the lake as the beautiful backdrop. We’ve barbequed steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, smores, and all sorts of hillbilly-gourmet meals on our lake shore firepit and spent hundreds of hours talking into the night, enjoying the fire and the view.
My ex-neighbor and friend, John Bibeau, and I canoed the lake with a few hundred gallons of diluted herbicide to fight off the total invasion of the lake with water lilies and it worked. We were canoeing this year all the way into August with enough clear water to make the ride interesting. There are even some signs that some small fish are making a comeback after the school’s pollution runoff killed off the lake several years ago.
Rocky Waite is petitioning MNDOT and the mostly-useless DNR to dredge the silt MNDOT’s idiot freeway entrance drainage siphoned into the northeast corner of the lake. He’ll need backup from lakeshore owners or the city council will be as absent from this argument as they have been on every Savage Lake issue for the last 17 years, except the highly-profitable and unsupportable goose roundup.
Our new Red Wing neighborhood is quiet and after 17 years of fighting the noise pollution from I35E, that is an amazing benefit to having left the Cities. Nights are dark, since we’re far enough from the city and Cities to have left the light pollution. The I35E noise barrier will will help, a little, when it is finally installed in 2015, but MNDOT demonstrated its usual incompetence by cutting down all of the lakeshore trees that would have provided noise absorption was disappointing. Not surprising, but disappointing. The neighborhood support for the noise barriers was one of the high points, for us, in our Little Canada civic life. MNDOT and the DNR expected about five people to show up and I think there were at least fifty people in the room at one time at that meeting.
I can’t walk down to our beach with being flooded with memories of days and nights spent on Savage Lake. Now that we are all but moved into our new home in Red Wing, coming back to Little Canada is bittersweet. My grandson went from being a toddler to a teenager in our backyard. From the dock to the landscaping to the stairs and handrails and the gardens, we can point to all of the things we built and planted together (most of which he doesn’t remember) and enjoyed as a family for years afterwards. When I loaded up the kayak and canoe for Red Wing, it was a sad moment to realize we would never make a lap around Savage Lake and the island to put a fine ending on a beautiful spring, summer, or fall day. I’ve had those two boats for almost 30 years, but they saw more use in Savage Lake than any other place we’ve lived.
We’ve lived in Little Canada longer than any place in our lives and no matter who owns our house here, in the future, it will always seem like “home.” Our Little Canada neighbors have been the most generous, most tolerant, most friendly, most helpful friends imaginable. We won’t miss the freeway noise or the Harley’s blasting around our corner on Lake Shore Ave, but we will miss this community no matter how much Red Wing or the future has to offer.