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Boreal Community Media

Exclusive: Moving to Cook County. Part 3: To Move or Not to Move?

Nov 17, 2021 05:10AM ● By Editor
Photo: Visit Cook County

Editor's Note: This is final story in a three part series chronicling the reasons people are drawn to and have decided to move to Cook County and the benefits, opportunities and challenges they face.  

By Rae Poynter, Exclusive to Boreal Community Media - November 17, 2021

For those considering moving to Cook County, it’s important to be aware of both the potential upsides and downsides before making the decision. On the one hand, the proximity to Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness--not to mention the countless inland lakes and trails outside the wilderness--offers outdoor enthusiasts a prime location to live and work. And for those who value living in a smaller, close community, particularly one with an impressive amount of activities for its size, Grand Marais can bring that sense of close community that can be harder to find in larger cities.

On the other hand, living in Cook County also presents unique challenges. There is the lack of housing, particularly affordable housing, as mentioned in our previous story in this series, as well as a higher cost of living than other rural areas due to being so remote: sandwiched between Lake Superior and the Canadian border, Cook County’s location means added transportation costs, which in turn makes everyday items more expensive. And for access to larger-city amenities like chain retailers, theaters, or even certain medical specialists, this entails a trek to Duluth which is over two hours one way--in good weather. 

“If you’re moving to Cook County you have to get used to being at the end of the road,” said Bob Carter, real estate agent for Coldwell Banker North Shore from Grand Marais.

For Alex Blust, living in Grand Marais has provided incredible opportunities to learn at North House and to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. There are still aspects of the Twin Cities she misses, including the diversity found among its various communities and cultures, but she also said she loves how open, caring, and LGBTQ affirming the Grand Marais community is.

“I’d say that if you want to try it out here then to go for it!” she said. “Go for it, and be willing to be flexible.”

 Cook County District 1 Commissioner Bob Svaleson.  Photo: Cook County MN

Bob Svaleson said that he has enjoyed the ample opportunities to hike, fish, and explore the BWCA. He also appreciates the respect that people in Cook County have for the outdoors, and their willingness to take care of its resources. He said that people new to the area may have to become accustomed to the slower pace of life, driving more, and being patient when waiting for services like home maintenance help. For people moving to the area, he reiterated the importance of helping in the community.

“Get invovled! Small communities like this only work if everyone pitches in,” he said.

Bob Carter said that he’s seen people move here, fall in love with the area, and stay, as well as people who move here but decide to go back.

Bob Carter, Real Estate Agent for Coldwell Banker North Shore in Grand Marais.  Photo: CBNS

“It’s not for everybody,” Carter said. “Not everybody is meant to live in a small town. Grand Marais, like any other small town, can start to feel pretty small sometimes. And if you want to be involved in activities in the community but live farther out of town then you have to get used to driving a lot, and for a lot of people that gets old.”

Carter said that the one thing he tells people is that you have to love and embrace winter, a sentiment echoed by Kris and Jill Barber. 

Kris and Jill Barber say embracing winter is a key part of a satisfying move to Cook County. Photo: The Barbers

“We love winter, but if you’re coming from the Twin Cities, be prepared for the fact that winter is longer here,” Kris said. “Sometimes when leading kayak tours I’d have people ask me what winter is like here, because they’ve only ever been here in the summer. You have to embrace the longer winters, get outside and play in the snow!”

And while rural living in Northern Minnesota may not be for everyone, for others it truly is the right choice. As Jill Barber said, “From the day we moved here, we’ve never once regretted our decision.”