Quinn Swanson is a public face in Pine River.
Swanson has her hands in various public projects, including those to beautify downtown Pine River, to draw people off the public corridors and into local businesses, and to increase the community’s environmental sustainability.
Swanson is a 1999 graduate of Pine River-Backus High School, where she received early practice in community involvement.
“In high school I was probably over-involved, maybe somewhat similar to now,” Swanson said.
She was immersed in track and cross country, Project for Teens, the school yearbook and newspaper, National Honor Society, Students Against Drunk Driving and drama, and she served six years on student council. During her junior year, while acting as student council president, Swanson was named Student Council Officer of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Student Councils.
A busy college career limited Swanson’s community involvement until her 2004 graduation from the University of Minnesota in Duluth with a Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental studies. Her degree required an internship, which she completed with Hunt Utilities Group in her hometown.
Today, Swanson lives in Pine River with her husband, Roy Hamilton. She works at Happy Dancing Turtle.
“I’ve been working here long enough that I’ve done virtually everything, from putting earth and plaster on the walls, to leading classes and tours,” Swanson said. “The other fair bit of my job is support for both organizations — Happy Dancing Turtle and Hunt Utilities Group — and doing design materials and grant writing.”
Her job also includes supervising an AmeriCorps VISTA worker and community outreach.
“A fair bit of my job has been working with the greater Pine River Healthy Communities task forces — working with the Dam Park Task Force, the Community Garden Board and the Pine River Green Steps, which has now kind of morphed to the Pine River Revitalization group,” Swanson said.
Her involvement in these different groups has helped her participate in reshaping Pine River over time. Sometimes she has a tendency to go above and beyond the duties of her job.
“It’s not all job duties. It’s a portion of my job to work with those groups, but because I feel strongly about it I volunteer my free time as well,” Swanson said.
Many of the groups Swanson participates in now are the result of the Healthy Communities Partnership that began in 2009. Since forming the partnership the different task forces have been awarded two rounds of $10,000 grants. Swanson said the partnership then raised at least 10 times that much.
“That’s pretty phenomenal for all the work that’s been done in the community with that money and maybe catalyzed by that money,” Swanson said. “I think as an organization we are doing a lot of interesting work, and I plan to help out however I can.”
With the help of many community members in her task forces, Swanson has had a hand in making buffalo plaid the official color of Pine River, getting plaid flags installed in the city, painting a mural on the bathroom building at the dam park using donated paint, installing a new swimming beach at the dam park, improving the downtown playground across from the park and organizing a community garden on school grounds. She participates with the Pine River Chamber of Commerce and the local farmer’s market.
“We’re at kind of an awesome time when it comes to things like the dam park,” Swanson said. “We just realized a couple of really great things with the installation of the beach. The early childhood piece of equipment has been purchased and will be shipped to store until spring when it can be installed. Then the mural was painted down there. Those are three really visible, tangible efforts that have kind of been in the works for a really long time.”
Though Swanson is now seeing many projects come to fruition, there is still much to do. The Pine River Revitalization group was responsible for creating Plaid on Purpose, in which Pine River claimed its own city colors, but the group also hopes to have banners installed on street lights in the city this fall. The group also worked on other projects, such as planning bike lanes leading from the Paul Bunyan Trail into the city.
“It would be nice to connect the recreational resources we have with the Paul Bunyan trail — the Information Center, down to the Dam Dark and Forbes Park, with some wonderful assets that aren’t really easy if you’re concerned with traffic and children and those sorts of things,” Swanson said.
Swanson said her community involvement is a matter of pride in her community and a desire to see it thrive.
“Easily, they all contribute to the interest, the pride, the ownership that we have in our community. I think the more people connect with and appreciate the stuff in their own community, it has a ripple effect,” she said. “They want to be patrons, maybe they want to be business owners, and those different things also encourage new residents, and hopefully we can continue and thrive as a community, which I think is the overall goal — being sustainable and having a downtown that thrives is economically strong.”