The Central Minnesota
Sustainable Development Plan



Our Story

Population:  469

Median Age:  36.1

Median Income:  $29,375 

Area:  .88 square miles

Top Three Industries: Manufacturing, Education, Construction



Pillager is located on the north bank of the Crow Wing River, near Lake Placid, the Pillsbury State Forest, and is geologically situated on a natural break in the landscape known as the Pillager Gap.  In early times, this Gap provided an easy travel route for Native Americans and explorers.  Now the Gap can be easily driven on Highway 210 west of Brainerd.  From a vantage point on County Highway 1 south of Pillager, you can view the steep drop to the valley floor from atop the moraine and imagine Chief Hole-in-the-Day’s Band of Chippewa settlements below.   In the late 1800’s, the Trading Post (still standing) supported settlers’ logging enterprises; the primary industry in the area.  The railroad connected Pillager to Brainerd and Staples, so after the mills closed people were content to remain in Pillager. 



Now this quiet, inviting community takes pride in its supportive and generous potential coming from all generations.  A new focus for the town is the elementary and high school building; a recent Referendum passed by an overwhelming response.  Not only does this building support the educational needs for Pillager, but the Education Foundation also hosts coffee for moms, dads, and seniors.  The school halls ring out with Husky PRIDE, which stands for P-perseverance, R- respect/responsibility, I- integrity, D- discipline, E- excellence.  This pride carries over to its residents.

The Pillager Family Center was established in 1992 for charitable and educational purposes.  Being in a community where people know each other, they often pull together to address community needs, from raising funds for a family in need, to overwhelming support for the school, to community clean ups and services.  If you need help, it’s there. 

This collaborative nature creates a good working relationship between city, county and fair board leaders and this rapport extends to churches and service organizations, providing a good foundation to produce capable leaders.  One example of this collective spirit is an idea inspired and promoted by students.  Students created a Husky Pride mural in the new school carved in brick.  The new kiln is not only for the art department, but is shared and available for communal use by the Pillager community.

Currently, Pillager students learn to respect their natural surroundings through outdoor Science and Phy/Ed classes, where they work with respected professionals, in learning about responsible logging practices, fishing and the wildlife that is so much a part of living in Central Minnesota.  

Unique celebrations in the community include a focus on Arbor Day, an annual Fiddlers Contest, Mud Run and the oldest fair in Cass County. 

Pillager continues ongoing growth and development efforts by implementing ideas recommended after a recent visit from the Minnesota Design Team. Projects include the addition of fiber optics to enhance connectivity and creating a recreation task force to keep Pillager a proactive, friendly and healthy community.  

Pillager identified these additional assets in their community:

Natural Assets:

Pillsbury State Forest

Lake Placid – fishing/beach

Rural area

Fishing/ hunting

Geographic location – the Pillager Gap

Close to Crow Wing River


Cultural Assets:

Many generations – people stay and/or return

Strong faith community

Gull River Junction – Native American history



Human Assets:

Two clinics / two nearby hospitals

Excellent Fire Dept/First Responders

Pillager Family Center – food shelf


Engaged youth


Social Assets:

Lions Club

Active Fair Board

Three churches

Many daycare and preschool options

County Fairgrounds – holds events like Fiddler’s Contest, oldest fair in Cass County, Mud Run

Social clubs for boys and girls

Pillager Family Center serves community

Community Center events

School-community hub for services and activities

Snowmobile Club

Girl Scouts

Sunshine Club

Small, friendly city



Political Assets:

Effective city leadership

Camp Ripley nearby

City has growth momentum

Stable tax base


Financial Assets:

Pine River State Bank

Local businesses

Pillager Education Foundation



Built Assets:

Housing development land

All season main roads

Local, small businesses

Small Park

Two health clinics in town

Several restaurants

New school building

Husky brick carving in school building

Location between Brainerd & Staples


Assisted living residence

Fiber Optics in town

City Water and Sewer

Charter School

Senior Center




Pillager has a positive outlook for its future.  It has already received ideas from a Design Team forum to help carry forward its growing potential.  Suggestions made included a new Development Achievement Center, expanding the artist community, affordable golf options, and creating alternative uses for space at the fairgrounds. 

Community Goals:

1. Develop Tourism Plan  

Work with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber or city leaders to develop a tourism plan.  With the pending recreation trail from Camp Ripley coming through Pillager, develop a plan to attract visitors to the area. 

2. More Housing Options  

While owning a home in Pillager is affordable now, the inventory of houses and rentals are limited.  There is a need for additional rental units and houses. 

3. Beautification Plan

To build upon the gardens already in town, people would like to create a beautification plan to showcase Pillager.

Prepare to welcome visitors from the pending multi-use Camp Ripley State Veterans Trail, which will serve motorized and non-motorized users.  Showcase the city park as motorists drive into town from Highway 210.  Other ideas discussed were to refurbish or reuse downtown buildings and to improve the fairgrounds with enhancements such as a dog park.   

For more information about Pillager, go to or send an email to  or