The Central Minnesota
Sustainable Development Plan



Our Story

Population:  2,980

Median Age:  38.8           

Median Income:  $23,325

Area:  4.68 square miles

Most Common Industry:  Retail trade; Manufacturing; Construction



Staples was originally settled by the Staples and Dower families their roots were in lumber and the railroad.  The city bears the name of one of its founding fathers, and the lake nearby was named for the other.   It was the lumber work that originally brought settlers to the area.  But the railroad also served as an important part of Staples’s history as it became known as the “rail hub of the northwest” due to the railroad stockyards.  The Railroad Depot, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, continues to serve passenger traffic by Amtrak’s daily Empire Builder.   Nestled among pine forests and wetlands, the Staples landscape appealed to families, and they stayed to build their community.  In the early 1900’s the Batcher Opera House was built and demonstrated the town’s dedication to culture.  Shows were booked from the Twin Cities and Chicago to play to welcoming audiences.  This tradition for cultured entertainment is still present today through the strong music and arts programs present in the community. 


Central Lakes College is a vital asset to Staples and the surrounding community, with programs to support the working and creative needs of this rural environment.  Part of CLC’s Agriculture Department, the Living Legacy Gardens, serves as a live classroom for students and as a destination for residents and visitors and demonstrates sustainable practices in water quality, ag practices, and bio fuels.  

The community is developing a strong network for bicycling and other exercise opportunities.  A recent project building an overpass included a bicycle/walking trail for its residents and has just been awarded funds to continue the bicycle trail to the Legacy Gardens just outside of town. 

Residents value the abundance of family oriented parks in Staples for exercise and visitor’s to camp.  Veteran’s Park was newly developed to honor all veterans and was made possible by collaboration from the many local organizations.  Pine Grove Park is set in the White and Red Pine forests and provides a new playground, baseball fields and other outdoor activities in a relaxing environment.  This park also demonstrates the community working together to provide a valuable asset for their town.  There are also sledding hills nearby for winter activities and a community pool and golf course in the summer.  Dower Lake Recreational Area also boasts one of the longest fishing piers in Minnesota and the Crow Wing River nearby provides many activities for floating and fishing. 

There are many stories of people and organizations working together for the betterment of the community in general.  There have been many opportunities for fund raisers to support a community member’s need, beautification efforts in town, and for several churches to support their spiritual needs – no matter what need, the community comes together.  This is shown through the active participation in several leadership groups – Blandin Leadership programs, Leadership Engagement Advocacy Positiveness (LEAP), Cardinal Leaders in the high school, and the LPEP (Leaders Partnering to End Poverty) program.  These are just a few examples ofhow well this community collectively and separately value their quality of place. 

Combined with the historic roots in culture and the railroad and the natural resources, these assets serve as traditions that Staples celebrates.  Railroad Days is a highlight for the residents with many groups promoting their civic pride and the community appreciation for music. 

Businesses in Staples like the Stomping Grounds, a non-profit coffee shop, also provide opportunities for public engagement.  Local foods are represented by the Apple Orchard B&B and community gardens keep the agricultural way of life alive.  The growing attendance at the Farmers Markets and the fresh fruit and vegetable program at the school proves support for these efforts. 

Residents identified these specific assets in Staples:  

Natural Assets:

 Dower Lake and the Fishing Pier   Crow Wing River 
 Geographic from pine to prairie   Rivers, woods, wetlands  


Cultural Assets:

 Strong entertainment culture historically   Railroad culture:  past and present  
 Strong Historical Society, including Old Wadena   Family-oriented community  


Human Assets:

 Healthcare professionals    Local Newspaper 
 LEAP (Leadership Engagement Advocacy Positiveness)   LPEP (Leaders Partnering to End Poverty) 
 Artistic community:  Arts, Choral groups, actors    Volunteers 
 Education:  Staples/Motley School District. Central Lakes Community College  


Social Assets:

 Annual festival:  Railroad days    Lamplighters Community Theater: Plays  
 Arts Council   Several churches 
 Many Service Organizations:  Lions, Rotary, LEAP, Church Groups, Jaycees   Strong Ministerial Association 
 Rotary Art show   High School Booster Clubs 


Political Assets:

 Region Five Development Commission   National Joint Powers Association  
 Well supported by federal and state   Staples Economic Development 
 LEAP   Effective city leadership 
 Todd County Development Commission   Staples Economic Authority 


Financial Assets:

 Financial institutions:  3 Banks, 1 Credit Union   Local Businesses 
 NCEDA (North Central Economic Development Association)   Initiative Foundation  
 Staples Community Foundation   Diversified manufacturing base  
 Agricultural center   Dollars for Scholars  
 Several Economic Development loan funds    Todd/Wadena Electric Foundation 


Built Assets:

 New City Hall and Library    Water Treatment Plan  
 City Garage   Police Station  
 Centennial Auditorium   Highway Overpass 
 Railroad Depot    Pool – Community Center 
 Dower Fishing Pier    Numerous Parks 
 Variety of fitness centers   Airport 
 Industrial Park    Central Lakes College  
 Water Tower   Golf Course 
 Centennial Auditorium – summer theater for kids, music, concerts, plays   Legacy Gardens 



Community Goals:

1. Staples Cultural Center

Culture continues to be a strong core for Staples residents.  By renovating the Batcher Building and developing Staples as a cultural destination through plays, choral groups, music and arts-focused community workshops would continue this tradition.   This could expand to encompass programs at the Centennial Auditorium and the movie theater. 

2. New Employment Opportunities

Increase population by focusing on employment opportunities from industrial to retail.  By increasing the residential base other goals like education reform (charter schools/tech school), continuing beautification/curb appeal along Highway 10 facelift, and adding amenities for teens—roller rink/bowling alley/arcade can follow. 

3. Expand Dower Lake Park

Develop Dower Lake Recreation Park (a secret treasure) as a destination by expanding walk/bike trails, camping.   

For more information on Staples, go to the community website, community-developed website, or to