2012 Outstanding Seniors: Bill Carlson promotes active living in Isanti County

Bill Carlson grew up in Cambridge, and nearly 75 years later, he’s living in the same house in which he was raised.

He has dedicated years of his life to improving the Cambridge community. It’s for Carlson’s hard work volunteering that he’s being recognized as a 2012 Outstanding Senior Citizen.

Bill Carlson won a 2012 Outstanding Senior Citizen Award. He will be recognized for his volunteer service at the award ceremony at the Isanti County Fair on Seniors Day Thursday, July 19.

Bill Carlson won a 2012 Outstanding Senior Citizen Award. He will be recognized for his volunteer service at the award ceremony at the Isanti County Fair on Seniors Day Thursday, July 19. Photo by Elizabeth Sias

The awards ceremony takes place during the “Outstanding Seniors” program at the Isanti County Fair during Seniors Day on Thursday, July 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Bandshell. Carlson’s ceremony will begin at 2 p.m.

“I’m really touched and flattered,” Carlson said. “It’s a nice honor to have.”

Isanti County Public Health Director Kathy Minkler said she nominated Carlson because of the positive impact he’s had on the community.

“Bill is a visionary who knows how to organize and use a variety of resources to make that vision a reality,” Minkler wrote on the nomination form. “He is not afraid to take on a challenge from his early days on the Leaders for a Positive Cambridge Coalition, where he steered the community to adopt ‘Preserving Green Spaces’ as one of its top three priorities in 1999. He went on to

regularly contact Congressman James Oberstar for his help on building the bike trail.

“He was never afraid to approach anyone who could help make his vision a success. He is a regular at city council and county board meetings, and he has worked on the various committees to ensure the policies were put into place that would sustain the efforts into the future. He does all this in a friendly manner, making it very difficult not to help him out. He is truly a role model,” she added.

Born and raised in Cambridge, Carlson graduated from Cambridge High School in 1955. He joined the Coast Guard, graduated with a degree in education and humanities from the University of Minnesota, then worked for the United States Postal Service in Minneapolis until his return to Cambridge in 1988.

Living up to his reputation, Carlson said he biked to work in Minneapolis much of the time. Environmentalism and healthy living have always been his passions.

“I always thought it would be best for people to stay healthy by just having it be part of their routine—taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking or biking to work instead of driving their car,” he said. “My real philosophy is I want to get people to appreciate what we have around here.”

As a founder and director of Active Living By Design, Bill Carlson helped develop and complete the Cambridge-Isanti Bike/Walk Trail. Here he’s pictured enjoying a bike ride on the grand opening of the trail in July 2011.

As a founder and director of Active Living By Design, Bill Carlson helped develop and complete the Cambridge-Isanti Bike/Walk Trail. Here he’s pictured enjoying a bike ride on the grand opening of the trail in July 2011. Photo by Elizabeth Sias

Carlson founded Active Living By Design for Isanti County and acted as director for many years. Through his work with the organization, he helped finish the Cambridge-Isanti Bike/Walk Trail that had been in the works for over 20 years. He also ensured bike and walking maps were made available, encouraging community members to become more active by taking advantage of the trails.

Isanti County Environmental Coalition Chairman Mike Mueller said Carlson has been an active member of the coalition for many years.

“He frequently joins us as we promote use of the county parks, worked on development of the Cambridge to Isanti bike trail, Earth Day celebration and awareness, the Rum River bicycle classic, sixth grade Conservation Day and Rum River cleanup,” Mueller said. “We value and appreciate his many efforts to promote healthy living and believe he is richly deserving of this honor.”

Carlson was also a member of the Isanti County Parks Committee and incorporated a parks and trails plan into the county’s comprehensive 10-year plan.

He’s still a member of the Cambridge Planning Commission, where he has helped develop parks and bike and walking trails into the city’s comprehensive plans. New sidewalks were built along city streets in Cambridge where there were never sidewalks before.

Carlson stays active himself, not only through biking and walking, but by continuing to volunteer. He’s on the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council, where he encourages communities to add bike and walking trails as part of transportation, and he volunteers to lead walking groups through Isanti County Public Health.

“It’s important—especially when I’m retired—it’s a good way of spending my time and doing something that profits the community,” Carlson said. “I enjoy the camaraderie of the people I encounter and accomplishing something—getting something done.”

Bradford resident Joe Crocker said he has known and worked closely with Carlson for the past 15 years on a number of projects.

“He continuously demonstrated leadership and dedication to promote projects that have benefited Isanti County. They were each years in the making and were brought to conclusion solely because of Bill’s dogged determination and hours of hard work,” he said. “None of these projects would have come to fruition without Bill’s leadership. His volunteer work over the past years has had a significant positive impact on Isanti County. He has been instrumental in developing projects that improve our health and lifestyle. We all owe him a great deal of gratitude.”

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