Into the Future, not Back


December’s holidays were marked with the return of movie favorites on cable TV. The sci-fi classic, Back to the Future, was enjoyed one more time.

For the benefit of young adults who completely missed Back to the Future on the big screen or tablet screen in more modern time, Michael J. Fox plays 17-year old Marty McFly who travels back to 1955 from 1985 by way of a DeLorean automobile time machine created by McFly’s odd scientist friend, Dr. Emmett Brown. Sidebar: When Marty learns of Dr. Brown’s invention, he asks, “Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine…out of a DeLorean?” And Doc replies, “If you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” The plot thickens when Marty crosses paths with the younger versions of his parents. He must make sure they meet and fall in love or he will not exist upon his hopeful return to 1985.

Marty’s path also crosses with a younger Doc Brown who has trouble believing someone traveled 30-years back in time as a result of his own invention. Doc asks Marty, “Tell me, Future Boy, who’s President of the United States in 1985?” Marty replies, “Ronald Reagan.” Doc laughs, “Ronald Reagan? The actor? Ha! Then who’s Vice President, Jerry Lewis?” As Marty explains the details of the DeLorean’s flux capacitor, Doc realizes he’s telling the truth. Doc had outlined the flux capacitor on the same day Marty arrived in 1955. And the adventures begin.

So, what would happen if Marty McFly traveled into the St. Croix Valley’s future from 2021 to, say, 2051? Great Scott! For starters, there’d be 1.21 gigawatts of amazement. Or in the words of Marty McFly, “Sounds pretty heavy.” Doc Brown may repeat himself with, “There’s that word again, ‘heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?” Sidebar: Weight has nothing to do with it.

It’s 2051 in the St. Croix Valley. What does it look like? What has been learned in 30-years? How big did the quaint cities in the ’valley get? We shall soon see. The global pandemic showed that working from home was possible. Employees could set their own hours and schedules within reason, following the corporate edict, work from anywhere, at any time, forever. Brick and mortar structures would soon go the way of Saab vehicles, which are deeply missed by some. More time at home in the ’valley led to spikes in births, which led to growing enrollment pressures for school districts. Savvy superintendents deployed the so-called year-round hybrid model of learning, now accepted as the norm. Some school sports are offered twice a year, and to no one’s surprise, St. Croix Valley teams win many championships in the newly-aligned Twin Cities Winnesota Conference. Take that, Edina! Take that East Ridge!

As for roads and other infrastructure, most were deemed obsolete. This included the St. Croix Crossing, which opened in 2017. It was designated as the 12th wonder of the world following the pandemic of 2020. Remember Doc Brown’s foreshadowing, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Sidebar: OK, maybe the local ones.

Regardless of traveling into the future, St. Croix’s destiny will take careful planning and vision. The charm of St. Croix Valley communities still exists well into the future. The St. Croix River is still a protected natural resource. The St. Croix Valley is still a special corner of the world, but it’ll take hard work and difficult decisions. The ’valley consistently adapts to new advances in technology. Business, industry, and residents here enjoy high livability indexes, a modern term for quality of life, whether it’s 2021 or 2051.  

The St. Croix Valley may be wise to follow Doc Brown’s mantra, “If you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything.”

Here’s to our future.