BEMIDJI - With Diamond Point Park and other city parks being reopened after the July 2 wind storm shut them down, the Bemidji Parks and Trails Commission is looking to the future, making plans to replant trees and create shaded areas for park visitors.
"(Diamond Point) has been busy since it reopened," Parks and Trails Commission Chair Marcia Larson said. "What was interesting is once we closed Diamond Point, Cameron and Nymore Beach got really busy. I still think those parks are getting busy but as soon as we opened Diamond Point, people were very happy to get back to that park."
Larson said the removal of all the fallen trees in the parks went great and came at a cheap price because of an exchange with contractors, which allowed them to keep some of the trees for the price of their time and labor. She said labor costs were near $20,000 for Diamond Point Park, most of which will be covered by insurance, including the replacement of 17 trees. Eighty-five trees were lost in the park, but for the trees to be covered by insurance they have to be within 100 feet of a building.
The wood that was unable to be utilized by contractors was taken to the city's disposal site on Rako Street. City Councilman Kevin Waldhausen said there were 100 truckloads of wood chips taken from the Rako site, costing the city $10,000, a cost he said was a lot lower than it would been to cover the cost of the trucks, labor and shipping.
Larson said that the only thing remaining to do at Diamond Point Park is to repair the damaged pavilion. Diversified Builders is doing the repairs and has ordered the materials. The project is expected to be finished by the end of August.
Stump grinding at all of the affected parks will start Thursday. Larson said that Diamond Point, Nymore and Otto Schmunk parks all have stumps to be removed.
She said Diamond Point Park also had a lot of stumps that tipped over and have already been removed, giving park staff some freedom to plant trees where they see fit.
City Councilman Greg Negard said he has received many calls about the lack of shade at Nymore Park, resulting from the fallen trees. He suggested the board look into building some sort of a shelter to counter the problem. Larson said it is something that could be considered.
"I think it's a valid point," Negard said. "You need some shade. Kids are playing ball, people are playing tennis and they need to get out of the sun for a bit."
In addition to updating storm damage, the commission discussed the city's playground safety inspections. Certified playground inspectors inspected all of the park equipment in the city, and 19th Street and Gemmel Avenue parks did not reach safety standards. Larson made a motion to remove the equipment from the two parks and replace a slide at Northern Township Park, which has cracks in it.
The motion carried on a 4-1 vote. Board member Tom Anderson, the lone no vote, argued there was no record of the equipment causing any significant injuries in the past, but the rest of the committee agreed the risk was not worth it.
"We have not had anyone do that as of yet but I think ethically, as a city, I would prefer not to put people at risk like that," Larson said. "There is just no fall surface."
Larson said 18th Street, 19th Street, and Gemmel parks are all tax forfeited, so if the city decided that it did not want to use them as parks the land could be returned to the state.