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City to residents: What should we do with south shore?

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BEMIDJI -- To find out how much work and money residents want the city to put into a new park planned for the south shore of Lake Bemidji, the city is sending out more than 3,000 surveys asking Bemidjians what specific features they would want.

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"It'll be interesting," said Marcia Larson, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

One of the main questions will help answer whether residents are willing to support cleaning both the lake and the lakeshore of wood chip pollution for a swimming beach, or if they want the city to just clean the lakeshore itself. The survey lists an estimated price of $2.2 million to $3.4 million for cleaning up the lake and lakeshore, depending on what other park features are added alongside the beach in development. It lists a range of $1.7 million to $2.6 million for the options that don't include cleaning up the lake.

The survey also asks respondents to rate the features they'd like to see in the new park, including a concession stand, a performance area or a splash pad for children.

To conduct the survey, Parks and Rec hired Marketing Assistance and Research Solutions, or MARS, a nonprofit student organization run by the Bemidji State University marketing department. David Smith, the professor who heads MARS, said Tuesday the surveys had already been submitted to the BSU mailroom and would go out either that day or Wednesday.

Three BSU students worked to write the survey and coordinate the mailing. When the responses come back, MARS will tabulate them through a computer program to have easy-to-analyze results for the city. The students get hands-on experience in marketing, as well as a paycheck funded by what the city pays MARS.

Smith said part of the reason MARS went with a regular mail survey as opposed to an email or website survey is that senior citizens would be more likely to respond to a mail survey.

"With web-based things, a lot of people won't go there and the older people won't go there," he said. "Younger people, no issue. But the older people may not."

However, Smith said the rate of response for the south shore survey may be high.

"We're hoping for 25 percent," he said. "I just think that this is probably important to a lot of people."

Responses could start coming back as early as two to three days, but the majority will be typically within a week, Smith said. The survey will be open until Jan. 1.

In addition to mailed surveys, overflow copies will also be available at City Hall, Larson said.

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