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Lake Bemidji State Park: Manager retires after 22 years

Jack Davis of Blackduck congratulates Lake Bemidji State Park Manager Paul Mork on his retirement Thursday. Mork started working as park manager in 1987 after serving two parks on the North Shore of Lake Superior and in central Minnesota. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

Paul and Pam Mork's children, Erika and Karl, grew up playing in big back yards - three of Minnesota's state parks.

Paul, who has served as manager of Lake Bemidji State Park since 1987, retired Thursday. He and his wife plan to move from state park staff housing to their cabin on a lake north of Debs.

"I started in 1977 at Gooseberry Falls State Park up on the North Shore as assistant manager," Paul said. "In 1983, we moved to Sibley (near New London, Minn.,) also as assistant manager. In '87, we moved here and I was promoted to manager."

Paul said he and Pam, who retired last week from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division, plan to relax and travel. Paul said he will also continue singing with the Bemidji Chorale and playing trombone in the Bemidji Community Band.

Allen Lego will take over as acting Lake Bemidji State Park manager for the summer, Paul said.

During a retirement celebration lunch Thursday, Paul ticked off some of the improvements in the park during his tenure.

One of the first was an extension of the Bog Walk from 400 feet to 1,200 feet.

"It was a very nice improvement along with interpretation," he said.

In 1998, for Lake Bemidji State Park's 75th anniversary, the state park permit sticker featured a photo of the Spirit Tree at the end of the Bog Walk, he said.

Other improvements include renovating and building facilities.

The dining hall was rehabilitated and structurally enhanced.

"That's been the site of many family reunions and weddings," Paul said.

The log picnic shelter built in the 1930s by the National Youth Administration also has been rehabilitated.

Paul said the development of the Paul Bunyan Trail with the terminus in the park has brought in a new clientele.

The marina has been upgraded and made handicapped-accessible, and a new fish-cleaning house is also accessible. Campground improvements include a new shower house.

A project that took 20 years to complete was the reclamation as forest and watershed of a section of Lavinia Road. Volunteers planted orchids rescued from a road project north of Bemidji, as well as young trees. Mork said the orchids have taken to the new area, although some needed to be protected from deer browsing.

"It was a very successful reforestation," Paul said.

He also cited the establishment of the Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park.

"They have brought their energy and creativity to the state park," he said.

The group donated a playground to the park that receives much use by camper children.

Special events the Friends sponsor include the Senior Day with the Go and Whoa Harness Club giving wagon rides and the Head of the Lake family picnic, July 11 this year.

Other programs during Mork's service years include the Sunday Concert Series organized by Janet Brademan, director of the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts, and the Bemidji Community Theater melodramas performed in the amphitheater.