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City crews working long hours to clean up storm damage at Diamond Point Park

One by one, Bemidij's city parks are being cleared to make it safe for the public. Many of the picnic tables at Diamond Point Park dodged the fallen trees. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - City parks here lost more than 230 trees in last week's storm, including 80 in Diamond Point Park alone.

City crews have been working 10 to 12-hour days since the area was ravaged by the July 2 storm, bringing with it 80 mph straight-line winds.

City park cleanup focused, initially, on the Lake Bemidji waterfront and Library Park and now on Diamond Point Park, which remains closed to the public due to extensive damage.

Diamond Point cleanup began Monday as crews from Heim Log Homes of Kelliher began working to clear fallen trees.

"If you go past there, it looks better ... but we're still a long ways from opening," Marcia Larson, parks and recreation director, said Tuesday afternoon in an update to the city's Parks and Trails Commission.

Crews focused last week on the Lake Bemidji waterfront due to the then-ongoing Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival. Twelve trees were uprooted or broken in the Library Park/waterfront area.

Larson said Art in the Park, scheduled to begin July 21 in Library Park will be held as planned.

"We really made the lakefront a priority," she said.

Bemidji's disc golf course, which was expanded from nine holes to 18 during the renovation of City Park, remains closed to the public. Larson said about 50 trees were lost in that area and crews still need to work to remove downed trees and branches from in and above the walking trails.

She reported that 45 trees went down in Nymore Park and 18 in Otto Schmunk Park. Another 20 or so were lost in various parklands throughout the city.

No playgrounds were impacted by the storm, Larson said.

The heaviest damage was at Diamond Point Park, where a lakeside pavilion was crushed by falling trees.

"Trees are down everywhere," Larson said.

The pavilion that was damaged is not the enclosed, multipurpose building, but a larger open structure along the lakefront.

"There's pretty good damage to the big pavilion on the point," Larson said.

A couple of events scheduled for that pavilion have been canceled, Larson said.

An insurance representative is scheduled to visit the park next week, she said. Insurance should cover tree replacement for trees lost within 100 feet of a structure.

Diamond Point remains closed and residents are asked to not enter the park as "widow-makers" - broken limbs and large branches - remain unsecured.

"There were trees down all around the perimeter, into the lake," Larson said.

Larson said parks crews are working as hard and as quickly as possible to get Diamond Point reopened to the public.

"We're doing everything we can," she said.

In the meantime, it appears that, for recreation, the public is turning to nearby Cameron Park, also located along Lake Bemidji, as another option.

Recent improvements there - such as new playground equipment added in 2009 through a partnership with the Bemidji Rotary Club and last year's redesign of the parking lot through a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - were worth the investments, Larson noted.

"That's where everyone is going because it has the nicest beach," she said. "That park's in pretty nice shape."

Volunteers are welcome to get involved to help restore Bemidji's park to pre-storm levels. Those interested in working to clean up remaining debris along the Lake Bemidji waterfront are welcome to report to the Jaycees Pavilion between 8 a.m. and noon Thursday.

A similar effort will likely be coordinated for Diamond Point Park at a later date, Larson noted. Already, potential volunteers for Diamond Point cleanup include student-athletes with Bemidji State University. BSU hockey coach Tom Serratore, she said, has contacted the city with interest.

"I told them we may be a week out before we're ready for the raking and stick-picking-up (effort)," she said.

Kevin Waldhausen, one of two Bemidji City Council representatives on the Parks and Trails Commission, noted that the first tailgate event for the BSU football season is set for Aug. 31 at Diamond Point Park.

"We'll be good," Larson said.

The city's parks department has a fund in place with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation for parks and trails improvements, operation and maintenance. Larson suggests that residents interested in donating toward tree replacement go through the NMF,