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Working together: Groups gather to collaborate on parks and trails

BEMIDJI — For the first time ever, the Bemidji Parks and Trails Commission and representatives of Beltrami County and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource sat in a room together to discuss ways they could collaborate on the area’s parks and trails.

“To me, we have come a long ways, and the community of Bemidji is so fortunate to have the recreation systems it’s got,” Beltrami County recreation resource specialist John Winter said at Thursday’s joint advisory meeting at Diamond Point Park. “If we know projects that we could all join in on together, it would be a better source for getting grants and a better source for approaching foundations like the Neilson Foundation.”

All those in attendance agreed they could work together to better identify and label the various parks and trails in the county, helping tourists know where things are and what activities each park provides.

 “We get a lot of visitors in Bemidji who come to (a) park and are not concerned whether it is a county, city or state park,” said Mark Morrissey, outdoor program director at Bemidji State University. “Instead of just limiting duplication of efforts, we should look through the eyes of the visitor (and) how quickly can they orientate as to where things are.”

VisitBemidji Executive Director Denelle Hilliard said there has been some collaboration for creating an all-inclusive map of the parks and trails in the county. The VisitBemidji website has maps with the various parks on them, but it does not include the whole county, which she said tourists could benefit from.

“I don’t know the avenue to get that going but I think that would be an important thing for the entire community and at least a small part of the county to get that identified so that people can find things,” said Richard Moore, director of Beltrami County Natural Resource Management.

The group discussed the possibility of making the city and county parks more identifiable in Web search sites like Google Earth and Yelp, but Beltrami County Commissioner Jim Lucachick and others agreed that the parks should also be identifiable to those not as technologically savvy.

“Sometimes in our society when we are talking about parks, maybe low-tech is a better approach than spending a bunch of time spinning around trying to get apps together,” Lucachick said.

He, like many others in the meeting, liked the idea of creating signs to help link the city, county and state parks.

The group discussed creating a task force to create signs at the city and county parks, as well as along the Paul Bunyan Trail.

Lucachick said there is grant money at the county level that often does not get used because it is restricted to industrial, agricultural or tourism use. The money would be available to use for signage if a group wanted to organize the effort.

Josh Pearson, development specialist for the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, who moderated the meeting, said the next step would be to make sure the city, county and the DNR keep in contact as they move forward to create a signage task force.

The meeting was determined to be a success, and participants agreed the boards should meet on an annual basis to discuss projects and collaborate efforts.

“I had no idea where this was going to kind of go, and I think we all identified something that should be achievable and we should be able to get it done,” Moore said. “I think if we meet together once a year, maybe, and identify the one thing that is attainable and do it, it’s a good start.”