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Majority favor extensive south shore cleanup

BEMIDJI — A majority of Bemidjians support cleaning up both the polluted areas of the south shore of Lake Bemidji and part of the lake itself in order to make a new swimming beach.

In an overwhelming response to a survey sent to residents in December, 51 percent of the respondents said they were in favor of clearing both the shore and the lake of wood fragments and other industrial byproducts. That’s more than double the amount, 22 percent, who want just the ground itself to be cleaned. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they were in favor of neither option.

The subject of the survey is a plot of city-owned land officials want to turn into a lakefront park to replace Nymore beach, which it sold to hotel developers in 2009. However, industrial plants that used to occupy the future park space left waste wood fragments in the soil and the lake itself, making the tract unsuitable for a swimming beach.

The survey informed respondents the dual cleanup option may increase property taxes by 1.7 to 2.7 percent depending on how many features were included in the new space. The price range for that option is $2.2 million to $3.4 million.

The price range without the $1.4 million lake bottom cleanup is $1.7 million to $2.6 million.

Marketing Assistance and Research Solutions, a marketing company run out of BSU, mailed more than 3,000 surveys to Bemidji residents. The 824 surveys returned, almost 27 percent, is a larger response than they had anticipated. Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson, who helped MARS set up the survey, was pleased at all the feedback.

“I think it’s great that we’ve gotten (this) level of response,” she said. “People responded because they felt strongly.”

MARS head David Smith said in December the group was “hoping” for a 25 percent response rate.

Smith said the survey was geared toward seniors and the results reflected that strategy: the respondents’ average age was 58.35 years old. The oldest person to respond was 94; the youngest, 21.

Although City Council members were provided with a copy of the results at a Monday work session, MARS will present the results at the Feb. 18 council meeting.

The margin of error for the survey was 3.4 percent.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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