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Pioneer Viewpoints for May 28

Local parks, Carnegie get a big boost

Two developments last week bode well for the downtown Bemidji waterfront area.

First came the news the state Legislature included $750,000 in the final Legacy bill for Paul Bunyan and Library parks redevelopment. The additional funding even caught some local officials by surprise.

“This will provide us the funding to get a lot closer to where we want to be,” Marcia Larson, parks and recreation director, told Bemidji Pioneer reporter John Hageman. “It makes a huge difference in the planning down there.”

With redevelopment costs projected at about $3 million, the Legacy funding, coupled with the $725,000 in sales tax revenues set aside for parks and trails, gives the city a strong starting point to begin the redevelopment process. Larson and her staff will be working on a plan to bring to the City Council on how best to use the nearly $1.5 million.

Several development plans are under consideration. Ideas include removing or improving the Third Street exit, developing new trail and play areas, improving the area near Paul and Babe and installing canoe, kayak and bike rentals, just to name a few. If you haven’t seen them, they are worth your while. Check them out on Hageman’s blog on our website, and you can also find them on the city’s website under parks and recreation.

The second news also has to do with park redevelopment in a way. Supporters of restoring the historic Carnegie Library building received a boost from a statewide nonprofit agency. The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota named the Carnegie a “Site Worth Saving,” Hageman reported.

The agency plans to use its resources help the local Save the Carnegie Committee get the word out on the restoration project, which includes moving it back 10 feet from its location right on top of State Highway 197 in downtown.

The Carnegie’s future has been a somewhat contentious issue in the past — whether to spend city money to restore the building; or move it or demolish it. The Save the Carnegie Committee’s approach is the best fit. The committee says it’s raised nearly $500,000 of its $1.6 million target for the project since August. Support from the PAM will only help in those efforts, local organizers say. That’s good for the project, and ultimately, good for the downtown area.


Schools score well

In recent weeks, local schools including Bemidji High School and TrekNorth, were spotlighted for earning statewide and national rankings for positive performance. The good news continued last week. Several local and area schools were named in the Top 10 for Minnesota schools based on low-income and American Indian student performance by the Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now.

Education should always be a forward-looking endeavor, and we know more work needs to be done to improve opportunities for all students, be they minority, low-income or otherwise. Recognition such as that coming from MinnCAN can only help in those efforts.