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Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park seek help with playground project

Lake Bemidji State Park offers a range of amenities for young and old -- a campground, amphitheater, visitor center, picnic shelter, fish-cleaning building, trails and beaches.

Lake Bemidji State Park offers a range of amenities for young and old -- a campground, amphitheater, visitor center, picnic shelter, fish-cleaning building, trails and beaches.

But for many children, a park needs something especially for them.

About 18 months ago, the Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park learned that the most frequent request made to park staff was for a playground. So, the Friends set a goal to build two sets of swings and play equipment with slides and climbing areas. After visiting several area playgrounds and perusing catalogs, the group decided to go with a log play structure with slides and swings from Big Toys Green Playground Solutions. The site will also feature benches for adult family members.

Friends President Earl Ockenga said the group has been discussing the possibility of a park playground for about seven years. First, he said, members had to decide where to build it. The equipment will be situated near the parking lot so people staying in the campground, as well as day visitors, will feel free to use the playground.

"We're trying to design a playground that is ... world class," he said.

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According to a park census, 20,000 campers and 130,000 day visitors come to the park each year. The equipment planned for installation this summer will cost about $33,000, Ockenga said, noting that if visitors each contributed $1 fund-raising would be over the top.

He said the goal is to have the playground operational by the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Head of the Lake community picnic Aug. 10.

The Friends have already donated more than 400 volunteer hours on the project and Ockenga said many businesses have provided in-kind donations. The Friends are currently fund-raising for the project. All donations are tax deductible and should be made out to Parks & Trails Council and mailed to Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park, PO Box 67, Bemidji, MN 56619. For more information, contact co-chairs of the Friends playground committee Pat Rice at 751-0137 or Anne Sliney at 333-8642.

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