BEMIDJI -- The city of Bemidji is looking to enhance two of its 24 parks in the next year.

A project is underway at Gordon Falls Park to upgrade the playground equipment, sidewalks, landscaping and basketball court. The park is located at 1102 Mississippi Ave. NW

At North Country Park, located at 1001 30th St., meanwhile, the city is looking to add a natural playground, made from native plants, hills and trees.

According to Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson, natural playgrounds have been on the rise recently, with more popping up at parks throughout the country the past few years.

"As I've been going to conferences and talking to colleagues, I've noticed that it's a growing trend," Larson said. "There's been a lot of studies and discussion about having children reconnect with nature, and I've seen some really great presentations on the playgrounds."

Considering their growing popularity, Larson said her department discussed the idea with the Bemidji Rotary Club and the organization committed to bringing such a playground to Bemidji.

At a recent meeting, the City Council approved entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Rotary Club, which agreed to contribute $30,000. As part of the approval, the council approved an amount up to $50,000 for the project.

Larson said North Country Park was chosen as it already has an outdoor classroom and butterfly garden. The project, roughly estimated at $200,000, is expected to go through the design phase this winter, with construction in summer or fall 2020. To cover the rest of the costs, Larson said the city will seek grants from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Aging equipment and infrastructure was the reason for renovating Gordon Falls Park, Larson said. The park is receiving several improvements at a total cost of $217,257.

"Gordon Falls is a really busy park and it's highly used by the neighborhood," Larson said. "We had also heard from neighbors about the conditions with the park, so we decided to make an investment and update it overall."

Along with its action on North Country Park, the council also awarded a quote of $88,039.28 to Flagship Recreation for new playground equipment at Gordon Falls. The council also entered a memorandum of understanding with the Rotary Club, which volunteered to help with installation.

The city of Bemidji operates a total of 24 parks, with some including recreational equipment and others dedicated as green-space. Combined, the city's parks total 238.7 acres.