ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Bemidji City Council hears update on parks and trails

A report on the Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan was presented to the Bemidji City Council during its work session on Monday, providing an overview of a public survey and parks inventory that should help guide the council’s future decisions.

Bemidji City Hall
Bemidji City Hall. Pioneer file photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

BEMIDJI — A report on the Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan was presented to the Bemidji City Council during its work session on Monday, providing an overview of a public survey and parks inventory that should help guide the council’s future decisions.

Done in collaboration with the Parks and Recreation Commission and consultants JFC Strategic Services, the report focused on the progress of the work so far. This includes a complete outdoor parks inventory and assessment and analysis of survey responses meant to gather public feedback and ideas on Bemidji’s parks.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” said Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson. “We’ve kind of identified what the needs are in the city. We’re really applying it from a different perspective than we have in the past.”

The highlight of the report was the surveys, one focused on parks and recreation in general and a specific survey for Cameron Park. The general survey received 509 responses and the survey for Cameron Park received 232.

Questions included in the survey ranged from what respondents valued most in the parks to what obstacles they faced to access them.

ADVERTISEMENT

“That seemed like a pretty good starting place, just to listen,” said Joe Czapiewski with JFC Strategic Services.

Some of the highest values that the survey participants highlighted were maintaining the existing parks and trails, rather than creating new recreational areas.

“Maintenance, cleanliness and safety were all clear priorities,” Czapiewski explained. “People are pretty happy with the parks, and there wasn’t a huge clamoring for additional new parks.”

Improving access and maintaining the city’s existing parks, therefore, became a focus for the strategic plan.

Some of the biggest barriers identified by the survey were limited access points to the parks and trails, along with overall distance, cost and transportation.

Among the goals of the draft strategic plan is increasing those access points and adding more multi-use paved trails along key routes. This includes the potential to add a trail along Irvine Avenue and to improve the trail around Lake Bemidji.

“The trails part of this plan is, over the long run, going to be the most transformational part,” Czapiewski said. “It will help the most people and make a difference in the most number of people’s lives.”

The next step of the plan is to gather more feedback, particularly from groups that didn’t have high response rates to the surveys. Six focus groups are planned, along with the potential for a virtual town hall and open house to get more public involvement.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I would say it’s pretty impressive how much work has gone into achieving the different goals of this plan,” said Ward 4 Councilor Emelie Rivera. “The level of citizen engagement, I really do appreciate that.”

After these engagement efforts, the strategic plan will be adjusted once more before it’s presented to the council for consideration and to help guide future decisions about Bemidji’s parks.

“This is a very critical piece of the puzzle for us (council members) as decision-makers,” Rivera said. “I appreciate all the work that’s gone into it.”

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
What To Read Next
For its 37th year of running, Tverstol along with 12 other student spellers competed in a total of 13 rounds involving words like “evaded,” “embrace” and “excited.”
The Bemidji Pioneer received 18 awards during the Minnesota Newspaper Association's 156th annual convention held Thursday in Brooklyn Park.
The administration is bringing back an Obama-era decision, later reversed by Trump, that bans new mineral leases on 225,500 acres of the Superior National Forest for the next two decades.
Marking the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, more than 150 people gathered at the Beltrami County courthouse on Saturday, Jan. 21, to participate in Bemidji's March for Life.