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WHAT'S IN A NAME: Cameron Park honors colorful legacy of zoo overseer and park steward

Peter James Cameron had a variety of contributions to the Bemidji community during his lifetime.

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Cameron Park features a swimning beach and bathhouse, playground equipment, a picnic pavilion and a large picnic area.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Editor's note: This is part of a 20-story series titled "What's in a name?" completed by Pioneer reporters for our 2022 Annual Report. Read more of the section by clicking the embed at the bottom of this article.

Peter James Cameron had a variety of contributions to the Bemidji community during his lifetime.

Cameron ran the Bemidji Zoo, an attraction with a history befitting its unique nature.

In 1922, 11.4 acres of land west of Diamond Point was purchased, and the Park Board soon developed the Bemidji Zoo to attract more summer visitors. The zoo was situated where the Bemidji State dormitories are today.

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Peter James Cameron, for whom Cameron Park is named, is pictured in his World War I uniform.
Contributed

Cameron, the park superintendent at the time, tended animals native to the area, including bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, porcupines, beavers, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, turtles, rapture birds and "brickbats."

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A large grazing area was fenced for deer, elk and eventually a buffalo.

He ran the zoo and managed the city park system for many years. The city decided to honor his memory by creating Cameron Park, situated just north of Diamond Point Park off Birchmont Drive NE.

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An old sign at Cameron Park advertises the park's amenities.
Contributed

Today, Cameron Park features a swimming beach and bathhouse, playground equipment, a picnic pavilion and a large picnic area. Public boat access, canoe and kayak access and parking are also available.

Fittingly for a park honoring a former zookeeper, Cameron Park features a shoreland habitat project area, which offers opportunities for wildlife viewing.

The park also has two purple martin birdhouses, which are maintained by a joint effort between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Bemidji Parks and Recreation Department and Bemidji State.

Related Topics: WHAT'S IN A NAME
Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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