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Nathan Bowe, Forum Communications, Published October 09 2012

Minnesota Design Team chats about resurrecting lake in Lake Park

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Landagoshin! There may be lakeshore again in Lake Park.

There is talk of restoring Lake Flora, which sat on the east edge of town and was drained decades ago – back when older people actually said “landagoshin.”

Some softball fields would have to be moved, but the rest of the former lakebed is unused wetlands (dry this year), so there doesn’t seem to be much standing in the way of restoring the lost lake.

There are other ideas floating around, and a lot of excitement in Lake Park these days, as residents dare to dream big about ways to make the city better.

But that’s only natural when the Minnesota Design Team comes to town.

The team of professional designers donated its time in Lake Park last weekend.

The 21 professionals included architects, city planners, a hydrologist, an urban planner, a sustainable tourism consultant, an affordable housing coordinator, a city designer, an urban forestry expert and others – you get the drift.

They did their homework – based on feedback from community surveys and background material provided by city, county and historical society staff – before they arrived on Friday for a two-day stay.

Once they got there, they met with residents, saw the city firsthand, and did what a Minnesota Design Team does – hear about the community’s hopes and needs, take a professional on-the-ground look, put their heads together and produce written recommendations on what the city should consider doing, and how best to do it.

It’s not easy to land a visit from the Minnesota Design Team, which visits just two communities in the spring and two in the fall.

The professionals that volunteer on the design team don’t get paid. “They do it for fun,” said Lake Park Clerk-Treasurer Lonnie Neuner.

But the city still needed to come up with $4,000 for the process.

That was taken care of courtesy of a $5,000 grant from the West Central Initiative – enough to cover some of the additional cost of hosting 21 people and holding a series of community events and meetings.

Guy Fischer, economic development coordinator for Becker County, came up with the idea of inviting the design team, and has played an active role throughout the process, Neuner said.

“Guy Fischer has been real helpful,” Neuner said.

Lake Park, population 783, has a lot happening right now: Here’s what the Minnesota Design Team had to say in its call-out to professional volunteers:

Lake Park is a vigorous and healthy community facing many of the same challenges as other small Minnesota cities, along with some unique ones:

The city kicked off the process with a long-range planning meeting at the beginning of the year, Neuner said.

Suggestions flowed about street and sidewalk improvements, beautification and downtown development.

The design team met Friday morning at the city offices for about three hours of presentations from businesses and community leaders, then “bunches of people” jumped in a bus to tour the city in the afternoon, including the connection to the Cormorant lakes area.

Friday, a potluck dinner for the community was held, followed by a two-hour community meeting.

Saturday, team members met all day to develop a plan.

The design team will come back in about a month to present its written report – most likely at a City Council meeting, Neuner said.

“Then about a year later, they want to come back and meet and see what parts you’ve taken to heart and what you’re doing about it, so to speak,” Neuner said.

“Hopefully, a lot of good comes out of it,” he added.

Nathan Bowe writes for Detroit Lakes Newspapers

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