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Akeley, Minn., begins tourism effort as part of statewide project

The Paul Bunyan statue on Highway 34 in Akeley, Minn., is in need of repair and restoration. The city would like to make the repairs a priority in 2014.

AKELEY, Minn. -- A major tourism push has begun in Akeley, one of five small communities selected for a statewide project.

“Creating a shared understanding of tourism will help prepare residents and build interest to get involved,” said an executive summary provided Peg Davies of the Akeley Chamber of Commerce.

The Hubbard County city was granted $4,500 as part of the Minnesota Sustainable Tourism Assessment for Small Communities project.

The other communities selected for the grants are Warroad in in Lake of the Woods County; Houston in Houston County; Destination Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota; and the combined western Minnesota communities of Clinton, Graceville and Beardsley.

In Akeley, Some of the project will be pushing geocaching, bicycling, a spur connecting to the Heartland Trail, signs to denote public areas and sprucing up existing public facilities such as the park and beach.

“We thought, at this time, it’s best to work on and complete a few and then continue in the years to come and add more,” Davies’ summary indicated of the Akeley community project.

Short-term projects include day trips to the area, the Heartland Trail spur, painting the Paul Bunyan statue and the improved signs.

The statue has been a thorn in the city’s side for years since it started crumbling.

The city is at loggerheads with the family that donated it over repairs, each claiming restoration rights. The city would like to make the statue and its repairs a priority this year.

The suggestions also included “filling the windows of empty storefronts” so visitors have something to look at besides “for sale” or “for rent” signs.

And the city is looking for a summer ice cream/treats vendor, to stop traffic going to nearby Nevis for ice cream cones.

It’s all part of implementing a facelift to the town, approving its physical appearance.

If Akeley is truly “the birthplace of Paul Bunyan,” tourism officials believe this should be explained and exploited.

Long-term goals include building on the Paul Bunyan brand and making Horizon Memorial Corner a centerpiece for tourism.

That long-term plan also calls for maximizing the city’s location along the Lake Country Scenic Byway.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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