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Work starts on Hanson memorial at Maplewood

Ground was broken on the picnic shelter that will honor Staff Sgt. Josh Hanson, who was killed last year in Iraq.

People gathered at Maplewood State Park Saturday morning as Ed Jutz -- who is donating his services -- broke ground on what will become at 30-foot-by-50-foot picnic shelter, complete with bathrooms and a kitchen prep area.

"This is no little groundbreaking, no little shovels," Dave Knopf said.

Friends of Maplewood spearheaded the project, and Detroit Lakes resident Dave Knopf -- whose son, Justin, served with Hanson in Iraq -- got behind the project and fund-raising for it.

"It's a joy to be part of this," Knopf added. "It's good to do for the community."

"Dave has been a wonderful instigator," said Merilyn Fischer, incoming president of Friends of Maplewood.

The structure is situated to overlook a lake in Maplewood State Park, a suitable location for the memorial where Hanson's father, Bob, has been a ranger for many years.

"It's a great honor to have this show of support for our son and his sacrifice," Bob Hanson said. He added it's been a terrible tragedy, but some good has come from it with the memorial.

"As moving and emotional as it can be, it needs to be mentioned," Knopf said of why people were gathered together Saturday in Josh Hanson's memory and support the Bob and Kathy Hanson family.

Friends of Maplewood had planned to build a picnic shelter in the park, and last year the group made a motion to have it in Hanson's memory.

Friends of Maplewood's Jon Nordstorm said the project should be completed at the end of August, and a dedication will be held in September.

Lyle Tweten, also of Friends of Maplewood, said the first big event the picnic shelter will be used for will be Maplewood's annual Leaf Days in October.

"They're a solid group of people," Bob Hanson said of Friends of Maplewood.