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Designing a great future for Lake Park

Guy Fischer, economic development coordinator for Becker County, talks about potential routes for the Heartland Trail. A design team met Friday morning in Lake Park's City Center to talk about the city and design options for some of the town's historic buildings and ways to bring in more tourists to the area. The group spent Friday learning about Lake Park and Saturday actually laying out designs and putting some of their ideas on paper. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 3
Looking at Lake Park from a design perspective is Minneapolis architect George Hutchinson, who was looking at a Google satellite image of Lake Park during Friday morning's design meeting in the Lake Park City Center. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 3
Becker County Historical Society Director Amy Degerstrom talks to the design team about some of the history of Lake Park and the historic buildings there. Photo by - Brian Basham3 / 3

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 is donating its time in Lake Park this weekend.

The 21 professionals include 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 first-hand, 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 wants to develop a cohesive vision for its future that could be guided by a new comprehensive plan (they've never had one).

• Much of the city's new development is located adjacent to Highway 10. Connections, circulation and engaging with downtown are all concerns.

• Their historic high school is being replaced by a new one. Evaluation of the old building's potential for redevelopment is key.

• Transition from a railroad town to a lakes-area tourist service center needs to be explored.

• The role of Lake Park as a bedroom community for Fargo-Moorhead and Detroit Lakes needs to be explored.

• Alignment of the Heartland recreational trail is key to providing exposure for community businesses and other assets.

• Locating the best place to expand light industrial and technology business opportunities is important since the current industrial park is nearing capacity.

• The opportunity exists to explore "plugging the hole" and refilling the lake so that Lake Park once again has a lake.

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 at 6 p.m. a potluck dinner for the community was held, followed by a two-hour community meeting "so people can voice their opinion if they have something to say," Neuner said.

Saturday, team members met all day to develop a plan, and then the team was to make a presentation on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the new high school theater. The design suggestions were to be available for the public to see starting about 6:30 p.m. at the high school.

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.