The Lake Park Pool was built in 1977 and has served the community as a venue for outdoor recreation and swimming lessons ever since. It's considered a treasure by many in this small town, especially kids in the heat of summer.
According to Mayor Keith Zachariason, it was built with quite a bit of volunteer labor, which helped save on costs. It's maintained primarily by municipal workers and its lifeguard staff is mostly made up of local youth.
Before the pool was built, Lake Park area kids would be bused to the Detroit Lakes City Beach and, later, Cormorant for swimming lessons. The addition of the pool meant those kids could get lessons just a few blocks from home.
This year, the pool is facing new challenges as community leaders decide how to keep it open within COVID-19 safety recommendations. For the first time in years, lessons will not be offered at the pool this summer, due to the proximity of the sessions. But open swim will start next week.
On Monday, June 22, I recorded an interview with Zachariason and Kathy Coyle to learn more about the COVID-19 challenges, as well as other things about the Lake Park Pool and community.
They said the pool staff is working out ideas to keep swimmers a safe distance apart. One idea is to place “dots” on the pool rim and have each swimmer find a dot when a lifeguard blows the whistle. The dots will be spaced out so no huddling occurs.
They've also put new signs up at the pool, with clever wording to encourage social distancing in a way that might appeal to rural residents. One says, “Keep Your Distance 2-1/2 Pigs Apart," for example, and another states, “1 Cow Apart."
The bathrooms will remain open, Zachariason said with a chuckle, due to concerns that, if you keep the restrooms closed, “You know where they will go."
The pool is part of a city park and recreation area that is beyond what you might expect in a community of just 800 people. The Lake Park community expands well out into surrounding rural areas and townships, so it is larger than the 800 people inside city limits. The city park offers ball fields, a shelter house, playground, concessions and more.
From the pool and park, you can see the water tower and part of the downtown area. You are a short walk from the post office, Jeff's Food, The Glass Lady, the city offices, fire department, Legion, school bus garage and more.
The Lake Park Pool will be opening on June 29, keeping the tradition that began 43 years ago, when it was built. The water was about 71 degrees as of Monday, June 22, all thanks to the warm weather. The city will fire up the heaters soon to make it a cozy 80 degrees before opening.
The interview you can see happening in the photos will be posted by the Becker County Museum next week to coordinate with the opening of the Lake Park Pool for the season. Catch the video, find more information, or get a hold of us at beckercountyhistory.org.
This column is a regular feature of the Tribune's monthly History page. Kevin Mitchell may be reached at the Becker County Museum, by calling 847-2938.