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Paynesville Press - Nov. 5, 2003

Upgrades coming for the Lake Koronis Regional Park

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

The Lake Koronis Regional Park will soon get a facelift, thanks in part to the generosity of a former U.S. Congressman who created a beautification plan for the park over 20 years ago.

Over the next couple of years, the park - located on the south shore of Lake Koronis - should receive $74,000 in improvements, including a new trail, new playground equipment at the campground, and upgrades throughout the park that will make it handicap accessible.

First on the list of upgrades is the addition of a trail that will start at the parking lot near the main entrance to the park (on Co. Rd. 20) and wind its way to the beach, gently crossing the hill to allow easy access to wheelchairs and people with physical challenges.

The $17,000 trail will include three areas wide enough for benches, which could be used for resting or for viewing the lake. The trail also will highlight plantings in various areas of the park, said Myron Dvorak, park superintendent for Meeker County, which administers the park and shares park costs with Stearns County. (The park is located in both Meeker and Stearns counties, with Co. Rd. 20 being the county line.)

Regional park map Eventually, the trail could also join the park with the campground on the south side of Co. Rd. 20.

Trail construction should start within the next few weeks, with asphalt being laid in spring 2004.

Also to begin this fall is construction on a new playground at the campground. The playground will feature a playset with a rock-climbing wall, a raised platform, slides, swings, and a layer of woodchips on the ground to cushion falls.

Excavation for the trail and the new playground should begin this week, weather permitting, said Dvorak. The trail and playground should be completed in spring 2004.

Soil from the excavation will be used for building another asphalt path between the main shelter, the auditorium, and the restrooms, in order to make these structures more easily accessible by wheelchairs.

Starting late next summer, restrooms at the park and campground and showers at the campground will be upgraded. Over the next two years, the park's shelters, tables, grills, and other structures throughout the park will also be made handicap accessible.

Dvorak estimated the total cost of these upgrades (excluding the trail) to be $57,000. Of this, 60 percent will be paid by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the remainder will be paid by Meeker and Stearns counties.

The trail is part of a beautification plan established in the early 1980s by Fred Marshall, a former U.S. Representative and a Union Grove Township farmer who set aside money for the plan. Half of the $17,000 trail costs will be paid from this trust, with the remainder shared by Meeker and Stearns counties, said Dvorak.

The park's beautification plan was drawn by a landscape engineer commissioned by Marshall in 1981, four years before his death.

According to Fred's son, Frank Marshall, who now lives on the family farm in Union Grove Township, his father didn't spend much time at play, but he was very civic-minded and he wanted to do something for his community. Fortunately, he had the financial means to commission the beautification plan and established a $14,500 trust fund to pay for the improvements, said Frank.

Neither he nor his mother, Josephine, who now lives in Litchfield, knew the details of Fred's gift to the park, so they never questioned why the project was not completed, Frank said.

According to Dvorak, the money and the plan were all but forgotten until he stumbled onto them when he started working for Meeker County in 1999.

Upon finding the plans, Dvorak began working toward making Fred's dream a reality. Because the park and campground are popular summer destinations - more than 1,400 people camped at the Lake Koronis Regional Park last summer and the main shelter was reserved for use 38 times - Dvorak thought making improvements that would help bring the park into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act were important.

While the trail and playground should be finished in time for summer 2004, other projects will take longer. Dvorak estimated the shower and shelter improvements should be finished by fall 2004 and new restrooms at the park should be finished in 2005.

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