By Nancy Woodke
After the long winter, Stevens County residents are more than ready to get outdoors and enjoy all that a Minnesota summer has to offer.
Making outdoor recreation areas even more inviting is a goal of the Stevens FORWARD! initiative and the topic is one of 14 Destiny Drivers.
The Destiny Driver is: "By 2015 we will invigorate our parks, lakes and trails to be the finest in western Minnesota."
Stevens FORWARD! Steward Sara Beyer took an interest in this Destiny Driver because her family enjoys spending time at area parks, boating at Pomme de Terre Lake, and snowmobiling the county's trails.
"I think we have a great start," said Beyer. "But we want to make these areas even more appealing to the public by making them more accessible."
There are nearly 20 parks in Stevens County, maintained by the various communities.
Within the city limits of Chokio, there are two designated park areas that provide picnic, playground, and camping facilities. The city also has tennis and basketball courts, softball and baseball diamonds, and horseshoe pits.
The City of Hancock has three city parks. West Side Park is expecting new playground equipment in June.
Alberta's city park was recently outfitted with new playground equipment.
Donnelly has a city park, as well as a wayside rest with shelter and the Aanerud Field baseball diamond.
The City of Morris is home to eight parks.
The Pomme de Terre City Park, just east of Morris, has a campground and three picnic shelters. Other features include sand volleyball courts, playground equipment, disc golf course, and a spray park.
A bike and walking trail along the east side of Pomme de Terre Park is a six-mile path that loops around the park.
New toddler playground equipment and a picnic shelter were recently added to Kjenstad Park near Lake Crystal.
East Side Park, located on the corner of 7th Street and California Avenue is home to Prairie Pioneer Days. It features a band shell, horseshoe pits, restrooms, a shelter, playground equipment, and basketball courts.
Green River Park, located where Green River Road meets Elm Street, features basketball courts, ball diamond, soccer field, two tennis courts, playground, and a sheltered picnic area.
Wells Park, located on the corner of Pacific Avenue and 11th Street, is home to the skate park, as well as two softball fields, basketball courts, picnic shelter, and a playground area.
Riverside Park, located off Riverside Drive, and Thedin Park, near the intersection of West 6th Street and Lyndale Avenue, offers quiet little neighborhood parks with swings and other equipment.
Playground equipment is also found at Eagles Park, along with lighted baseball fields and softball fields.
A picnic shelter is also available at the Perkins Lake public access north of Morris. It is maintained by the Donnelly Rod and Gun Club.
Perkins Lake, also known as Pomme de Terre Lake, is one of 32 in Stevens County recognized by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. While many of the lakes are unnamed, a few larger lakes are popular for fishing, as well as boating.
The list includes Long Lake, near Cyrus; Page Lake near Hancock; Lake Hattie by Alberta; Lake Crystal in Morris; and North and Middle Pomme de Terre in Swan Lake Township.
Page Lake also features a shelter near the swimming beach. The area is maintained by the Lions Club.
The county's lakes are a reminder that not all outdoor recreational activities are limited to the summer months, since the lakes are always busy during the winter for ice fishing.
Another popular winter activity is snowmobiling. The West Central Trailblazers Snowmobile Association maintains 250 miles of marked and groomed trails in Stevens, Pope and Grant counties. These trails are open when there is sufficient snow cover between Dec. 1 and March 30.
Various communities and organizations in Stevens County are constantly working to enhance the recreational value of these areas for the public.
The Morris Park Board has made many improvements to the parks in recent years, but it is an ongoing project.
"We'd love to improve the bike trail system and look at something on the west side of town," said board chairman Mark Torgerson. "We also want to upgrade playground equipment."
Torgerson said the board is currently considering a dog park.
"People have brought this idea to the park board," said Torgerson. "That project is presently in the works for Pomme de Terre Park."
Torgerson said Morris is fortunate to have much support in implementing projects at the parks.
One organization that has been very involved in acquiring equipment for the city's parks has been the Morris Area Women of Today.
Beyer said Stevens Forward! is currently looking for representatives from each of the county's communities to step forward and let them know what is needed to invigorate the parks, lakes, and trails of Stevens County.
"If there is something they want to do in their community, let us know," said Beyer. "Tell us what would be great for our kids."
Are you a 'Champion'?
Stevens FORWARD! stewards are seeking "Champions" -- people who want to get involved in the initiative and spearhead a Destiny Driver. For more information, visit the Stevens FORWARD! Web site at www.stevensforward.org, or contact Coordinator Roger McCannon via email at:
firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (320) 287-0882