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Akeley’s Paul Bunyan statue on Highway 34 is in need of repair and restoration. The city would like to make the repairs a priority in 2014. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Akeley community project includes tourism campaign

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By Sarah Smith / Enterprise

A major tourism push has begun in Akeley, one of five small communities selected for a statewide project.

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That comes amid a disappointing turnout last week when six people showed up to voice suggestions, a vast drop-off from the September meeting when the needs and wishes of the community were presented by a crowd of people.

“Creating a shared understanding of tourism will help prepare residents and build interest to get involved,” said an executive summary provided Peg Davies of the Akeley Chamber of Commerce.

Akeley was granted $4,500 as part of the Minnesota Sustainable Tourism Assessment for Small Communities project.

Some of the project will be pushing geocaching, bicycling, a spur connecting to the Heartland Trail, signs to denote public areas and sprucing up existing public facilities like the park and beach.

“We thought, at this time, it’s best to work on and complete a few and then continue in the years to come and add more,” Davies’ summary indicated of the Akeley community project.

Short-term projects include day trips to the area, the Heartland Trail spur, painting repairs to the Paul Bunyan statue and the improved signage.

The statue has been a thorn in the city’s side for years since it started crumbling.

The city is at loggerheads with the family that donated it over repairs, each claiming restoration rights. The city would like to make the statue and its repairs a priority in 2014.

The suggestions also included “filling the windows of empty storefronts” so visitors have something to look at besides “for sale” or “for rent” signs.

And the city is looking for a summer ice cream/treats vendor, to stop traffic going to nearby Nevis for ice cream cones.

It’s all part of implementing a facelift to the town, approving its physical appearance.

If Akeley is truly “the birthplace of Paul Bunyan,” tourism officials believe this should be explained and exploited.

Long-term goals include building on the Paul Bunyan brand and making Horizon Memorial Corner a centerpiece for tourism.

That long-term plan also calls for maximizing the city’s location along the Lake Country Scenic Byway.

In other business the city:

n Approved an official but amicable split between the East Hubbard County Fire Department and its First Responders. The groups have gone their separate ways due to differences about joining forces.

But that means the First Responders won’t get Fire District or city funding.

n Discussed the city campground and commissions paid to its director. Under a new internet system for making reservations, almost 40 percent of the park’s reservations have come in online. Commissioners questioned whether the camp director should reap the benefit of those reservations.

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ssmit

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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