Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
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The star of the annual Christmas Bird Count was appropriately one well represented in holiday décor. "A cardinal!" exclaimed the dozen volunteers who came to Itasca State Park Sunday for the annual National Audubon Society's 111th census that tracks bird populations and trends throughout the United States. The count runs from midnight to midnight on that single day.
A half-foot blanket of new snow will put the Park Rapids area back into the running for tourists on sleds. "Well it looks as if we are going to have a very nice white Christmas," stated the Forest Riders Snowmobile Club's first trail report of the year. "The groomers have been out at least once through the trail system and have started again today with the additional new 5-8 inches of snow that we have received," wrote Lou Eischens.
In the transition to a new Hubbard County law enforcement regime, Frank Homer has essentially become an enigma. But his staff insists things are running well in a team effort, the department is responding to the citizens' needs and the new administration is poised to take over. Aukes transition Sheriff-elect Cory Aukes, who takes office Jan. 3, said getting through the holidays would be a challenge. He and Scott Parks, his choice for new chief deputy, already have the January schedules out for dispatchers, deputies and jailers. "We're down a person even now," he said of the road staff.
Park Rapids and Nevis schools will close at the regular time today, but all after-school activities have been canceled. Tonight's Park Rapids choir and band concert has been rescheduled for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Menahga School has canceled the junior high girls basketball game at New York Mills and the elementary boys wrestling practice. All other activities will still be held.
Thirty firefighters and ten trucks from Nevis, Akeley and Park Rapids fought a blaze that gutted much of the Whitetail Tavern and Velvet Antler Restaurant/ lounge on Highway 34 late Tuesday night. Nevis Fire Chief Kerry Swenson said the efforts saved the building from total loss. The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen area around 10 p.m.
A medication disposal program began Wednesday in Hubbard County to collect unused or expired pills. Called "Take it to the Box," the program aims to get dangerous medications out of home medicine cabinets and possibly out of the wrong users' hands. The collection point is a locked metal box at the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department at 301 Court Avenue in Park Rapids. Drugs, both prescription and over the counter medications, are one of the most sought-after items targeted in break-ins, said program instigator Sara Bowles. The county's chemical dependency coordinator enlisted pharmacis
The Helga Township Planning Commission took a fledgling step Wednesday to regulate development along the steadily growing U.S. Highway 71 corridor leading to and from Bemidji. It voted 3-1 to send a zoning plan to the township board that would create two separate commercial districts along the highway. Helga's town supervisors will take up the matter Tuesday night. The controversial proposal creates a commercial district called C-1 from North Plantagenet Road to South Plantagenet Road, using a quarter mile wide strip down each side of the highway.
Wednesday was a day of transitions and tears at the Hubbard County Board meeting. Outgoing Dist.
Hubbard County officials finalized a lean and mean budget Wednesday that will result in a 2.6 percent levy increase. But because the county's tax base has seen an overall reduction of 5 percent, most Hubbard County residents were not happy when they got their 2011 tax notices in the mail. For many, taxes went up 10 percent and more.
It's time to empty your pockets, purses, wallets and check under the seat cushions. Tonight's annual Jingle Bells Drawing for the top prize of $5,000 begins at 6 p.m.