Commentary: Floating ideas out there that could take Park Rapids to next level

Park Rapids is developing and evolving, hopefully in a good way. New construction is happening. Focus groups and work sessions are going on with plenty of brainstorming on how to best move Park Rapids forward.

Park Rapids is developing and evolving, hopefully in a good way. New construction is happening. Focus groups and work sessions are going on with plenty of brainstorming on how to best move Park Rapids forward.

The city planning commission issued permits for $10 million in valuation for construction projects in 2016. That's nearly double the $5.6 million issued in 2015. The idea here from the city's standpoint is people are investing in the community, and it reports, over the last eight years, it has seen an average of $5.7 million per year in activity since 2009.

Is that good? Sure, it is. It would be even better if we could do something to fill the many vacant buildings around town. New is nice, but it doesn't take care of a growing problem of empty buildings left to rot. It would have been nice to save the old concrete water tower. Unfortunately, no practical plan for use really surfaced and last fall the 135-foot, historic structure was brought to the ground. There's reality, then there's the idea of a space-age rotating restaurant at the top of the tower. Sadly, that didn't happen.

It's okay to think big when it comes to community development and revitalization. Yes, it takes money but that's where we have to rely on creativity, collaboration and determination.

The city could pursue more the idea of building rehabilitation incentives and encourage practical renovation of existing buildings. Some of these places look bad and don't leave a great impression driving through town.


Things are happening this spring that will certainly benefit our community through new businesses and commercial development, and that's a good sign.

Healthcare is important to everyone so any move involved in that area creates interest. Sanford is working on a clinic in Park Rapids and expect the move to town soon.

Knute Nelson is announcing this week plans to construct a new senior living project in Park Rapids. They expect to break ground in the spring. It will reportedly be an 86-unit facility, estimated at $17 million. The official announcement comes Wednesday this week and we'll have the details in Saturday's edition of the Enterprise.

The city approved permits for a 12,000-square-foot Chrysler dealership to be built on the east side of town.

Groupworks broke ground in 2016 and is building a new 6,000-foot facility to provide mental health services.

Affinity Real Estate constructed a new building on the south side of town and is a nice addition to that neighborhood. Just down the road, the fire hall expansion and renovation is about finished.

Armory Square looks great and the city has agreed to take on ownership of that facility and will lease out as the Upper Mississippi Center for the Arts.

A Better Connection is looking to expand its mental health care services to include a separate but related and much-needed community center. There should be an opportunity somewhere down the road for the city and county to take this planned community center to next level status by investing public funds and expand the non-profit facility.


Good things, and all projects we'll be taking a closer look at in the Enterprise as these come to completion this spring and summer.

The Park Rapids Airport is the best kept secret in the region and good things are going on there as well. Locally owned Park Rapids Aviation and Park Rapids Avionics constructed buildings on airport property and operate as private businesses. Park Rapids Aviation completed an 80-by-100 paint shop for painting aircraft and Park Rapids Avionics put up a new hangar. Both businesses are growing and the activity demonstrates good cooperation of private development at the public airport.

We need more of that collaboration between private and public to fill some of the vacant needs and buildings around town. More to encourage individuals and companies to invest in Park Rapids. Something like a brew pub and restaurant along the river to jumpstart that area, for example. Imagine a riverwalk concept featuring eateries, specialty shops and housing along the Fish Hook. Could be cool.

I don't have the money; I'm just the idea man here.

We need to develop a viable public swimming beach in Park Rapids. I understand technically there is one in Heartland Park, but we need something more visible and much more marketable.

Red Bridge Park in the area of the old stone boathouse is an idea. City, county and state can get together on this project, and working in full cooperation, develop a public swimming beach there.

Communities all around us - much smaller with less resources - have great public swimming beaches. There's no reason we shouldn't here in Park Rapids. I know, there's jurisdiction issues when it comes to the water but a project like this could be great for the community and the park connects downtown and other neighborhoods to the Heartland Trail.

There are people working on securing funds to preserve and renovate the stone boathouse. With a beach at that location, there's an opportunity for an entrepreneur using private funds to run a kayak/canoe/paddleboat business. Public funds go to develop the area, private funds provide some of the services.


Building on the water theme, wouldn't it be great to have a splash pad in the middle of downtown to cool down during the dog days of summer? It's a concept growing in popularity throughout the country as small town outdoor community swimming pools become a rarity. It's a relatively inexpensive way to provide a fun and unique water play opportunity for both locals and tourists.

Think about these things for a while and don't be afraid to bring your ideas to the forefront.

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