Community members, businesses, and volunteers have come together to create a park that honors veterans in Cook, Minnesota. A lot located at 9 North Street along the Little Fork River has sat empty for decades. The small town of 500 people had quite a few people who stepped up to turn this abandoned lot into a place to honor veterans past and present They've come a long way, but they need a final push of donations to complete the park.

Steve Kajala
Steve Kajala
loading...

They have named it the Veterans Riverfront Park. The community group "Friends Of The Parks" was established in 2010. Over the years they have worked to beautify the parks in the city. In the last three years, they have focused on the Veterans Riverfront Park.

It started with clearing debris and brush on the land. Thousands of volunteer hours have gone into what they've already accomplished. They've had help with pouring concrete to make it ADA compliant with sidewalks so everyone can enjoy the park.

Steve Kajala
Steve Kajala
loading...

Benches and swings have been installed. They are working with the DNR to utilize some sort of access to the Little Fork River in the future, like a canoe launch area.

Grills have been placed in several locations so people can have a bbq picnic along the river.

Steve Kajala
Steve Kajala
loading...

New, freshly painted and long-lasting picnic tables have been installed in several places in the park.

Steve Kajala
loading...

I spoke with Friends of The Park member Steve Kajala about the project. He gave me some history of the location. Before Highway 53 was routed straight North, the highway came into town and this lot was right along the road. It was a dance hall in the 1960s before it closed. Then the building was torn down in the 1970s, and the lot sat empty ever since. There were some picnic tables there, but they were in bad shape.

The Friends of The Parks group got together and wanted to create a space that everybody could enjoy.

Get our free mobile app

Kajala says the decision to make it a park to honor veterans was easy.

"There aren't any veterans parks or places north of Viginia. So we thought that it was a good idea because of all the veterans currently serving, and all of those that have served in our area. We wanted to have a place where people could honor them."

Steve Kajala
Steve Kajala
loading...

Kajala mentions how great it has been for so many people to come out and help, including local organizations.

"While the Friends Of The Parks has headed this up, we've had tremendous support from organizations like the Cook Hospital & Clinic, Marty Walker who does a lot of cement work, the Lions Club, VFW Post 1757, and support from the 49ers Union and Cement Finishers Union. There are just too many people to name that have donated their sweat equity and money to this project. It really is great to see everybody stand behind this and make it happen."

While the park is looking great, there's still one expensive task that needs to be done. They are currently seeking donations to help them pave the gravel parking lot. The gravel is back from the 1950s, and it is washing away during heavy rain. It gets muddy and wet in the spring. While the sidewalks have been poured to make it ADA accessible, having a paved parking lot would make things so much easier.

Friends of The Park GoFundMe
Friends of The Park GoFundMe
loading...

It's an expensive task. They will need to have contractors bring in fill, improve drainage areas, the actual paving, and install curbs.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help raise donations. They have a goal of raising $50,000. Kajala says there are various matching grants and resources also available to help fund this park.

If you would like to donate you can visit their GoFundMe page. You can also mail them a check payable to Friends Of The Parks, PO Box 1141 Cook, MN 55723. Any funds received over the donation goal will be applied to future Friends Of The Parks projects.

The 100 Best Places to Live in the Midwest

More From 106.5 The FAN