It will help families know what various parks have to offer

    If it seems like there are more efforts underway than ever in the Crookston community to encourage families and children to get outside to enjoy the natural wonders of the world – especially if they happen to be in a neighborhood park – it's because there likely are more efforts currently underway than ever.   

   Given that, the thinking of certain stakeholders who also have some financial resources to make things happen is that parents and their kids would be better served if they knew more about the parks that they might go playing or exploring in.   

    One such initiative that involves mapping Crookston parks in digital fashion as well as in good, old-fashioned paper mapping is being coordinated by Project Get Outdoors (Project GO).   

    Given the success of the natural play space in Castle Park, the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NW RSDP) is leveraging a $25,000 in Community Engagement Innovation funding with various partners to bring similar nature-based play to other community parks in the region. As part of that, Alysa Zimmerle, is leading a park-mapping effort in Crookston.   

    Zimmerle, of Erskine, is a community mapping and outreach specialist with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa. She recently updated the Crookston Park Board on the mapping initiative, which she hopes will be up and running by next spring.   

    "It's all about trying to get kids outside more and playing in the natural elements," she said. "The more their parents know and the more they know about the parks available to them, the better."   

    The online mapping component will be a handy, digital tool when kids embark on their outdoor adventures, Zimmerle explained. "You'll be able to click on it and see pictures, videos and art work," she said.  

    In addition, she's working with Gina Gunderson of the Crookston Early Childhood Initiative on a paper map that can be given to parents and families that lists parks and appropriate age ranges for amenities in various parks.   

    Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle said he's been very pleased so far with the mapping initiative. "(Alysa) has been a great help, and this is going to be great for our programs and kids in the community," he said.   

    Zimmerle said a web developer will be retained to build the website that will be available in stand-alone fashion and will also be linked from the City of Crookston website.   

    Zimmerle said she's collaborating with the University of Minnesota on the project.