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Pine River Mayor Jim Sabas and Greater Pine River Area Healthy Green Communities Partnership organizer Quinn Swanson cut a ribbon signifying the completion of the swimming beach at the Pine River Dam and the end of the Healthy Green Communities Partnership Task Force. Photo by Travis Grimler

Pine River Dam swimming beach opens

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With the opening of the Pine River Dam swimming beach Saturday, June 28, the end of a successful volunteer partnership draws near.

The swimming beach opened with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by Pine River Mayor Jim Sabas and Greater Pine River Area Healthy Green Communities Partnership organizer Quinn Swanson.

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The event is the result of one of many efforts by the partnership to improve Pine River's appearance, sustainability and culture. The partnership was the result of cooperation between multiple groups with varying goals for the city, including the Pine River Community Garden board, the Dam Park Task Force, the Green Steps group and Pine River Revitalization.

These various facets affected change throughout the city, including installing a swimming beach and playground equipment at the Dam Park; painting a mural, installing concrete steps and painting trash cans at the Dam Park; installing a community garden plot at Pine River-Backus School; reaching step 2 of the Minnesota Green Steps Cities program; and adopting Pine River's new color theme, plaid.

"I guess working with the volunteers and hearing so much positive about Pine River (were highlights). On occasion you hear people that don't have great things to say about Pine River, whether they live here or don't. Being able to boost interest in activities in town has been really positive. I love living here and want to continue to build it up and bring more people to town," Swanson said.

The Dam Park swimming beach was completed with the help of city workers, volunteers, donations and sponsors who bought more than 100 retaining wall bricks and 40 personalized capstones for the beach. Following completion of the beach, the volunteer partnership is preparing to dissolve.

"The Healthy Green Communities Partnership Task Force will, to a degree, dissolve on Aug. 1 when we say goodbye to the Initiative Foundation grant dollars. The Initiative Foundation helped us initiate this process and has awarded us matching funds. So, when we close that grant on Aug. 1, the Dam Park Task Force will dissolve as it is. The Community Garden is a board, so it will continue to run. The Green Steps will be taken over by the city and the Pine River Revitalization will be kind of carried forth by the chamber," Swanson said.

The Initiative Foundation awarded the partnership two $10,000 grants during its five years of operation within the city. In addition, other businesses, organizations and individuals have donated money, materials and time to the group.

"The capstones are a great example. People purchased bricks. You won't see their names on them, but we hope to put a sign up that will list them. With the playground, there's a plaque over there. The Rotary Club was a big contributor for the big piece of equipment, and the early childhood equipment was the Early Childhood Coalition and the Central Lakes Rotary that worked on that. We owe a debt of gratitude to the city of Pine River for letting us move forward with these initiatives and taking them under their wing once we're done," Swanson said.

The city's mayor also showed his appreciation for the partnership.

"Most of the time we just can't find enough volunteers for this type of stuff. This group came forward and approached the city council and volunteered to start this process and see where it leads. Fortunately for us it led to this whole dam park system with the new swimming beach and the new park facilities across the street. It's been a real blessing for the city and good things have come from it. Hopefully in the future it will keep expanding," Sabas said.

Though the partnership completed many projects together, there were some goals that have not been completed, such as the Pine River Revitalization's preliminary plans to possibly install bike lanes on Barclay Avenue. Some of the smaller groups will have the option to continue any work left undone, but Swanson said it is important that individuals continue to be engaged with changes they would like to see in their communities.

"One of the points I'd like to drive home is that when people see things they need in their community, it's taking the initiative to address it themselves, whether it is through their local service club or if they want to try and champion an effort themselves. That's kind of a key when it comes to great, positive initiatives in small towns. You have to go out and get them," Swanson said.

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