After years of hard work raising funds and seeking grants and donations, a grand opening on Thursday, Aug. 22, celebrated amenities at the Nisswa Lake Park and Recreation Area.

Trails wind through the 2.1-acre park, with a center area boasting a covered bike shelter, benches, picnic pavilion and an outdoor classroom. At a high point overlooking Nisswa Lake is a bench with flagpole and plantings. Below is a dock system for boaters who want to park and use the park or continue on to downtown Nisswa.

The park is easily reached from downtown through the tunnel under Highway 371.

“What I see is access. The lakes and land belong to the people, and this park provides access to current and future generations,” Lee Seipp, co-chair of the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park fundraising group, said after the Aug. 22 ribbon-cutting for the park. “It’s a legacy made possible for so many people.”

Matthew Hill, Nisswa parks and recreation director, provided the history of Nisswa Lake Park, which dates to 2007, when the Bernice Thurlow property on Nisswa Lake became available.

The Friends of Nisswa Lake Park formed to raise funds to buy the property and partnered with the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation to manage the funds.

In 2009, Arnie and JoAnn Johnson committed to selling property to the city for a park with a $300,000 donation, on the condition the city obtain a $500,000 Department of Natural Resources Parks and Legacy Grant to buy the property. That grant was awarded in 2010.

That year, the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park raised $67,000 from more than 170 people, organizations and businesses. That was the tipping point in finalizing the park property purchase in December 2010, Hill said.

The fundraising group and city have been active in raising awareness and funding for the park development since then and laid the groundwork for the development seen in the past two years, Hill said.

“When I was brought on board and saw the canvas to work with the community to create this park, I saw it as a challenge,” Hill said after the ribbon-cutting. “It’s been fun to work with people to make the vision of the park come to real life.”

He gave kudos to seeing people who donated to the park in attendance at the grand opening event.

One such donor - Millie Gjertson - died last winter, but not before she saw improvements at the park. Gjertson donated $35,000 in 2017 to prepare the property and build trails. The city matched that donation to fully fund the trail system.

Gjertson then donated $50,000 for the picnic pavilion. She was honored for her donations with an engraved stone at the park’s entrance.

“It was Millie’s wonderful contribution that drove the development of Nisswa Lake Park,” Hill said.

Others providing grants and donations include Nisswa Tax Service, Tom and Sue Thurlow, Ted and Mary Dullum Family Memorial, Initiative Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Essentia Health St. Joseph’s Foundation, the Nisswa Lions Club, DH Docks and Tracks, and Wayne Cornish, among many others.

“We now have a fully functional park that people can enjoy for years to come,” Hill said.

The Friends of Nisswa Lake Park continue to raise funds for future park development, including a lake overlook scenic plaza, site lighting and power, parking lot and access road, performance space, Americans with Disabilities Act access trail to the waterfront, a waterfront boardwalk, bathrooms and pavilion facility, fishing pier and native plant rain garden.

For more information, contact Hill at 218-963-0047.