Pebble Beach similar to Long Prairie’s [UPDATED]Published 9:47am Monday, October 22, 2012 Updated 11:49am Monday, October 22, 2012
Fergus Falls and Long Prairie have something in common when it comes to swimming beaches open to the public during the summer months.
Both beaches aren’t as popular as they were 20 years ago and have fallen on hard times. Even so, members of the older generation in both communities want to make sure the public beaches stay open for the enjoyment of future generations.
The Pebble Lake beach, two miles south of Fergus Falls, is only a third the size of what it was 25 years ago.
The city council has talked about moving the public beach from the south side of the lake near the golf course, to the north side of the lake near DeLagoon Park.
In Long Prairie, public use of Lake Charlotte Beach dropped dramatically in recent years. There was no public money available for lifeguards and only two weeks of swimming classes were offered, due to limited funds.
The future looked bleak, until three women known as Grandmas for the Beach took the bull by the horns and changed things for the better.
“All three women (Alice Siegle, Pat Gray and June Elmes) had taken their children to Lake Charlotte Beach for summer outings.
But that was more than 40 years ago, and times change,” writes Nancy Leasman of Long Prairie whose article appears in the October 2012 issue of “Senior Perspective.”
The three women knew that, if they didn’t act soon, the public beach at Long Prairie might soon be just a memory.
“The three women approached community organizations and sent out 100 letters explaining the problem and asked for donations,” said Leasman. “They also paid for t-shirts boldly proclaiming, ‘Grandmas for the Beach.’ The t-shirts made the project real.”
Money started drifting in. Other grandparents who had fond memories of time spent at the beach, with their children and grandchildren, contributed five-dollar bills, tens and twenties.
Ten people pledged $100 each under the umbrella of the Grandmas $1,000 Club.
A big morale boost in the form of a $1,000 came from the Long Prairie Lions Club, which maintains a park and play area near the public beach. Local businesses, following the positive example of the Lions Club, made donations of $500 each.
“When all was said and done, enough money was donated to pay for beach supervision from 1 to 7 p.m. during the peak six weeks of summer 2011,” said Leasman. “Signs pointing out the beach rules in English and Spanish were installed and the beach house, bathrooms and picnic tables were painted.”
The three-person grandma leadership team personally cleaned the beach house, in dire need of tender loving care, making it usable again.
Efforts by the volunteers resulted in support from the Long Prairie City Council and park board. The city installed three new docks and blacktopped a third of the bike path which leads to the public beach.
The grandmas pushed on and were awarded a $5,000 CentraCare Health Foundation Community Award which helped pay for the lifeguards and beach supervisors in 2012.
More funding support came from the Long Prairie VFW.
“Part of their success comes from the application of their individual talents,” emphasizes Leasman. “Grandmas for the Beach approached the beach improvement challenge in an organized fashion with well thought-out proposals stating the rationale, defining the problem and proposing the solution.”
In their application to the CentraCare Foundation, the grandmas stated, “This has been an excellent experience for senior citizens working with local government and gathering support from townspeople for a project we all want.”
Now, the challenge is for Fergus Falls residents to maintain the public beach at Pebble Lake for future generations to enjoy.