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Filling a need

Temperatures were quickly climbing Friday morning when a camper made a left turn off Highway 11 East into Rainy Lake Vacation Campground.

Owner Cole Hraban pointed to one of the 30 full hookup sites at the newly-opened campground, directing the Borderland visitor where to park.

“It’s an incredible feeling to finally be open,” he said. “We’re so proud to be open.”

Cole and his wife, Kari Hraban, watched their three children play on a sand beach at the Rainy Lake property with wide smiles on their faces. The scene was a visual of hard work paying off and dreams coming true.

“It’s been a lot of work, but it was all worth it,” Cole said.

The couple purchased the 32-acre property near Bohman’s Landing in August 2017. The dream was fresh, and the pair made plans throughout the winter months, hoping to welcome their first set of guests the following summer.

“Hiccups happened, and we had to wait until 2019,” Cole said. “We wanted to make sure everything was ready and in place before we opened.”

Kari agreed.

“We didn’t want to rush the process,” she said. “It would get frustrating waiting sometimes, but we knew we had to do things in the right order to be successful.”

The Hrabans are not strangers to the up-north hospitality business. Cole’s parents have owned and operated Ash-Ka-Nam Resort and Lodge on the Ash River Trail for 15 years, and he knew he wanted to use his knowledge to create a career within the industry.

“We’ve always been very involved with the resort,” Kari said, adding the couple in the past considered purchasing the business.

Once they had children, however, the Hrabans decided they didn’t want the demands of owning a resort, but wanted to make a living in a similar field.

That’s when the wheels started turning.

“When I was looking into the area, I was looking at the waters I know and looking for what they didn’t have,” Cole said. “I couldn’t find an RV park on Rainy Lake, and I was shocked. That became my ultimate plan.”

Looking to put a vision into motion, Cole discovered the property near Bohman Landing and fell in love with it. But it took some convincing on his part to bring his wife on board.

“For a month, he tried to get me to come look at this property,” Kari said. “I didn’t want to just buy a piece of land.”

Finally, she gave in.

Once arriving, she wasn’t sold right away, but then Cole walked her to the northern point of the land.

“The water was low and there was a beach,” Kari said. “The kids started playing and I saw it — I could see us raising our family here. It was just one of those moments. I was on board.”

Unbeknown to the couple at the time they first considered purchasing the property, it already had a commercial use permit for an RV campground.

“We still had a lot of work to get plans and permits approved,” Kari said. “There was a lot to learn as a new business to become operational.”

At the end, the couple said all the hard work continues to pay off and the first campers rolled in June 1.

“We’ve already had drop-ins two nights in a row,” Cole said. “It’s so great to be able to offer this to the area.”

While the immediate vision is being fulfilled, Cole and Kari said they have future plans to expand offerings including public restrooms and other amenities.

“Things will take time and we don’t want to do too much too fast,” Cole said. “But there are plans in the works.”


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Steering committee, Blandin funds projects

Jim Yount

More than $20,000 in grants were recently awarded to local projects by the Koochiching Technology Initiative, or KTI.

Jim Yount and Ted Saxton of KTI, told The Journal last week nine proposals were submitted to the group, and six requests were funded.

“The total is just under $23,000,” Yount said.

Projects that received funding include:

  • Interactive teleconferencing equipment upgrade project for Backus Community Center, $650
  • Co-working space at the Birchdale Community Building. 
  • International Falls Public Library, Borderland Young Professionals and Ballans iSpace, co-working meetups, $5,000
  • KCC-TV, "About Us" - video stories of the community, $4,712
  • International Falls Public Library: the library reaches into the community, $5,635
  • Servants of Shelter, internet access for homeless individuals and families, partial funding at $1,530

“We're excited about this,” Saxton said.

The Koochiching Technology Initiative was formed by a steering committee in 2018. The group applied to the Blandin Foundation to become one of four Blandin Broadband Communities for a two-year period ending in 2020, and was successful in that application.

Upon being accepted, Blandin partnered with the initiative to launch specific projects to the benefit of the community, which encompasses Koochiching County and Kabetogama. The program has $75,000 in grant money available, which helped with the first round of projects.

“We have two phases,” Saxton said, adding the next round of funding will come toward the end of the year. “The deadline for the next round is Nov. 30.”

When funding projects, the steering committee narrows down requests and receives final approval from Blandin.

“We want to look at promoting the community as a whole,” Yount said.

Survey

In addition to funding local projects, KTI is also working to collect survey responses from specific Borderland residents about their interest in paying for broadband services, or high speed internet.

The men said Paul Bunyan Communications is hosting the survey and so far, more responses are needed to move forward.

“We're going to be pushing it a little more,” Saxton said.

Residents with addresses in Ray, Ericsburg, Kabetogama, Rainy Lake and near The Junction are eligible to take the survey.

The plan last week was to look into hiring a casual contractor to help get survey responses up to where Paul Bunyan requires to move forward.

“Our goal is to increase that response rate,” Yount said. “The results of the survey is what will be used to convince internet providers like Paul Bunyan and Midco and Frontier to provide high speed internet, and also to get grant money available at the state and federal level. They will be more likely to grant that money if we can show them the survey.”


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Mr. Pete Foundation announces youth hockey fund

Officials with the Mr. Pete Foundation last week announced the launch of the Mr. Pete Foundation Youth Hockey Fund.

The Mr. Pete Foundation is named after longtime teacher and coach Mike Peterson, who taught in the Falls school district for more than 35 years before retiring in 2009. He died Aug. 29, 2017, following a battle with Lewy Body Dementia. He was 69.

Hockey was central to Peterson’s life, and it was important to him as a coach and as a player that hockey was accessible to all, no matter their family’s economic status, according to a news release.

The Mr. Pete Foundation Youth Hockey Fund will provide grants to youth hockey families who may need assistance in the areas of: Rec hockey registration fees, rec hockey equipment, Falls summer hockey, and rec hockey-related travel costs. Youth hockey families in need of financial assistance will access the confidential application to request funding. Advocates may also submit on a player’s behalf.

Gina Peterson Skopinski, co-founder of the foundation and daughter of Peterson, said, “As a teacher and coach, he loved that hockey kept kids busy and active and working together on a team. He used to say that hockey keeps kids out of trouble. He was always pulling for the underdog and gravitated towards the kid that was almost there but just needed a little extra push, a little extra boost of confidence. He found the kids that needed him the most and he worked with them. It was the reason why he coached and the reason why he taught.”

This fund will be created by earmarked donations via the Mr. Pete Foundation website and also specific activities at the foundation’s annual fundraising event taking place this year on Oct. 12 at the AmericInn ballroom.

The Mr. Pete Foundation was created to carry on the passion and dedication that Peterson displayed as a teacher and coach within the community. Primary grant funding is awarded to teachers who desire to enhance their classroom in new, fun, and innovative ways. Peterson demonstrated a level of technology usage, innovative thinking, and overall empathetic teaching that was unmatched in the district, the release said.

The foundation was created by Peterson’s family, friends, and former students. More information regarding the foundation, including the mission, funding, and event information can be found on the foundation’s website.


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