graphicCity leaders have devoted more than 300 acres of park land in 37 separate areas to ensure families satisfy their need to run and play. Within city limits you’ll enjoy a public beach, nature area, boat launch and picnic grounds in addition to golf courses, tennis courts, and organized ball fields. The surrounding county boasts 30 lakes for a splashing good time, whether you define that as swimming, fishing, skiing or a more relaxed boating afternoon. Many of the sites offer excellent birding opportunities as well.

Sibley State Park extends scheduled naturalist programs for the curious hikers – our other two state parks and county park offer plenty of trails to apply your new-found knowledge. (Not to mention the exercise for more than your brain!) The 220-mile Glacial Ridge Trail in particular, which runs through a five-county area, provides a detailed and unusual exploration of the best of West Central Minnesota. Selected points of interest along this path in Willmar include the Kandiyohi County Museum, Robbins Island Park, and Willmar Wildlife Area.

graphicSeeking a little less mileage on the Nikes? The Glacial Lakes State Trail follows a former Burlington Northern Railroad grade, which means its 12 miles offer a level, wheelchair-accessible path. This paved trail begins in Willmar and extends north to New London, passing by a host of lakes along the way. Bicyclers, horseback riders, in-line skaters, and runners are invited to use the path as well – in the winter, watch for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers to follow this set-up.

The Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center 10 miles north of Willmar also emphasizes hands-on participation. The challenge course dares you to climb a 40-foot wall, participate in wetlands and woodlands explorations, and touch the animal life.

graphicWillmar is currently constructing a $7 million YMCA facility to open in the fall of 2002. Its teen center, full-size gymnasium, aquatics center, and exercise equipment will ensure residents find activity opportunities year-round. And we wouldn’t be true Minnesotans if we didn’t offer an indoor and outdoor hockey rink at the Willmar Civic Center to satisfy residents’ love of the game.

Did You Know?

The City of Willmar spends $29 per resident on parks and recreation facilities, a figure that doesn’t include state or federal funds. We average 54.2 amusements per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 51. And according to Life in America’s Small Cities’ exploration, Willmar averages 51 persons per square mile, compared to New York City’s 24,000 people in that space. The bottom line is green spaces for everyone.

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