Lum Park hits the century mark this year.
The park was donated to the city on Nov. 23, 1909 by Leon E. Lum, a man who was described in historian Carl Zapffe's book on Brainerd as "an able attorney and a big benefactor in a quiet way."
Lum began his law practice in Brainerd in 1881. He was appointed Brainerd city attorney in 1882 and was elected justice of the peace. He served as city attorney for four terms. He was county attorney for two terms. As a Brainerd resident he was elected to the state Legislature in 1886 and served the Legislature's 25th session.
In his book, Zapffe noted Lum donated "a patch of land on the east shore of Rice Lake for use as a park." Before the dam was built Zapffe described the area of Rice Lake as "a small rice bed along a fast flowing river with a trickle of a connecting creek."
Matthew Iaquinto (right) caught a fish Friday at Lum Park, with his father Dude Iaquinto, assisting in releasing the fish back into Rice Lake. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
On June 21, 1926, Lum's brother Clarence donated additional land, which became a picnic area and municipal bathing beach, Zapffe reported. Leon Lum died in March 18, 1926. According to the book "Brainerd," the artistic stone gateway was then put up in Lum's memory.
The park wasn't Lum's only contribution that continues to this day. A bequest in Lum's will to form a countywide historical society was the nugget that began the Crow Wing County Historical Society. Lum's desk is displayed in the historical society's museum on Laurel Street in Brainerd.
Wayne Mooney, Brainerd parks and recreation director, said the park developed in stages over time during the last 100 years.
A great blue heron took off Friday from Rice Lake at Lum Park. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Lum Park, on 38 acres, features a swimming beach, 18 RV campsites, pavilions and grills, shelters, a boat landing, fishing pier, playground, two sand volleyball courts, memorial benches and trees and disc golf.
Of all the features, Mooney said the popularity of the disc golf course may be a surprise. Players are on the course by 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m. Leon Lum's farsighted vision maintained the waterfront property for the city. Mooney said it attracts residents and out-of-town visitors who access Rice Lake and camp at the site.
"It's one of our most well-used parks," Mooney said, noting the impressive trees with decades of growth. "It's really a relaxing park to walk through or have a picnic in."
Carl Faust, Brainerd History Group, reported Lum Park officially opened a few years after it was dedicated and set aside for the park. Faust said Lum had the first summer cottage on Lake Hubert. In 1924, Lum offered land next to the park for a tuberculosis clinic, which was apparently never constructed at the site.
Faust found an article in the July 2, 1909 Brainerd Dispatch talking about the land donation for the park. The article noted there may not be 20 people in Brainerd who realized the significance of Lum's gift. One hundred years later, his legacy endures with the park that bears his name.
Photographs of the park in the 1930s show waterfront recreation equipment and a big slide that deposited children into the water. In the 1950s, when Faust was growing up in Brainerd, he said going to Lum Park in the summer was a daily event.
"We lived at Lum Park," Faust said. "We thought that was the lake. I'm wondering how many generations have done all their swimming as a kid there. For the in-towners who didn't live on a lake - for us - that was the lake. We've talked for decades around this town about having a municipal pool, for us that was it."
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