In our County by County series. We’re looking at Houston County.
First News at Nine’s Zach Prelutsky takes a look at Como Falls Park and explains the deep history with the area and how recent events have threatened its existence.
Tucked away in the small city of Hokah, Minn. a destination for many visitors and residents, Como Falls Park.
The origin of Como Falls has been around since the 1800s.
Created by the same man that discovered the city, Ed Thompson.
“When Ed Thompson formed the dam for water power, it created the lake which was first known as the Mill Pond of Ed Thompson and then later Lake Como,” said retired librarian, Barb Bissen.
The falls were used to power the local mill, which was located at the site of the current fire station.
It quickly grew into the spot in town after the city acquired more land and rebuilt the lake.
“During the early ‘20s everything was going on here,” said Bissen. “People came and they built cottages here and then as it filled in from flooding and sediment from the water shed it became swampy, especially down at the end here.”
Over the course of the 20th century the lake and area dealt with its fair share of flooding, but remained mostly unchanged until the mill closed down in 1990.
“Then in ‘90 when the fire station was built it opened up access back here and then in ‘97 a group of volunteers got together and started cleaning it up,” said Bissen.
That group of volunteers gave birth to what is seen now, Como Falls Park.
Today the park is used for weddings, plenty of photo shoots and a place for people to gather and hang out.
But maintaining Como Falls has been a challenge for the city since ‘97.
“There’s been approximately three major flooding events in the park. We’ve worked real close with the DNR in the restoration and it’s been a bit of a burden on the city as far as financially to try and get the beauty back into the park,” said Chief Bob Schuldt of the Hokah Police Department and Emergency Management. “But Hokah is very good at rolling up the sleeves, working together, doing fundraisers, etc. And their hard work’s paying off because the park is coming back into shape, getting utilized again.”
During the historic floods last August, the falls were entirely wiped out.
The city has worked the past year to restore everything. Because they say it means too much to let slip away.
“The heart of our city and there’s a lot of pride with folks in Hokah that just love this area and love the park,” said Schuldt.
Today the park is back open, but the effects of the flooding are still visible.
The city has created a GoFundMe to help raise funds for the restoration.