Empty for 35 years, contractor sees sky-high potential for Park Rapids water tower

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It's been dry for decades, but the water tower in Park Rapids remains a prominent fixture on the city's skyline. And an architectural contractor thinks it's ripe for a second career as a tourist attraction.

Jeff Coleman tells the Park Rapids Enterprise he calls his proposal Skyview and envisions it as an observation tower with a lounge, catering facilities, and a gift shop. He says a ten-story elevator ride would lead visitors to a view of the Mississippi River headwaters area. He tells the newspaper the new construction on top of the old tower "would be the attraction that would get vacationers to stop and investigate.”

The Enterprise reports Coleman grew up in Fargo and, while his contracting business is based in Arizona, he has a seasonal home in the Park Rapids area. Coleman tells the paper he's been developing his plan for the water tower for a few years and now hopes to build public support for the project before approaching potential investors next spring.

The process of delivering drinking water to Minnesotans has changed over the years, but a number of historic old water towers remain scattered across the state.

Two of the best-known are in Brainerd and Pipestone. As in Park Rapids, both stopped holding water a long time ago, but both are on the National Register of Historic Places. And they're not alone.

According to a 1992 article in Minnesota History, 11 water towers in the state had made the list including a cluster of five in small towns on the Cuyuna Iron Range in Crow Wing County.

A few years later the Health Department's water supply unit took a look at some of the more whimsical towers across Minnesota.

To date, none of that whimsy involves building an observation deck or event facilities at the top of a tower. But the sky's the limit in Park Rapids, one man says.

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