Experiencing America (2): A Path to the People’s Heart

Written by: Api Sulistyo

There is nothing special here. I have done it a few times in the past. Last Thursday after work I went to a nearby lake to run. Yet, this story is not about my running. I want to share my observation on the management of Lake Nokomis located outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota by the local government to serve the local community and visitors for recreation purposes.

Within 15 minutes from my house I already parked my car in a parking location near the lake. I have always appreciated the existence of the 2.5 mile long park encircling the lake. The distance between the lake and the residential area is between 100 meters (300 yards) to 150 meters (450 yards). This is where the local government established the park and they are responsible for it’s maintenance, paid through income taxes.


We can see various leaf loaded trees, multi-color flowers, and neatly cut grass. For safety reason and the comfort of visitors, the government built three separates lanes for cars, bikes, and walkers/joggers. Speed limits as usual are imposed on cars and bikes. Lifeguards are on duty during beach season in the summer from late May to early September and they are paid according to the labor regulations. I think it is at least US$10 per hour.

The local government also applied some regulations to protect the environment around the lake. Motorized boats are not allowed to operate on this lake so that they don’t pollute the water. Sail boats must obtain necessary permits to explore the lake. All boats are checked by volunteers for any invasive plants. Hunting is absolutely prohibited in this area and we can see hundreds of ducks and geese living peacefully around the lake. The offspring are born in the spring, grow up in the summer, and ‘hide’ or fly south in the winter time. Life starts again in the spring of the next year.

I do not enjoy fishing. I taught my kids fishing when they were little. But, they do not find it exciting. Many people spend their time fishing on this lake. Not only in the summer, they also ice-fish in the winter. However, don’t forget to make sure that you have a valid license that can be purchased easily in many places including gas stations. It costs around US $20 and it is valid for one year. Don’t get too excited when you catch fish because it should be big enough to bring home. When you catch a small fish, you need to return it to the lake. This is why I do not like fishing. The small fish that we return to the lake will probably suffer and slowly die.

Positive Experience

We do not have to buy any ticket to visit lake Nokomis. People can enjoy this place and have a great time with family members and friends for free. Our family frequently comes to this lake for kayaking, swimming, running, or setting up our hammocks. A parking lot is available only a few steps from the beach and it only cost US$1 per hour. If you are willing to walk a little bit, most other parking spots are free.

For a group activity, we can rent bikes for US$15 per hour. Kayaks and canoes are also available for rent, including the paddles and life jackets. On the side of the main beach there is a restaurant from where we can enjoy the sunset and romantic atmosphere. Other services that we often forget but are also available are toilets and drinking fountains.

But, please remember, we have four seasons here in Minnesota. What I have shared with you here is available when the weather is warm; between May – October. From November to April these services are not provided. The lake is frozen, the restaurant is closed, the water fountains are shut down.  That is the reason for Minnesotans to enjoy warm weather as much as they can while it lasts.

I think the local government has done a great job managing the lake and deserves some appreciation. However, not everything is running well in this country. Like many other countries, the US also has many challenges. However, when we find something that is running well, there is nothing wrong to learn from it or even trying to do the same.

It is just a reminder that the existence of a government is to serve the people not the other way around. A wise man in the old days said something like this, “I come to serve, not to be served.”


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