An 87-year-old Pierre, South Dakota retired cable television entrepreneur has given $500,000 to the effort to "Sustain the Park" - the historic amusement park at Arnolds Park, that is.
Edward Parson said the gift is his way of thanking the area for the opportunity that it gave him a quarter of a century ago.
A freelance electrical contractor and engineer, Parson built the original cable television system in Spirit Lake that later expanded to the entire Okoboji region to serve some 3,500 customers. He sold the system in 2000 to Mediacom.
The funds will be held for the park, including the Queen II, Maritime Museum, concert Green Space and amusement park. Interest on the donated funds will belong to Parson during his lifetime, then revert to the park.
The classic amusement park had closed, but was brought back to life several years ago by volunteers and donors. Still, the project has struggled financially each season. The "Sustain the Park" drive aims to keep the park solvent far into the future.
"The Sustain the Park fundraising effort is off to a wonderful start thanks to your generosity," fundraising committee member Paul Hedberg told Parsen this week.
Okoboji fourth grader Abby Taylor also read a thank-you to the elderly donor, saying, "You are a dream saver, Mr. Parsen. Thank you."
Jim Frost of the Maritime Museum board said that in 2004, for the first time in memory, the amusement park showed an operations profit. However, the park also maintains a debt of about $1.5 million still to be paid off.
The park was started about a century ago by W.B Arnold, who envisioned a place for family entertainment. The park still boasts many classic rides and attractions.
The Sustain the Park fund drive has a goal of $2 million, and will continue throughout this summer. That would erase the debt, and provide a $500,000 operations endowment to sustain the park through the non-operation months. Any additional income would be used for park complex improvements.
For more information on the Sustain the Park effort, call 712-332-6557, or see www. SustainOurPark.com.