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Friends of Itasca State Park hosting a day in the park

Jonathan Schilling, director of the University of Minnesota’s Itasca Biological Station and a professor in plant and microbial biology, will lead a talk and walk from 2:30 to 4 p.m. about autumn mushrooms and the role of fungi in the “circle of life” for trees. (Submitted photo)

Join the Friends of Itasca State Park during the peak of fall colors for an assortment of activities Saturday, Sept. 29.

All are welcome to attend the Friends of Itasca State Park's annual meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 at the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center classroom to learn about park activities — past, present and future.

After lunch, drive to the University of Minnesota's Itasca Biological Station for a field station tour from 1 to 2 p.m. From 2 to 2:30 p.m. there will be a coffee break in the dining hall. From 2:30 to 4 p.m., join Jonathan Schilling, director of the biological station and a professor in plant and microbial biology, for a talk and walk focused on fall mushrooms and the role of fungi in the "circle of life" for trees.

When a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, fear not — it made a sound, like a dinner bell, to all of the fungi in the area. Tree death and decay is part of what makes Itasca and its old growth special, and the fungi that dominate this process are part of the massive biofiltration system that cleans the water draining into Lake Itasca.

After the talk, Schilling will lead a walk to see what's fruiting and hunt for fungi controlling the afterlife of trees.

The Friends of Itasca State Park are sponsoring Itasca Getaway, a raffle to benefit Itasca State Park. This year's proceeds will go to print and frame historic park photos for Itasca's guest cabins. First prize is a weekend park package including three nights at a Douglas Lodge cabin, four breakfasts and evening meals at Douglas Lodge, four adult tickets for the Chester Charles History and Wildlife Tour, a $100 gift certificate at Itasca Sports Rental and one annual park permit. Second prize is four adult tickets for the Chester Charles, four evening meals at Douglas Lodge and one annual park permit. Third prize is one annual park permit.

Raffle tickets, at $5 each, are available until Friday, Sept. 28 at the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, Rock Creek General Store and Itasca Sports. Tickets will be sold Saturday at Friends' events until the drawing at 4:30 p.m. at the biological station.

It has been a busy and rewarding year for Itasca Park and the Friends. With support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and a $5,000 grant from the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota, the Friends assembled 440 tree cages.

The Friends and other volunteers placed the cages around young red pine, white pine and jack pine to keep deer from damaging the trees allowing for quicker and healthier growth. Friends members also sponsored Itasca's Music Under the Pines entertainers and educational programs and hosted seven ice cream socials that served over 1,000 ice cream sundaes at park events.

Annual membership in the Friends is $20 per person or $30 per family. Donations also are welcome. Either may be mailed to Friends of Itasca State Park, 36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, MN 56470 or go online to www.friendsofitasca.org and click on "Join/Renew." The Friends is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization. For more information, go to www.friendsofitasca.org or visit the Friends of Itasca State Park on Facebook.

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