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Judge orders campground to shut down

A judge has issued a temporary injunction to keep a controversial Welch campground from operating until it gets a license from the Minnesota Department of Health.

First District Judge Lawrence Clark announced his decision Sept. 16, siding with the state health commissioner who filed a lawsuit Aug. 5 against Hidden Valley Campground and its owner Cory Axelson.

The court order prevents Axelson from opening the campground as a recreational camping area without a health license, which it has not had since the end of 2011.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office alleged Axelson violated licensing statute by opening the campground to more than four tents and RVs — the state minimum to be considered a recreational camping area — in 2012 and 2013.

A warranted search of the campground July 27 by Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office and MDH staff discovered more than 100 occupied campsites, according to court documents.

Hidden Valley Campground was kept open on a limited basis in 2012 and 2013 because the property’s conditional-use permit, or CUP, with Goodhue County would be lost if the site is not used for 90 days, attorney Julie Nagorski said at a hearing Sept. 9.

Environmental laws covering the adjacent Cannon River, which were enacted after the campground was awarded its permit, would make it impossible to apply for a new CUP, she added.

Axelson did not present to the court evidence disputing the state’s claim that the campground was open to more than four campsites in 2013.

In his conclusion, Clark wrote that the injunction would not damage Axelson’s business because he can continue to allow fewer than five tents or RVs as before.

The MDH has said it would not consider issuing a health license until Axelson submitted a plan to build a sewage disposal system that complies with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requirements.

Axelson spent $400,000 designing the system to date, but heavy floods, legal battles and problems with contractors have caused delays. Axelson has stated previously that he intends to complete the project.

Axelson and his attorney did not return calls Friday for comment on the injunction.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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