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Campground takes center stage at fair meeting

ZUMBROTA — County commissioners brought a good show Thursday to their annual board meeting at the Goodhue County Fair, engaging in a lively discussion about a proposed campground near Lake Byllseby Park.

The county had been working with Cannon Falls Canoe & Bike Rental this spring to develop a campground on 26-acres of county owned land west of Cannon Falls, but a cost estimate that ballooned from $300,000 to $1.5 million over a required septic system has the business exploring other options.

Under a resolution passed Thursday, the county will now use around $200,000 offered by business owner William Lacefield as match money to apply for a state Legacy Grant to help fund the venture.

Commissioners also debated committing $150,000 collected from back taxes on the forfeited Minnesota Malting property in Cannon Falls, which Public Works Director Greg Isakson said would increase the chances of being awarded a grant closer to the full price of the campground.

Board Chair Ron Allen said he liked the idea of the county adding to the match money, as it could avoid needing to look for additional funding to grow the campground later.

Commissioner Richard Samuelson said he would instead like to see the $150,000 used for a grant to build a stairway to 7 1/2 wooded acres to the west, an area he called “the gem of the park.” Any remaining malt house money could then be used for the campground, he said. 

“We have a plan in place that has been sitting there for years,” Samuelson said about the stairway project. “The only reason we haven’t gotten the grant is we haven’t done the match money.”

Samuelson forwarded a motion to that effect, but it was tabled by a 3-to-1 vote.

“All you’re going to do is build a stairway to the top of a hill so people can jump off that cliff,” Allen said about the project and the area’s reputation as a destination for thrill seekers. “It’s a stairway to nowhere and it’s going to cost a lot of money.”

He added that putting money into the campground would create a revenue stream for further development at the park.

The county would receive a portion of campground profits under a public-private partnership agreement with Cannon Falls Canoe & Bike Rental.

The business also suggested using its $200,000 to begin building a smaller-scale campground with a cheaper septic system, but the board showed little interest in the idea.

The Lake Byllseby Park stairway project and potential use of the malt house money will be discussed at a future meeting.

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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