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Park plans reconsidered

Goodhue County Board re-approved accepting a land donation Tuesday to create a park near Kenyon, while nixing a public-private partnership for land adjacent to Lake Byllesby Park being eyed for a campground.

The board voted 3-2 earlier this month to accept the wooded acres from the estate of Harold Nielsen, but Public Works Director Greg Isakson determined the decision did not meet the two-thirds majority needed to accept a land donation.

The reconsideration flared an ongoing tax levy debate between Board Chair Ted Seifert — who along with Commissioner Jason Majerus voted against accepting the donation before the 2016 property tax levy is approved — and Commissioners Brad Anderson and Dan Rechtzigel.

“We will go down as the most asinine board in the history of Goodhue County,” said an exasperated Rechtzigel about the prospect of turning down the donation over a budget debate.

Seifert eventually provided the swing vote for the motion to pass after a discussion on holding off making some budgeted capital expenditures next year and keeping the money in reserve, an idea commissioners indicated was agreeable.

There was concern among board members of a budget crisis next year if they are unable to reach a tax decision in December, causing the levy to default to this year’s amount.

A master plan for the Kenyon park is included in the 2016 budget for around $25,000. Additionally, accepting the land donation is contingent on purchasing 10 acres of property nearby at $30,750 to fill in gaps between parcels. Both purchases would mostly come from the county’s park reserve account with money set aside from the sale of forfeited property, not levy dollars.

Rechtzigel said future development costs beyond surveying and marking likely will be minor, with options for Boy Scouts and Sentence to Service crews to provide some of the work.

Neighboring landowners are in favor of the park being a nature preserve with low-impact walking and mountain biking trails, according to a staff report.

Had the county not accepted the land, the Nielsen estate would have sold the parcels and given the proceeds to charity.

Commissioner Ron Allen said the Kenyon area lacks park space and its residents sometimes feel left out of county investments.

“This is an opportunity to send a signal to that part of the county that we do care about them,” he said.

Commissioners also voted 4-1 Tuesday to cease negotiations with Cannon Falls Canoe and Bike on a public-private partnership to develop a campground next to Lake Byllesby Park. The county will instead look to re-zone the land for commercial recreation use and issue a request for proposal potentially to sell it to the private sector.

The 26-acre plot adjacent to Lake Byllesby Park was purchased by the county in late-2012 as part of an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to extend the Mill Towns Trail.

Cannon Falls Canoe and Bike responded to a call for proposals last year with a plan for a campground, but higher-than-expected costs and lack of state grant funding stalled the project.

Anderson, who gave the sole dissenting vote, said he was in favor of developing a plan with Dakota County — which operates its own park and campground on the northern side of Lake Byllesby — to explore a county-owned campground.

Other options discussed include selling the acres to Dakota County or the city of Cannon Falls.

“We really just need more information on what’s possible up there,” Rechtzigel said, calling the request for proposals “a fact-finding mission.”

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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