County seeks Legacy grant for park

by Paul Rignell
Contributing writer
The Sherburne County Board on Oct. 18 approved an application to the state DNR for a Legacy grant that would fund a majority of planned improvements at the county’s Mississippi West Park in Clear Lake Township.
State voters made the DNR Legacy program possible in 2008 by passing the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. For its 2012 grant cycle, the program is allowing interested counties, cities and townships to apply for individual grants up to $500,000 that would fund no more than 90 percent of the applicants’ planned projects.
Sherburne County is requesting a grant of $319,434.30 that it would support with a 10-percent match of $35,492.70. The county’s obligation would come out of park dedication funds that have been built through fees paid by developers in connection with new development or redevelopment projects in the county.
The county’s master plan for the park includes the creation of walking trails to total 5,000 linear feet ($50,000 estimate), 1,200 feet of boardwalks ($183,280 for all materials and design), a river overlook deck ($8,000), four new picnic tables and grills ($4,200) and tree removal and other excavation at the property’s 1,200-foot riverbank to allow for a canoe landing and parking lot ($3,282.50).
The county would extend an existing gravel road from the park’s upper level to the canoe landing and lot ($27,450), and the new lot of 40 spaces ($8,960) would include 14 longer spots for vehicles with watercraft trailers.
The county bought the land from six siblings in the Gohman family three years ago, brother Gary Gohman explained to the Star News. The siblings jointly inherited the land from their father, Lester, after he died in 2002. Gary told the county board this week that his family and ancestors had owned the land for 150 years. Gary lives on other land in Clear Lake that was also once part of the family’s original farmstead.
Gary attended a public hearing on the proposed park improvements to say he was disappointed the county did not appear to be planning enough improvements. He said he had expected a boat landing would be in their plans, to allow for small, flat-bottomed boats and maybe aluminum craft up to 14 feet long.
He said to limit the river access as a canoe landing would prohibit elder county residents from enjoying the access. Speaking for himself, Gary, who later revealed he is 75, said: “I no longer canoe because a canoe is not a stable craft.”
While acknowledging the river downstream from the park could be too shallow for boating, Gary said he has motored upstream in recent years, and that his late father freely allowed their neighbors to cross the property to shore years ago with boats. “It was my father’s legacy to be rather liberal with neighbors,” Gary added.
The county board directed Zoning Administrator Nancy Riddle to seek estimates for adding a boat launch at the park.
The county must submit its application for a Legacy grant by Oct. 31. The program has $7.14 million this year to distribute among all approved projects. All projects approved for 2012 must be completed by June 30, 2014. Riddle said the installation of trails at Mississippi West Park would be planned for next summer.