County to rename park, but loses out on grant

by Paul Rignell
Contributing writer

After seeking advice from other county residents in renaming a park, particularly asking for help among some school communities in the Clear Lake area, the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners has selected Island View Park as a favorite choice for the land known previously as Mississippi West Park.

The board plans to make the Island View name official at a meeting March 20.
But, the county is missing out on a state grant this year that was anticipated to fund a majority of planned improvements at the park including an expansion of walking trails plus construction of a new road to connect the park’s upper and lower levels, in addition to a parking lot and canoe landing at the river bank.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Nancy Riddle said after a county board workshop March 14 that the county will continue to mow a walking trail at the park this season, but extensive plans for more activity are being deferred after the county was denied a grant of $319,434 from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Ninety-nine cities, counties and other municipalities applied for grants this year through the DNR Legacy program that was approved by state voters in 2008.

Applicants could ask for up to $500,000 toward park or trail projects, and for the 2012 grant cycle, they are obligated to pay only 10 percent of their project costs from other funds. (In other years, Riddle explained, applicants can expect to cover a greater share of their own costs.)

The DNR awarded grants totaling $7.14 million this year among 26 projects, or, to about one-fourth of all applicants. Riddle said that a DNR official told her Sherburne County’s project fell somewhere in the middle to upper middle among proposals being considered. “He said that if they would have had more money, (Island View Park) would have gotten funded,” said Riddle, adding the county could seek and receive qualifying grants from sources other than the Legacy program. “There are different grants that I can apply for, but some have bigger matches (than 10 percent),” she said.

Riddle said that based on her knowledge of this year’s Legacy recipients, the program seemed to focus more on parks and trails which were previously established, where cities and counties have already invested considerable funds from other sources.

Hearing that, County Commissioner Felix Schmiesing said: “We are going to be at a disadvantage for a while, because in these economic times we are not spending money on parks.”