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November 17, 2018

10/25/2018 3:23:00 PM
County park board reviews Swedish Immigrant Trail progress; trail closes Nov. 3-11 for hunting safety

The Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail now consists of six miles of improved  surface in the Shafer to Taylors Falls area.  The final details include striping of parking stalls in the trailhead area (by Tern Avenue) but the trail user now can go out six miles and come back for a nice 12 mile off-road biking or walking experience.

The Chisago County Park Board heard from county officials last week the grand opening trail ribbon cutting will wait until spring 2019 due to timing.  The trail closes for deer hnting November 3 through 11-- which was part of negotiations with land owners who have provided terrain.  No Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail access will be allowed that week as it’s impossible to open sections where there’s no hunting  and enforce shutdown of other parts.

The Park Board also heard that the trail section from its current terminus, easterly to Taylors Falls City Hall,  is the next project.

The county must finalize details with Taylors Falls City Council for the best lay out for parking and restroom access.  County Environmental Services Director Kurt Schneider told the park board members he’ll schedule time on a council meeting agenda.  MN Natural Resources Trust Fund financial aid is allotted for this segment,  that carries an expiration date if not used.    

Schneider said the goal is to have a physical trail segment project ready to go in 2020.

The Fish Lake Park master plan took the most of the Park Board’s attention at last week’s meeting.  Fish Lake Park is on Fish Lake, west of Harris and needs a makeover.  Park Board members hope to apply for state grants to accomplish improvements and a nice Master Plan is mandatory to apply for the money.

Annually Fish Lake generates $19,000 approximately and is close to being self-sustaining as far as park attendants and maintenance.  Reservations for the shelter alone brought in over $3,000 each of the last three years. (Shelter reservations are $75 for non-residents and $60 for residents.)

Fish Lake is unique in that  daily and seasonal fees are charged to enter.  This was instituted when it bacame clear about 20 years ago that Fish Lake Park was attracting non-Chisago County residents.  Seasonal entry is $20 and annual revenues have been about $3,000.

The Park Commissioners discussed if they should be recommending to the County Board to consider increasing fees to help improve cash flow.  

(The daily pass brought in $10,850 in 2018 and about $12,000 annually in 2017 and 2016.)

Discussion ensued on possible cross country ski trail improvements, and grooming equipment needed.  Signage is lacking in the park.  The possiblity for expanding on private land around the lake was also could be a future budget item.

There was no action taken.

The county meanwhile will continue to work on the Master Plan for the park so  it can compete against future grant applicants.  There were questions about Master Plan building styles and materials, a clearer idea of components in the recreational landscape and other park amenities. The Plan may need professional renderings.  

The Park Board directed staff to check with consultants and report back on costs for professional services.

County Parks Director Laird Mork reminded the group that Chisago County has leveraged alot of money from outside sources to do much of what’s happened with parks and trails the last decade.  He added,  “...there’s only 15 years of Legacy (a dedicated state sales tax) funding remaining and it will go by pretty quick.”

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