November 26, 2004 at 7:01 a.m.
Open spaces to tie up a small boat and stretch your legs will disappear....with one exception.
On the north end of Rush Lake a vast hill swoops down to the lakeshore off a county road. A rugged, humped peninsula hangs off the edge of the hill. A quiet cove sits at the curved top of the mainland where, rumor has it, some pretty decent fishing can be enjoyed.
Chisago County was given 100 acres here about 10 years ago, but only in the last couple weeks have major improvements allowing for park use seriously gotten underway. And, it’d be safe to assume that nobody’s more anxious to see things happening than the park’s donor and namesake Dennis Frandsen.
Frandsen met with a reporter at the park last week, in-between episodes of heavy fog and rain.
He arrived early for the interview, eager to talk about plans he has in mind for the park and wanting to view the progress underway.
Frandsen can still point out trees he optimistically planted long ago when he thought this site would become just another a housing development. In fact he had one development already completed on Rush Lake.
In the early 1990s though, he decided instead to donate this land.
Frandsen said he was regularly reminded by former Chisago County Commissioner Phil Leier that it would sure be nice to have a county park at Rush Lake. “Phil was persistent but he did it in a nice way,” Frandsen recalls.
In 1992 Frandsen approached the County Board to donate the site and the Board surprised him by naming it Dennis Frandsen County Park.
That wasn’t the end of Frandsen’s involvement, though. He estimates he’ll have $300,000 more into the park when it’s done. His donated materials (road gravel, etc) and cash funding for the recent improvements is about $75,000, “matching” a state grant Chisago County got this year. He even has estate plans to earmark monies to the park after he is gone.
Chisago County Parks Director Laird Mork has been submitting applications for grant money to make progress on things like restrooms and parking and finally won $75,000 for the park improvements plan through the Outdoors Regional Parks Grant system late this summer.
When asked if he ever thought about running for office Frandsen responded that he’s of the opinion he is more productive being independent.
“Society’s better off without me in politics,” he joked.
His philanthropic efforts are sometimes at-odds to his dealings with elected officials; but to his credit Frandsen doesn’t flaunt his largesse or make conditions. He has taken Chisago County to court before on the county’s valuation of his industry property in Rush City and in fact is in tax court again over the same issue.
He didn’t visit parks or participate in recreational activities as a youngster because he grew up in the country. But, Frandsen understands the need for a place for people to enjoy a sunset or have a dock to fish from.. As he put it, he achieved enough wealth and feels simply acquiring more “things” doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. That’s something we can all be thankful for during this time of taking stock of good things.
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