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Citizens are divided over whether the DNR should purchase a home on Big Sand Lake to enlarge a public access off Grouse Road. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

DNR continues to field questions on Big Sand Project

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DNR continues to field questions on Big Sand Project
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

By Anna Erickson

Homeowners on Big Sand Lake continue to voice concern over a proposed DNR public access project on Grouse Road.

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Tony Walzer, acquisition and development specialist with the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trail division talked about the project and fielded questions at a public meeting Saturday, Oct. 26 at Lake Emma Town Hall.

The access as it is now needs upgrades, Walzer said. It isn’t handicap accessible and there are safety concerns. There is also insufficient room to control storm water drainage.

The proposed improvement would include a dock, handicap access and parking and catch basins and sediment basins to divert runoff from the site. It will have an expanded parking lot as well.

The proposed project hinges on acquisition of neighboring property, which was for sale.

“With property being for sale adjacent to the access an opportunity presented itself and we thought we should pursue it,” Walzer said. “In some cases across the state we can wait for 20 years or more for a property to come up for sale that would help us.”

The DNR now has an option to buy the property for $360,000 from Polly Boggs. A couple had made an offer to purchase the property in September and was surprised when they found out the DNR now had an agreement with the property owner.

Daniel Olympia and wife Kathy live in Utah and had spent summers vacationing in the area. They decided to pursue the purchase and are still interested in buying the property.

They questioned the process and are opposed to the access improvements.

Another concern about the public access was that the improvements could draw more people to the lake and in turn increase the chance of introducing Aquatic Invasive Species to the lake.

Rather than spend money on acquisition and improvements to the access, some people at the meeting suggested spending money on controlling AIS.

Walzer said the DNR would address AIS issues with the improvements to the site and disagreed that it would bring more risk to the lake. The DNR suggests the improved access would ward against the threat of Aquatic Invasive Species by giving people more room to pull over and check for them.

Also, AIS money comes from a different funding source than acquisition, Walzer noted.

Jon Monson, who has a home on Big Sand Lake, proposed a separate project that wouldn’t require acquisition of the property.

His plan involves entering into an AIS inspection queue where the current parking lot is located. It is located away from the water to keep contaminants as far away as possible.

Contaminated boats would be sent to a wash station where two could be easily wet or dry cleaned at one time. A dumpster for weed disposal could also be at the location. He proposed having the state’s first permanent wash station located at Big Sand. Now, the state has mobile units that travel across Minnesota.

He suggested the Big Sand Lake improvement could serve as a future model for AIS prevention.

Clean boats would proceed to the launch area in Monson’s proposal. A launch queue would be capable of stacking two boats while a third is launched. It would include an island where vehicles would drive boats in a loop.

“Utilizing the existing property, a model, state of the art AIS monitoring facility can be provided for 20 percent of the cost of acquiring and improving the adjacent parcel,” Monson said. “The dollars saved can be reallocated to hiring more AIS inspectors, which is really the secret to keeping our waters clean.”

Monson’s plan was included in the public comment period, which ended Oct. 31.

Walzer said an open house will be scheduled sometime in November and include more detailed plans.

Any final decisions on whether to move forward with the acquisition and public access improvement will be made by the central office in St. Paul, Walzer said.

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Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561
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