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Hubbard County reviews proposed Deep Lake Park budget

Commissioner Mark “Chip” Lohmeier has a proposed operating budget for Deep Lake Park, the county’s new year-round recreational park. It’s located on the site of the former Val Chatel ski resort, about four miles north of Emmaville.

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The Val Chatel served as a ski resort and fine dining in the 1970s and early 1980s. It's been abandoned since Viking! Theatre opened in 1986, then shuttered its doors after three seasons. Newly dubbed Deep Lake Park, Hubbard County is developing the property into a year-round recreational area.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise
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It’s budget time at the Hubbard County Government Center.

On Tuesday, County Land Commissioner Mark “Chip” Lohmeier discussed the preliminary 2023 natural resources and parks/recreation departments’ budgets with county commissioners.

He also included a proposed operating budget for Deep Lake Park, the county’s new year-round recreational park. It’s located on the site of the former Val Chatel ski resort, about four miles north of Emmaville.

The 352-acre property includes the entire shoreline of Deep Lake and a smaller, unnamed lake.

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The 50-acre Deep Lake is about 77 feet deep, according to Hubbard County Land Commissioner Mark Lohmeier.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise

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Background

Trust for Public Land acquired the land with support from a generous anonymous private donor, then donated it to Hubbard County this year for management.

Trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking and mountain biking are proposed for Deep Lake Park.

It will also serve as a connector to the North Country Trail, located a mile to the north, and the Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail, which will be several miles to the west.

A variety of campsites will be constructed, along with a launch for non-motorized water recreation, such as canoes and kayaks. One of the campsites will entice ATV users wishing to explore an existing ATV trail off the property.

Hubbard County is seeking designation as “a regional park or trail” for the property. Lohmeier said after the Aug. 9 meeting that a judgment is expected in September. Earning regional status opens up funding sources for development of the recreational park.

“We are prepared to submit our master plan for the park in September,” he said. “They will also score that as well. A higher score gives us a better chance of funding through the grants.”

In August 2021, the county hired SRF Consulting Group, Inc. of Minneapolis to develop a master plan for the new county park.

Demolition first

Lohmeier anticipates that most of the $50,000 budgeted for professional services in 2023 will be for asbestos and regulated materials abatement at Deep Lake Park.

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“I know there’s a lot of asbestos and some old, fuel-oil boilers in there and some buried tanks that need to be removed,” he explained.

Another $250,000 is designated for demolition and deconstruction at the park, where several buildings are in disrepair.

These line items create an imbalance in the parks/rec budget, Lohmeier noted. Revenues are projected to be $107,000, while expenses are nearly $500,000.

County commissioner Char Christenson asked if there were any grants for Deep Lake Park.

For development, but not demo, Lohmeier replied.

County Administrator Jeff Cadwell said the county should request proposals for demolition in 2023.

Lohmeier said he is already receiving citizen requests for access to the property to fish on the lake or walk in the woods. “Of course, with those buildings out there, there’s just too much of a liability,” he said, adding all the roads are gated.

Board chair Ted Van Kempen inquired about salvaging opportunities in the lodge.

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Lohmeier said a salvage company would typically look at the value of the wooden beams, live edge siding, large plate-glass windows and rough-cut wood.

Operating budget estimates

Lohmeier offered a “rough guess” at what it might cost to run Deep Lake Park for one year.

Assuming there are 55 campsites with an initial 20% occupancy rate, he estimated $57,800 in reservation fees during a 150-day camping season (May 1 through Oct. 30).

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“If we get to the point where we are like Itasca, their electrical sites are booked 92-96% of the time,” Lohmeier said.

As Deep Lake Park becomes more well known, he hopes occupancy will grow to 50% or more.

There's an opportunity to apply for a grant-in-aid of $3,000 for the ski trail.

Grants from the Greater Minnesota Recreation Parks and Trails Commission and other resources are presently unknown.

As for expenses, Lohmeier anticipates one full-time, year-round park attendant and one part-time attendant.

He estimated $147,000 in total expenditures, but emphasized that it was “a stab in the dark.” It’s unknown how much electricity will cost, for example.

County commissioners reiterated that they would like to sell some county tax-forfeited parcels, which could help with the park’s budget deficit.

Cadwell described Deep Lake Park’s preliminary operating budget as a “placeholder.” It will likely roll into a capital projects fund in the future, he said.

In related business, Lohmeier said he turns 65 next March. He proposed a phased retirement, beginning in May 2023. He offered to work part-time, without benefits, while a new land commissioner is sought and trained.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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