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Work begins at Big Sand Lake access

Construction began July 26 on the new parking lot and much of the proposed new launch area.

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The Minnesota Deparment of Natural Resources purchased a neighboring home and boat landing to expand the Big Sand Lake public access. Construction on the new parking lot began this week.

The Big Sand Lake public access is undergoing safety improvements.

Currently, boat trailer traffic intersects with Grouse Road when launching and retrieving at the access. The new access will also be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

In 2013, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchased a home and boat landing adjacent to the existing public access in order to enlarge the entire site. The house was formerly owned by Fred and Polly Boggs.

David Schotzko, area supervisor for the Division of Parks and Trails, said the project will be completed in several phases.

Construction began July 26 on the new parking lot and much of the proposed new launch area.

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The existing boat ramp will remain open until Sept. 7, Schotzko said, then it will be closed and reconstructed over the course of three weeks. Construction of the ADA parking area will be done during this third phase as well.

During the week of Oct. 4, all areas of the facility will be reopened to public use.

Paving, the final phase of the project, will be finished in spring 2022.

Schotzko said the DNR has been working closely with the Big Sand Lake Association (BSLA) and resorts because they were worried about losing business during the closures.

Kent Skaar is senior project manager for the DNR Parks and Trails Division, based out of Bemidji with Schotzko.

In a Dec. 2020 letter to the BSLA, he wrote that the DNR understands that, “given this is the only public water access to Big Sand Lake, its closure for any period of time can have substantial impacts on residents, non-residents and commercial access/use. In circumstances like this, where there is a single public facility providing recreational boating access to an individual lake, the Division of Parks and Trails consistently places our emphasis on limiting the construction and closure to the shortest period and assuring that the facility is open at the conclusion of the boating season for private seasonal equipment removals.”

Skaar wrote, “The current DNR design proposal will allow for the launching and retrieval of recreational watercraft to be confined to within the boundaries of the dedicated public water access, isolated from Grouse Road.”

He noted that the existing launch area “is not compliant with the ADA, containing surface grades that exceed guidance and can only be addressed through complete reconstruction.”

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In a June 2021 newsletter, BSLA president Don Kinlander expressed dismay that “many big, beautiful, white pines are gone” from the Boggs property.

Kinlander thanked the 56 BSLA members who “sent 216 emails to the DNR and legislators expressing their feelings on the need and schedule for the ramp reconstruction.”

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The current public access raised safety concerns because it intersects with Grouse Road.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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