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DNR inches closer to expanding Green Lake public parking

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outdoors Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

SPICER -- On a hot weekend afternoon in August, nothing satisfies the body like a swim in the deep, cool waters of Green Lake.

That is, if you can find a parking spot.

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The popularity of the area's biggest lake continues to grow as population does. The fact that Green Lake is a multi-purpose body of water means swimmers, beach-goers, anglers, water skiers, etc., all use the lake for their own enjoyment.

But with the growing number of people using the lake, there aren't enough parking spaces to hold them all.

The parking lot on Saulsbury Beach can get pretty crowded with Green Lake users, plus it serves as parking for patrons of Melvin's on the Lake.

The late summer parking has gotten so congested that boat trailers line Lake Street because they can't park in the large lot.

"It's the main access to Green Lake, being the closest to the population center," said Greg Soupir, Trails and Waterways manager at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources office in Spicer. "It's the busiest site in the county. You see trailers parked across the four lanes in the trail parking lot. They've lost their ability to park in the Saulsbury Beach lot with all the use, especially on the weekends in the summer."

But hopefully, a little of the gridlock will be relieved if the DNR can close on the sale of two properties next to the public access north of Saulsbury Beach.

"The two properties became available for sale and the window of opportunity is small," said Soupir of the timing. The public comment period for the proposed purchase ended March 28 and the DNR has an option to purchase one of the lots while the other is being appraised.

It will be an exhausting process to convert the lots into a parking area, Soupir noted. There are many steps to take and the purchase of the land is the only one small advancement.

"It's going to be a while," he said. "Once we get the properties bought, then the buildings have to be removed. Then we can look at the site and figure out a concept."

Removing the buildings could take up to a year. Also, the DNR will have to conduct soil studies and then will partner with the City of Spicer to develop a design that will not only add parking, but will benefit the lakeshore ecosystem as well.

Storm runoff is always a concern where lakes are concerned. Soupir thinks the lot construction will enhance the ability to keep runoff from polluting the lake.

"We could put a channel drain across on the top of the ramp," he said. "Then, all that water will drop into a channel and be diverted into a storm water pond. There's more to it than expanding the parking. What ever we can do to protect the lake and still provide something for the public to use."

Finally, once everything has been approved, construction can begin. Soupir estimates the project could take up to three years to complete.

But in the end, those hot, weekend days might be a little more bearable.

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