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Paul Otto, manager of Sibley and Monson Lake State parks, says Monson now includes most of West Sunburg Lake. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

Purchase nearly doubles size of Monson Lake State Park

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News Willmar,Minnesota 56201 http://www.wctrib.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/1/1130/091409-monson-park.jpg?itok=vrlY9H4z
West Central Tribune
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Purchase nearly doubles size of Monson Lake State Park
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

SUNBURG -- Monson Lake State Park has nearly doubled in size with the purchase this summer of 158 acres of land.

What's unusual is that all but 44 acres of the new acquisition is under water.

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The $395,000 purchase essentially allowed the state to obtain ownership of most of West Sunburg Lake.

"We actually own the land under the water," said Paul Otto, manager for Sibley and Monson Lake State parks.

Two small bays on the north and south ends of the West Sunburg Lake remain in private hands.

The purchase also includes a strip of heavily wooded shoreland with an existing cabin, the remaining half of a small island that the state had partial ownership of before and wedge of East Sunburg Lake.

The expanded park, which previously had 187 acres of land and water, will provide a refuge for waterfowl that will be closed to hunting, said Otto.

Because parts of the new boundaries of the park extend to the middle of East Sunburg Lake that can't be marked with signs, local hunters may have difficulty knowing exactly where they can hunt waterfowl and were it will be prohibited there.

"It will be confusing," said Otto. But the purchase will reduce some of the past confusion on West Sunburg Lake, he said, because the park now owns a majority of that lake and hunters will have a clearer idea of where they cannot be.

Because the remainder of the two lakes is still owned privately owned, that area is not necessarily open for public hunting either.

Not everyone is happy that most of the quiet, undeveloped lake will be off-limits to hunters. Otto said he's heard a few complaints, but with declining duck numbers, "we need all the refuges we can get."

West Sunburg Lake is home to thousands of waterfowl, he said. Making the area a refuge will "offer some protection" and allow the population to grow and migrate to other area lakes.

In Minnesota, lakes are owned by the public.

"Except in this situation," said Otto.

In the 1930s West Sunburg Lake and East Sunburg Lake didn't exist, he said. "It was dry land and it was bought and sold."

After water filled the area, the private ownership continued.

About three years ago a group of people who had joint ownership of the 158 acres, including the lake, approached the park about purchasing the property.

The group, which used the area for hunting, wanted to see the land preserved by the park and not developed for housing. "We always hate to see lakeshore disappearing to developers," said Otto.

The owners patiently waited while the park's request made it's way up the ladder for state approval and for funds to be allocated.

"Acquisition money is hard to come by," said Otto. "The owners were very patient with the process."

The process was completed June 17.

Otto, along with the Monson Lake Improvement Association, are working on plans for how to develop the new areas of the park.

Always touted as a park that's ideal for birding and photographing waterfowl, Otto said having a refuge will increase opportunities for people to "get good shots of waterfowl."

Having ownership of an entire island opens up the potential for a camping site or picnic area to be developed there. Access would be by boat or canoe.

The 44 acres of dry land is located on the southeast corner of West Sunburg Lake. It is not connected by land to the existing park but can be accessed by boat or from a path off of the Kandi-Swift Road that divides West and East Sunburg Lakes.

The thickly-wooded area is home to many native flowers, said Otto. Hiking trails may eventually wind through the area. "For the nature lover and the photographer, we'll have more to offer them," he said.

The purchase also includes an existing cabin that could be remodeled and rented to campers in future years.

None of those potential developments will happen anytime soon. Additional funding will be needed to make any of that happen, he said.

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TIDBITS:

History of the park

Prior to the purchase this summer, Monson Lake State Park included 187 acres of land and water.

The park was established in 1923 as a memorial to 13 people from the West Lake Settlement who were killed there in the 1862 U.S.-Dakota Conflict.

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Monson Lake camping season is extended for 2009

Camping at Monson Lake State Park usually closes for the summer after the Labor Day weekend.

This year the state made a last-minute decision to allow the park, located near Sunburg between Monson Lake and West Sunburg Lake, to remain open for camping this fall.

Park Manager Paul Otto said he was notified of the decision last week. It's expected to be open to campers through October.

For questions about Monson Lake State Park call 320-354-2055.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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