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Swift County seeks grant for possible purchase of OHV parkland

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BENSON -- If a federal grant is approved and if local landowners are willing to sell, Swift County might be able to triple the park acreage they own in Appleton and make a popular off-highway park a permanent asset.

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"We're testing the water right now," said Mike Johnson, director of the Swift County Parks, Drainage and Wetlands. "There is nothing set in stone. It's the beginning process of this whole thing."

The county currently owns 102 acres of the Appleton Area Off-Highway Vehicle Park. Another 220 acres is being leased from two landowners under a 10-year agreement.

Because of infrastructure investments the state made in the park, such as shelters, boulder piles and sand dunes, there is interest in purchasing the 220 acres to secure land ownership and make the park permanent, Johnson said.

"The park has been treated very well by the state," he said.

The park is the "first of its kind" in southern Minnesota to offer off-highway vehicle recreation. "It gets a lot of use."

At its meeting Tuesday, the Swift County Board of Commissioners agreed to pursue a federal National Recreations Trails grant that could pay for 35 percent of the purchase. The county could also apply for a state Department of Natural Resources grant that would fund the remaining 65 percent.

The county would carry some of the administrative costs. The federal grant application is due Feb. 28.

An answer isn't expected until this spring and, if approved, money could not be spent until October.

Even if the funding is approved, there is no assurance the two landowners would be willing to sell for the amount of the grant.

Because of the cost of a detailed appraisal, Johnson said an appraisal will not be undertaken unless the grant is approved.

Any preliminary discussion of a deal hinges on getting the federal grant. The next step would be doing a land appraisal and talking to landowners.

In related action, the commissioners agreed to dissolve the existing park board, which was created in 1993. The board had never met, according to Auditor Byron Giese.

The commissioners will take on the duties of the park board.

Local/State

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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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