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Renewable energy, recreation projects eyed for legislation

If the Legislature doesn't act soon, land that's been set aside for a new state park near Litchfield could be lost.

Sen. Steve Dille, said he's going to make every effort to make the Greenleaf State Park a reality.

Although this isn't a year to pass a bonding bill, the Dassel Republican said that when the 2007 session starts Wednesday, he's going to pursue efforts to get money to start buying land for the park.

In 2004, legislation was passed to establish Greenleaf State Park, but so far only $500,000 has been allocated. He said he wants to obtain an additional $1 million so that the state can start to buy land for the park around Greenleaf Lake and Sioux Lake.

The park is located six miles south of Litchfield in Ellsworth Township and would be in an area that hasn't experienced lake development yet, Dille said. Money is needed to buy land now before the landowners get weary of waiting and sell the land for housing development, he said.

Dille said the DFL chairmen of the House and Senate capital investment committees are "friendly" to the proposal. Dille has been named to the Senate committee and Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, is on the House committee.

Creating the park would serve an area that currently doesn't have a state park and would "keep a pristine lake from urban sprawl," said Dille.

Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, and Rep. Aaron Peterson, DFL-Appleton, both say that renewable energy, especially wind energy, is important to their constituents.

"I'd like to kick up the production of renewable energy a couple of notches," said Kubly.

Establishing renewable energy standards in Minnesota is a "big local issue," said Peterson, and community groups are organizing and requesting assistance to purchase wind turbines.

Kubly said providing incentives for community-based renewable energy projects that could reduce Minnesota's purchase of out-of-state energy could provide the "biggest economic jolt we've seen in our lifetime."

Kubly and Peterson said they would also like to see new state buildings incorporate geothermal heating systems. With a 15-year payback on a 30-year system, Kubly said the state could have 15 years of free heat and reduce operating costs in public buildings. A side benefit, said Peterson, is that an Appleton company makes geothermal units.

Peterson and Kubly said efforts are also under way to establish more recreation trails in their districts, including a trail along the Minnesota River Valley that would extend from Big Stone Lake to St. Peter. Getting legislation to approve that project "would be a good thing," said Kubly.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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