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Online registration for Kandiyohi County parks to be tested in 2011

WILLMAR -- A pilot project next year will test the viability of allowing people to register at Kandiyohi County parks on the Web.

If the online reservation system works and is expanded to the rest of the county's five parks that have overnight camping, it could make it easier for visitors to find available sites and enhance their overall experience, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl. "It gives some flexibility for people to come here."

The pilot project will be tried at County Park 5, located on Green Lake.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners heard about the plan Tuesday during a meeting with park managers.

There are still some kinks to work out before it will be ready to be tested next year, said Scott Hovland, who works with the county's information systems.

But he said an online reservation system will "give some more tools to our citizens" to see what's available at the county parks from the comfort of their own homes without having to call each park to find out what sites are available on the days they want to be there.

In a demonstration of the website, Hovland said maps would be available that show where each campsite is located at each park, and lists would detail all of the amenities and the available dates of each site. It would even provide information about whether each site has full sun or partial sun and proximity to the lake or restrooms.

Park managers would also be able to process refunds and take care of other camp business through the online system.

It would also allow the county to have a good way to track usage of the parks.

Because the county currently has a website, Kleindl said the startup costs to implement the reservation system would be minimal.

There was a consensus that the county would provide the camp managers with the computers they would need once the online system is running, which may not be until 2012.

Kleindl said it's necessary for the county to move to this technology to match the practices used by younger people who make transactions online on a daily basis.

Bringing wood with the emerald ash borer from one part of the county to the other is "just as dangerous" a threat as the zebra mussel is to area lakes, said Commissioner Dennis Peterson.

The park managers were also advised to educate visitors about the importance of draining water from boats so that the water doesn't go back into the lake, in an effort to stop the spread of zebra mussels.

In other action Tuesday:

- There will be no fee increase at any of the parks for 2011; however, an early bird special rate in the off-season was eliminated because it was not greatly utilized and was confusing.

- In response to complaints and concerns for safety, it was agreed that the parks that do allow visitors to use golf carts would implement an 8 p.m. cut-off time. No one under 16 can drive them and all drinking and driving regulations must be adhered to. Violations could result in the elimination of golf cart usage except for individuals with disabilities or other medical condition. Parks that currently ban golf carts will continue that ban.

- The board approved contracts between the county and park managers than spell out the responsibilities of each party. This is the first time contracts have been put in place. They go into effect Jan. 1.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750