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Renville County to seek grant funds for OHV park in Minnesota River Valley

OLIVIA -- As a dozen or more supporters watched, the Renville County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday to apply for Legacy funds to acquire lands for an off-highway vehicle park.

The proposed park would be developed in the Minnesota River Valley on 272 acres of land to be acquired in sections 22 and 23 of Sacred Heart Township.

The vote on Tuesday is a resolution in support of an application for $821,338 in Parks and Trails Legacy monies.

The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue resulting from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment approved by Minnesota voters in 2008.

If awarded to Renville County, the funds would be used to purchase a 157-acre parcel known as the Tufto property, and an adjacent 115-acre parcel known as the Zimmerman property, according to Mark Erickson, director of environment and community development.

The overall cost for the park is estimated at $1.3 million. The county has also applied for $150,000 in federal recreation funds.

The swing vote on the issue belongs to Commissioner Paul Setzepfandt, of Bird Island. "I can always say no later, but I want to see the plans first,'' he said.

Erickson said the design work would begin only if the grant funds are awarded, and if an environmental assessment worksheet did not show a need for a more comprehensive environmental impact statement.

Commissioners LaMont Jacobson, of Sacred Heart Township, and Setzepfandt made the motion to apply for the grants funds and were joined by Chairman Bob Fox, of Franklin, in voting to go forward.

Commissioners Ralph Novotny, of Hector, and John Stahl, of Olivia, voted no.

Stahl said he was concerned about opposition to the park by most of the neighboring landowners.

He pointed out that the county has backed away from two previous proposals for off-highway vehicle parks elsewhere after hearing opposition by neighbors.

He also cited concerns about the fragility of the area to be developed and safety concerns. Stahl said the remote location means that response times by trained emergency medical people would be up to one-half hour.

Erickson said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Mary Vogel, with the University of Minnesota Center for a Changing Landscape, would be responsible for the park's design. He said the DNR has done some preliminary work on it.

The county will learn this winter whether it will be awarded the funds, he added. The county is not obligated to develop the park if the funds are awarded, according to Erickson. It could opt not to accept them if after holding hearings and completing the environmental assessment worksheet it decides the project is not a good situation, he explained.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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