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Board will pursue licensing from the Health Dept. for Renville Co. parks

OLIVIA — While expressing concerns about the potential costs, the Renville County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to pursue licensing from the Department of Health for overnight camping in county parks along the Minnesota River.

Parks with more than five overnight camping sites must meet a variety of health requirements, including the availability of potable water and approved sanitary systems. The county learned last year of the requirements and the fact that some of the parks were not in compliance, mainly due to the lack of potable water.

The resolution approved by the full board allows the county to pursue licensing, but it states that the county cannot make any expenditure for the needed upgrades until it is known whether the Department of Health will provide variances needed to license the parks. Jill Bruns, director of Renville County Public Health, told the commissioners that plans for the park improvements would be reviewed and the county would be informed whether variances would be provided.

Bruns and Dave Distad, health inspector with Kandiyohi-Renville Public Health, told the commissioners that they believed variances could be obtained. Bruns told the commissioners that the intent was “to work together” to help the county meet the licensing requirements.

Erickson said he believes the parks will need two variances. It’s not likely that a well or water source can be developed within 400 feet of campsites, as required. The parks currently allow rustic camping and users enjoy flexibility in where they pitch tents.

And, the county currently schedules once-a-week pickups for garbage and not twice a week as required. The majority of camping occurs on weekends, and once weekly pickup is more than sufficient to handle the refuse, he explained.

The other issue involving licensing the parks is the fact that they are located in a floodplain due to the fact they are along the Minnesota River. The health regulations discourage camping in floodplain areas.

It will cost the county an estimated $71,800 in the next two years to make the improvements needed for licensing, according to a capital improvement budget proposed by Erickson. He said many of the improvements were already being planned, but would likely have been completed over the next four or five years rather than two.

It was noted in discussions that the proposed budget is an estimate, and that developing wells or other work could prove more costly than expected.

Tom Cherveny

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

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