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To build or not to build? Firms will help Renville County decide whether to develop OHV Park

OLIVIA — Has Renville County picked the right location to go forward and develop an off-highway vehicle park?

To help it decide, the county is looking to a Faribault engineering firm and two Western state organizations involved in promoting and developing off-highway vehicle parks.

Mark Erickson, environment and community development director, told the Renville County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the members will be asked next week to approve a two-phase contract worth a potential $126,929 with I + S Group, of Faribault.

The first phase of the contract, at a cost of $60,179, will provide the county with a preliminary design and a recommendation regarding the site so that the county can make a decision on whether to go forward.

The county is proposing to develop a 272-acre site in sections 22 or 23 of Sacred Heart Township in the Minnesota River Valley for the park.

If the county decides not to go forward, it could opt out of the phase two work, at a cost of $66,750, said Erickson.

The contract with I + S Group requires that it retain two organizations to serve as subcontractors.

The first is Great Outdoor Consultants of Fort Collins, Colo., and its director, Drew Stoll. He is a landscape architect and the firm plans and designs OHV parks for a wide range of clients, according to its website.

The other organization is the non-profit foundation National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council of Great Falls, Mont. It is a group of OHV enthusiasts working to promote responsible OHV recreation, according to its website.

The county currently has $100,000 in grant funds from the federal Recreational Trails Program and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant-in-aid program to apply toward the work. Erickson said he is confident the county can obtain additional grant funds for the full cost.

He emphasized that the firms are being retained to help the county make a decision. “Again, none of this is about building anything. This is all about information that you will need to make a decision if you will want this project to be built in the future in Renville County,’’ said Erickson.

The proposal has drawn strong opposition from landowners bordering the site. They have collected a petition opposing the park and succeeded in passing a resolution opposing it during the annual meeting of the Sacred Heart Township board last year.

They charge that development of an off-highway vehicle park at the site conflicts with traditional recreational activities in the area, such as horse riding, hunting, and paddling and fishing on the Minnesota River. They also argue that its remote location means it would not produce the economic benefits that a site close to a community would realize.

 Supporters of the park include the Minnesota Valley ATV Riders. They argue that there is a lack of opportunity to enjoy the popular sport in the area, and that it can both contribute to the local economy while providing a form of recreation desired by many.

Tom Cherveny

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

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