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Funding helps Swift County, Minn., assure OHV park

APPLETON — There is optimism in Appleton that the popular off-highway vehicle park could become a long-term fixture of the local economy.

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Swift County recently learned that its applications for grant funds were awarded to purchase land now being leased for the Appleton Area Recreational Off Highway Vehicle Park, according to Mike Johnson, supervisor of parks and drainage for the county.

The park includes roughly 321 acres. It was originally developed in 2004 on 102 acres of county-owned park land just outside of Appleton.

It was expanded one year later when the county began leasing roughly 219 acres of adjoining lands from two private landowners.

The grant funds are to be used for acquiring the lands now leased for the park to assure its long-term use as an off-highway vehicle park, explained Johnson.  

The state is currently reviewing an appraisal of the lands. Once that is complete, the county can begin negotiations with the two private landowners.

The county has separate leases with the landowners that extend into 2016. The land was once part of a gravel pit, and is ideal for its use as an off-highway vehicle park, he noted.  

The Swift County park is one of the only OHV parks in southern Minnesota, and has proven popular since its opening. A survey of users conducted last summer by the Center for Small Towns with the University of Minnesota, Morris, identified the park’s economic benefits to the Appleton area, and its widespread appeal. The survey found that park users were coming from much of Minnesota, including the metro area, and also parts of eastern South Dakota.

Johnson said many people realize the economic benefits of the park, and noted that they extend beyond Appleton. Since many park users come from a distance, it’s not uncommon to see them with their rigs buying gas or stopping at restaurants and businesses in other communities along the roads to Appleton, he noted.

All-terrain vehicles have become very popular in Minnesota. ATV registrations now exceed snowmobile registrations, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Tom Cherveny

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

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