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OHV park a step closer to reality in Renville County, Minn.

OLIVIA -- By a 3-2 vote, the Renville County Board of Commissioners continued steps toward the possible development of an off-highway vehicle park near the Minnesota River.

The vote on Tuesday allowed the county to meet a deadline that day and submit an application for $150,000 in federal recreation grant monies toward the park's development.

Supporters and opponents watched as the commissioners continued discussions on the proposal. Commissioners Ralph Novotny and John Stahl voted against the grant application, while LaMont Jacobson, Bob Fox and Paul Setzepfandt voted yes.

Stahl voiced concerns about developing the park in a fragile area near the river and noted that a number of neighboring landowners oppose it. He also expressed concerns about applying for grant funds when all of the environmental work and issues have not been aired. It could put the county in the same position as a few years ago when it was awarded grant funds for an off-highway vehicle park, but declined them in response to opposition to it.

The county is looking at developing a $1.3 million park east of the Enestvedt Seed Farm along Renville County Road 15. Property owners have previously indicated a willingness to sell adjoining parcels of 157 acres and 115 acres in sections 22 and 23 of Sacred Heart Township.

Parts of the land include exhausted gravel pits.

The county is optimistic of obtaining state and federal grant funds for most of the project costs. Setzepfandt said the county's contribution should not exceed 10 percent of overall costs.

The county has met with the state for grant-in-aid funds. If the federal grant is awarded, the county will still need to apply in September approximately for $500,000 in Legacy Amendment funding from the state, according to Mark Erickson, director environment and community development for the county.

The Minnesota Valley Riders ATV Club has been recruiting support for the park, and is pledging $5,000 toward matching the federal grant, according to Erickson.

"They've done a lot of leg work to get this application where it is today,'' he said.

The grant application includes 34 letters of support for the park, including 23 from businesses in the area.

Erickson told the commissioners that recent assessments increased the value of the land sought for the park by 25 percent. It is now estimated that it will cost $727,600 to purchase the land needed.

He said the county could stay within the proposed $1.3 million budget. The park would be developed in phases, and some work could be postponed or deleted.

He told the commissioners that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has developed a preliminary plan for the park. The county also intends to work with Mary Vogel of the University of Minnesota's School of Landscape Architecture for final design work.

Tom Cherveny

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

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