MORTON -- Developing what could become a new model for how recreational opportunities and conservation should be approached in the Minnesota River Valley in Renville and Redwood counties is moving along like the river right now, slow but still on course.
A 12-member citizens committee appointed by Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr has been working since the start of August in hopes of proposing recommendations to the commissioner that could ultimately be applied statewide. The 12-member group is looking at how existing rules governing public lands could be adapted to support a shared landscape approach - or allowing multiple recreational uses - in the river valley.
At its meeting on Wednesday in Morton, the committee members identified their main vision areas, but were not yet able to develop goals or the details of how to accomplish them. Cathi Fouchi, planner with the Minnesota DNR in New Ulm, noted that committee members feel the process is going slower than many would like, but she also pointed out the importance of a deliberate approach. Committee members are aiming to have recommendations ready by mid-November.
A list of seven topics emerged as the primary vision for the committee. The committee members expressed support for efforts to preserve the unique resources of the valley; promote local partnerships and input involving local citizens, state and local governmental units; and emphasizing the economic opportunities of recreation and agriculture. They also support ways to compensate landowners and better accommodate the use of private lands for recreation; improve water and soil quality; and finding innovative opportunities for cooperation among public entities and private landowners.
The committee is deliberately focusing on the valley between the Upper Sioux Agency State Park in rural Granite Falls and Fort Ridgely State Park in rural Fairfax. State Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, and State Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, participated in Wednesday's session, and State Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, attended an earlier meeting. Recommendations that go to the commissioner may ultimately make their way to the Legislature.