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Counties consider state rec area in Minnesota River Valley

Tribune file photo This file photo shows the Minnesota River along the Renville and Redwood County corridor. Horse riding clubs and the state Department of Natural Resources are interested in development of a state recreation area in that corridor.

OLIVIA — There's interest by horse riding clubs in the Minnesota River Valley to see a state recreation area developed in a part of the river corridor shared by Redwood and Renville counties, but they will need support from the two counties to make that happen.

Scott Refsland, community and environmental services director for Renville County, told the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking support from the counties. Refsland said county support is sought for proposed legislation that would be needed to develop a state recreation area.

There are currently eight state recreation areas in the state, all but the most recent located in northern Minnesota. The most recent, the Greenleaf State Recreation area, consists of 385 acres of hardwoods and prairie along Greenleaf Lake in Meeker County. It offers opportunities for hiking, fishing and hunting.

Refsland said the interest in the Minnesota River corridor is driven by horse riding clubs. They're interested in connecting trails in the corridor, possibly to trails in the Upper Sioux Agency or Fort Ridgely state parks.

Commissioner Greg Snow, of Olivia, said he is aware that State Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, is interested in the possibility of developing a state recreation area in the river valley.

The possibility of developing a state recreation area is one of the top three goals for the Minnesota River Valley master plan which the two counties developed in partnership with the DNR. The two-county committee overseeing the plan, which promotes multi-use recreational opportunities, will be considering the state recreation area proposal, Refsland said.

The commissioners said they would consider the request for support at their upcoming meeting Tuesday, but also expressed some apprehension. Commissioner Randy Kramer said he's already been contacted about the proposal and voiced his concerns. He said he does not want county taxpayers burdened with the long-term costs for maintaining a recreation area.

Commissioner Rick Schmidt said he was concerned the proposal could also bring about the off-highway vehicle controversy all over again. The county had investigated the possibility of developing an OHV park in the river valley south of Sacred Heart. After years of preliminary planning, the project was shelved amid opposition from neighboring landowners.

The commissioners said they would like to see more specific information before they decide whether or not to support the recreation area proposal.

Tom Cherveny

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

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