WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County has a park system to be proud of, with hundreds of camp sites, lakes full of fish and countless opportunities for outdoor recreation.
In an effort to keep the park system at a high standard, and improve upon it, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved the creation of a parks master plan to cover all six of the county's parks.
The master plan project was approved in July 2018, at a cost of $30,000. The completed plan was presented at Tuesday's meeting and accepted by the board.
"It went extremely well," said Matthew Johnson, community planning and development director with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission.
Mid-Minnesota and Wenck Associates worked in partnership to create the plan at the county's request. The plan process included gathering input from county staff, park managers and the public who use the parks, along with park surveys and tours. A County Parks Plan Task Force made up of citizens, county staff, commissioners and park managers also helped with the process.
"This greatly exceeded what my expectations were," said Commissioner Harlan Madsen, who served on the task force. "I learned a tremendous amount."
The estimated costs for all the projects in the plan is approximately $8.5 million. In addition to budgeted county dollars for the projects, Johnson said other funding opportunities could include establishing an adopt-a-park program and applying for grants.
"There are billions of dollars left on the table due to the lack of grant writing," Johnson said.
The master plan is intended to help guide decision-making for the parks system for the next 20 years. It includes improvements that should be completed in the short term and others that can potentially wait until after 2030.
"You have a road map here you can turn to on an annual basis," Johnson said.
What is clear is the county will have to keep on top of the parks and do improvements on a regular basis if it wants to create what the plan says is possible.
"This is going to take a managed approach. I strongly recommended, as tough as it may be, keep working on this list," said Johnson. "You are going to have to invest in this on an annual basis as much as possible."
Each park was individually reviewed and the plan includes a list of potential projects for the parks, based on feedback gathered during the planning process.
"Each park is very unique," said Lucius Jonett, landscape architect with Wenck Associates.
The top priorities at Diamond Lake, for example, are to update the electric hookups to camp sites, install larger pads for campers, improve the boat launch and add a county trail in the future.
The plan lists improving the bathhouse, constructing camper cabins, remodeling the camp store and improving pedestrian movement as top projects at Big Kandi East.
The plan also reviewed Saulsbury Beach on Green Lake, which is owned by both the county and the city of Spicer. That park's priority list includes overall beach improvements and increased maintenance, additional park programming and enhancements to the beach. What is really needed for the beach is someone to support it.
"Find a champion to take charge," Johnson said. "To put some life back into it."
While each park has room for improvement and the plan might seem very overwhelming, Jonett said the county has a great foundation to build upon.
"The park system is very strong and well-appreciated," Jonett said.