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Kandiyohi County seeks public input on park system needs

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Games Lake County Park, one of seven public parks in the Kandiyohi County park system. West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — The public will have their chance to be heard this week on future needs and priorities for the Kandiyohi County park system.

An open house will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building to give people an opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions and input before the final draft of the plan is written.

"It's going to be an open process for people to weigh in on what they want to see," said Matt Johnson, community development director with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission.

The County Board of Commissioners launched an effort last year to evaluate the county park system, identify current and future needs and develop a road map for the future. It is the first time Kandiyohi County has tackled a master plan for its park system.

In the months since the process began, one thing has been clear, Johnson said. "People really are passionate about the parks here."

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An online survey conducted earlier this summer drew more than 350 responses that were overwhelmingly positive, he said. "It's been fantastic. People are supportive of this."

The Mid-Minnesota Development Commission is jointly developing the master plan with Wenck and Associates of Maple Plain.

The county owns and operates five parks with campgrounds and swimming beaches: Big Kandiyohi Lake East, Big Kandiyohi Lake West, Diamond Lake, Games Lake and Green Lake. Two smaller parks are located at Saulsbury Beach in Spicer and on Lake Carrie south of Atwater.

The consultants have visited each park, inventoried the assets and conducted an assessment of both short-term and long-term needs, Johnson said.

Aerial maps of each park, along with summaries of the comments already received, will be available at the open house Thursday for people to view. A brief presentation is scheduled at 4 p.m., but most of the event will be devoted to conversation with the public, Johnson said.

A draft plan that incorporates input from the public should be ready sometime this fall, he said. The consultants also are developing cost estimates for proposed improvements such as shoreland restoration, construction of new bath houses and retrofitting electrical systems to accommodate present-day camping rigs.

Tourism is second only to agriculture as a contributor to the Kandiyohi County economy, and a viable park system increasingly is seen as a draw not only for visitors but also for new residents looking for a place to live and work with access to outdoor amenities.

"It's good economic development. It's about quality of life," Johnson said. "Kandiyohi County really is doing a lot of things right."

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