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Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center looks to expand to the shore of Lake Florida

With help from Pheasants Forever, and approval from the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center will be moving forward with the purchase of approximately nine acres of undeveloped shoreline of Lake Florida.

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The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioner gave their permission for the Prairie Wood Environmental Learning Center to move forward with the purchase of 10 acres of undeveloped shoreline on Lake Florida. Adding the acreage to PWELC has long been in the plans. Tom Cherveny file photo/West Central Tribune

SPICER — The Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center is getting close to achieving a years-long dream — adding the last bit of undeveloped shoreline of Lake Florida to its 500-acre natural wonderland.

Before the purchase can move forward, the center's board needed the approval of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners , which is a requirement of a grant being used to fund the land acquisition.

Scott Glup, Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center board vice president, attended the March 16 Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners meeting to ask for that approval, which was given unanimously.

"It is looking very hopeful and I think this is a great addition," said County Commissioner Roger Imdieke.

Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center offers a wide range of educational and recreational opportunities across its campus in rural Spicer. Its facilities are also available for rent. Glup said the center, in a normal year, serves around 30,000 people, from school groups to families out for a hike.

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"There is a lot going on at Prairie Woods," Glup said.

The coronavirus pandemic hit the center hard, as much of its 2020 programming was canceled and rentals dried up.

"This past year has been really tough on us," Grup said.

So, the purchase of the approximately 9- to 10-acre tract of land is some good news for the center. The land is located on the northern edge of the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center and is the bottom hump of the lake's shoreline.

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The Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center hopes to purchase the shaded area from two different landowners, approximately nine acres. This is the last undeveloped stretch of shoreline on Lake Florida. Map from Kandiyohi County GIS.

The purchase wouldn't be possible without the help of Pheasants Forever, which applied for the grant. The group will purchase the land with the grant funds and then donate the acreage to Prairie Woods. The grant is from the Conservation Partners Legacy program, through the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which is funded through the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund.

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There is already a purchase agreement with one of the landowners, with an agreement soon to be completed with the second owner.

"We are getting close," Glup said.

Once the land is acquired, it will be the cumulation of years of work. County Administrator Larry Kleindl said one of the first conversations he had when he became the interim administrator was about this land.

"I think I've gone through three county attorneys trying to work out the magic to make this happen," Kleindl said.

The land purchase is just the latest in a long history of cooperation between the county and Prairie Woods. The county was instrumental in creating the center back in 1992.

"The county played a huge role in Prairie Woods," Glup said. "It was a number of folks that came together to make Prairie Woods happen."

The County Board remains a partner and thanked those who made the land purchase possible.

"There is strong support on the County Board today as well," said Commissioner Corky Berg.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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