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Renville Co., Minn., will pursue funding for off-highway vehicle park

OLIVIA -- Renville County will continue to pursue the development of an off-highway vehicle park that is opposed by neighboring landowners, but supported by an all-terrain vehicle club and the Sacred Heart Township board of supervisors.The Renvil...

OLIVIA - Renville County will continue to pursue the development of an off-highway vehicle park that is opposed by neighboring landowners, but supported by an all-terrain vehicle club and the Sacred Heart Township board of supervisors.
The Renville County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to apply for $147,500 in federal trail recreation grant funds toward the park. If approved, the county, the Minnesota Valley ATV Riders Club, and the Renville County Economic Development Authority would also contribute $40,000 toward a $187,500 total. Of the $40,000, the county would provide $25,000 worth of materials; the Minnesota Valley ATV Riders $10,000; and the Renville County HRA/EDA $5,000.
The funds would be added to a 2012 federal trails recreation grant of just over $120,000 already awarded to the county.
The funds from the two grants would be used to design and construct trails for an OHV park, and build fences and other amenities.
Land for the park is still to be acquired.
Mark Erickson, director of environment and community development, said he remains optimistic that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will provide grant-in-aid funds to make possible the purchase of 115 acres. The DNR has cost-share funds to facilitate trail development.
The funding would allow the county to begin a phased development of a park that originally was proposed for a 272-acre area in sections 22 and 23 of Sacred Heart Township.
The county had recently learned that an application for Legacy Amendment funds for land acquisition had not been awarded.
Legacy funds come from the dedicated sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008.
The park’s proposed location has drawn fire from adjacent landowners, who charge that its location in the Minnesota River Valley is in conflict with the natural attributes of the area. They also charge that it is too far from the community of Sacred Heart to provide the economic benefits Renville County expects.
Erickson said the county’s application for funding remains based on the concept of a “shared landscape,’’ and the expectations of economic benefits from multiple recreational activities. The park would be primarily used for off-highway vehicle riding, but would also allow limited hunting opportunities and hiking, he said.
The site being eyed for the park includes exhausted gravel mines. The park could expand over time as adjacent gravel mines are exhausted, Erickson told the commissioners.
The county has had several meetings with DNR officials, and he said it is apparent the department both supports the project and is likely to provide funding toward it.
Erickson told the commissioners the county will take the lead in developing an environmental assessment worksheet for the project. The county’s environmental attorney advised that an environmental assessment worksheet - a screening tool to assess potential harm from a project - would likely be needed since some of the land involved in the proposed second phase is agricultural, he said.
Once a worksheet is completed, there will be opportunities to publicly address the concerns that have been expressed about the project, he added.
Commissioner John Stahl cast the only vote in opposition to the grant application. “I support the ATV club and seeking an off-road site. I support the trails and parks people, but I don’t support this location for the park,’’ said Stahl.

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