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Renville County OKs Minnesota River master plan

OLIVIA — Renville and Redwood counties are creating a standing committee to promote recreational opportunities in the 65-mile-long corridor of the Minnesota River they share.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday approved creation of the committee and approved a conservation master plan for the corridor. The Redwood County Board of Commissioners was expected to approve the same at its meeting.

The two counties developed the master plan while working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and holding public meetings during 2016 and 2017. The plan aims to develop a wide range of recreational opportunities, including the possibility of a trail network linking parks and communities in the corridor.

The two-county approach to developing the corridor is considered unique.

The commission will include representatives from each county. Renville County will appoint two members of its Parks and Trails Commission, its economic development director, parks manager, environmental services director, and a county commissioner to the committee.

Adopting the master plan and creating the committee will aid the counties in efforts to have existing county parks in the corridor designated as regional parks. That makes it possible to obtain state and federal grant funds.

Having the committee is also seen as a means of promoting projects, such as trails, that can take many years to achieve.

The committee can recommend action, but each county board of commissioners retains authority over all decisions and funding.

Prior to approving the action Tuesday, the Renville County Commissioners asked for assurances that the master plan and the committee will respect private property in the corridor. They also questioned why a corridor of two miles in width was being established.

Board chairman Bob Fox said the two-mile width was adopted to take in all of the county parks along the Minnesota. He noted that Birch Coulee County Park, for example, is located in the corridor but not directly along the Minnesota River.

Fox said the committee has no authority to acquire private lands within the corridor. Commissioner John Stahl said that any land that might be used as part of a trail would have to be obtained through an easement or purchase from a willing landowner.

Tom Cherveny

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

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