Public invited to join committee to finalize plan
By Barbie Porter
Wannigan Regional Park received its much anticipated ranking from Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission.
The determination was a make or break for the park plan. If the ranking was low on the funding list for Legacy Funds, it was suggested the more than 170 acres held in a land trust by Greg Ness may go up for sale. However, if a high ranking was returned, progress could continue.
The designation attached to the project is “high.”
The comments with ranking included:
• High: “Plans for restoration and recreation development are good, but do seem ambitious for the community to undertake. The impact on the state water trail use would be positive and the alternative of platting the property would have a negative impact on that resource. I do think it would fill a gap in regional park facilities in the area. I think a high ranking will provide an opportunity to show it can be done.”
• Low: “I could be urged to rank at medium by e-team members, but there was little effort on the part of the application writer to convince me that the land was in danger, that there was a demand for a park, or that water traffic was sufficient to warrant a trail head. Doubling the population in the summer is not impressive to tourist communities that experience much larger population changes.”
• High: “There is a lot to like about this conceptual plan. To me the most important parts are the preservation of the 3/4 mile river frontage and the connection to the varied trails in the area. This area is ripe for a expanded campground to help establish itself as a “trail town” and regional tourist destination. If regional designation is achieved they have a lot of work to do in order for the park to become a destination. In reading the plan, I think the area is ready for it.
• High: “Good trail connections/intersections—good water trail plan. Good public input—good recreational features—good master plan (it will need updating when land and features are added). County-City agreement—good sustainable plan—excellent preservation of open space—meets regional criteria.
• High: “A new park with new acquisition of land and ambitious plans for facilities/amenities equals high costs. There are a variety of natural resources: river, forests, and wetlands accessible from this park. It is important to preserve this natural area from development. Great photos help tell their story.
Hank Ludtke is on the regional park committee that created the proposal that was submitted for ranking of potential Legacy Funds. He said the next step is to complete and submit a qualified master plan. While there is no deadline to complete the plan, he said, as he understood it, the typical plan takes about a year to 18 months.
While the plan is being formed, the group will also began creating a fundraising plan. Ludtke said if the price of the land is above the assessed value, then the committee will need to pay the difference.
“Raising the funds may take time,” he said, noting the asking price for the property is in the $800,000 range.
The Frazee Community Development Corporation is a non-profit organization. The group assisted with the Frazee Event Center, but maintains ownership of the facility.
Lutdke said the ownership, which was agreed upon when the joint effort began, is being switched to the city. He said the partnership with the FCDC in regards to the regional park would be a fundraising outfit, but the FCDC would not have ownership of the park. The ownership would belong to the city and county. The two entities teamed up for the effort and agreed the city of Frazee would take the lead on the project.
Wannigan Regional Park is to be located in Becker County, just north of Frazee. The land of the proposed park includes almost a mile of Otter Tail River frontage. The facility would offer recreational opportunities, including the connection of three trails (Otter Tail River water trail, Heartland connection and North Country Trail). The park plan includes seasonal and nightly camping sights, hiking and biking trails and more.
Anyone interested in joining the committee board for creating the master plan that will be submitted or Legacy funds, or to get involved in potential fundraising efforts, contact Denise Anderson (218) 790-8040 or email email@example.com. A Zoom meeting for the park is also set for Aug. 31 at 1:30 p.m. Any interested persons can attend. To get the meeting information, call or e-mail Anderson.