Recent survey collects 202 responses

Contributed photos
The Wannigan Regional Park Master Plan includes scenic renderings of how the Otter Tail River may be used.

By Barbie Porter

Editor 

Frazee’s Park and Recreation Committee learned about the proposed regional park at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 2.

Denise Anderson attended the meeting on behalf of the park members, as did Ashley Renollet. 

The park concept began in July 2017. The former land owner, Mark Kelly, put his property up for sale. Talk began about utilizing the property for a regional park. The land offers rolling hills, meandering banks along the Otter Tail River and the locally-famous covered bridge.  At the time, the land was being sold for $600,000.

However, funds were not gathered and parcels of the property went to auction. The majority of the land was sold to Greg Ness. He learned about the regional park plan in February of 2019 and made a generous offer. Ness announced he would put the 172-acres of land in a trust for the park board to purchase. He said he would keep the land in the trust, providing that progress was made in making the regional park a reality.

Contributed photo
The Wannigan Regional Park Master Plan includes an amphitheater with naturally tiered seating on a hill.

Anderson dove into the details and differences between the Wannigan Park Board and the Frazee Community Development Corporation (FCDC).

A regional park committee dug into the finer details of what would need to be done to obtain potential funding, such as the Legacy Funds. Legacy dollars are collected through state taxes to maintain and support parks, trails and so forth.

The park committee also found interested parties at the National Park Service, who provided an advisor to help direct the committee. 

“It has been impressive working with the National Park Service. They are a big entity with specialized expertise in this area.”

Ashley Renollet

The NPS also provided funding so students at North Dakota State University could be hired to create an amenity plan for the park.

As the preliminary master plan was being created the park committee connected with the city of Frazee, Becker County and Burlington Township. All of which signed a letter of support for the project.

The park board finished the preliminary master plan and sent it to the Greater Minnesota National Park Service in August of 2021. The plan received a high ranking, which indicates funding assistance is likely.

Around that time, the FCDC finished paying off the Frazee Event Center. The non-profit organization formed to help fundraise for the community building, then purchased the land and built the facility. The agreement the FCDC had with the city was to turn the deed over, once the building was paid in full. 

After closing the book on the event center, the FCDC teamed up with the park committee. Anderson explained the two entities are different, but all members share the same non-paid, all volunteer titles. 

When the FCDC joined the regional park project it gave donors a tax-deduction, and provided the park committee with a group that has knowledge on fundraising. Meanwhile, the park board continues to work on the park’s final master plan, which was recently completed. 

The estimated costs in the plan, which was dated Feb. 2, calls for $2.9 million. That price would include installation of an entrance road, water and sewer utility extension, creating short-term RV sites, as well as a tent and group camping area, multi use paved trails extending three miles, two miles of natural surface trails, signs, two large picnic shelters with 12 large tables each, two small shelters with up to four tables, eight moveable picnic tables, a canoe launch area and trail head areas.

The plan for an amphitheater including a stage, seating and parking would add $875,350. An interpretive center came with an estimated to cost of $2.47 million. There was also a cost of $30,000 associated with moving the 1836 house on-site.

The master plan also showed scaled-back version for potential campsites. Anderson explained the group settled on 49 campsites with a two-week stay limit. Of those, nine would be for tents, one would be a group site and one would be for a host couple. The remainder would be for RVs. 

Anderson learned a few lessons about good management of similar facilities after hitting the road with her husband last summer. She said many of the campgrounds she stayed at had a host couple, which essentially managed the facilities and were eyes on the ground.

Renollet added that state parks have waiting lists where interested parties want to be host couples. In casual conversation, she said interest was expressed from local people wanting to fill that role.

“It’s been a lengthy project and  a long process that has  been thought out.”

Ashely Renollet

Anderson divulged the FCDC already has donations being made, even with no solicitation from fundraising campaign.

Frazee City Administrator Jordin Roberts said a recent survey about what potential visitors of the park are most interested in recently concluded. She reported 202 responses, with many writing in notes. Roberts will compile the comments and survey results for future review.

Anderson said she wants the park to be a “first class major attraction to the area and city.”

Councilman Mark Flemmer, who is also on the park board, thanked the group for the work they have done.

Anderson added the group would also like to assist the city with improvements to other parks in the community. She said a park clean-up day was being planned, and funds  were being raised to make improvements to the bathrooms at Lions Park, as well as replacing the steps down to the Otter Tail River.