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Lake Elmo Reserve plan seeks approval from Met Council

With few questions from Washington County officials, a revised Lake Elmo Park Reserve Plan was approved last week and is on its way to the Metropolitan Council for approval.

Plans to revise and amend the park plan, originally done in 1978, have been in the works for a year after the county hired Sanders Wacker Bergly Inc. to assist in compiling them.

While the million visitors each year to the 2,165-acre park will not have much concern, the designation of "Park Reserve" is staying.

County parks officials were hoping to change it to "Regional Park" so the county would be eligible for more funding for amenities.

That idea got a cold shoulder from the public, city and others because the change, as defined by the Metropolitan Council, indicates a more fully developed park, even though this year's plan indicates the amount of development will go from 7 percent to 9 percent with no further development planned.

The original plan called for 170 campsites, but only 100 have been developed with only 20 additional sites in the new plan. Hike-in campsites have been expanded from five to seven, though none were in the original plan. Reservation picnic areas remain the same.

Those sites with 20-amp electrical service will be upgraded to 50 amps because today's campers have more electrical needs, according to Parks Director Jim Luger.

The 1978 plan envisioned 45 boat launch sites, but only 20 have been installed and no additional sites planned because that is the number set by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Luger said.

County Board Member Gary Kriesel asked if a person could launch a boat, have someone take the trailer home, and use a cell phone to get someone to bring back a trailer to pick up the boat.

"We don't encourage it," said Luger, adding that 20 sites are the maximum number of motorized boats allowed on the lake.

An additional fishing pier will be added with access for handicapped people.

"I really want to make the park totally accessible," said Board Member Myra Peterson.

She said kiosks should have Braille and audio recordings for people who are blind or deaf. "There must be some special grants somewhere," she said.

The park has one archery target range and one field archery range will be added.

A nature center is still in the plan and an additional amphitheater for programs is in the plan.

A children's farm, off-leash dog park and disc golf have been dropped.

Under proposed development, low-voltage lights will be added to cross country ski trails so they can be skied at night and a hard-surface trail is proposed around Lake Elmo. Lugar said something could be worked out to provide another trail around the lake for cross country skiers.

There are no changes in horse trails in the park.

Residents around the park, several years ago, asked the County Board to let them have access to the park without using the main entrance. The new plan has five entry points and a tunnel is proposed under Highway 5 on the north end of the park.

Lake Elmo officials are concerned about the milfoil, a non-native plant choking several metropolitan area lakes. Board members said the issue would be addressed.

Prairie restoration will continue. Much of the park is still farmland, but all the farmsteads have been removed. About 40 acres have been planted with native prairie grasses, according to Luger.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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