Newest county park to take shape this summer
Douglas County’s quest for a 142-acre lakeside park is closer to coming together.
The new Lake Brophy Park is located along the north end of Lake Brophy, west of Alexandria.
It’s a piece of land that features high hills, gorgeous lakeside areas, quiet secluded spots, big open fields, access to the Central Lakes Trail and limitless possibilities.
It’s the first park to be added to the county park system since 1990. Plus, since Douglas County began operating parks in 1972, there hasn’t been an opportunity for the county to acquire lakeside property like this.
LAST PIECES TO BE ACQUIRED
Over the last five years, the county has acquired Lake Brophy Park acreage. The final phase is reportedly under way. Grant funds will be used to buy the land in phase III.
There are two parts to the final phase:
● Part 1 (56.75 acres): This is the northernmost tract of land and will provide access to Centennial Drive, which will connect the park to a residential area on the north side of the city of Alexandria. It was noted that this tract also contains some of the largest open areas, which could make development of large scale use areas simpler and less expensive.
● Part 2 (5.91 acres): This tract adjoins the public water access for Lake Brophy and includes about 1.5 acres of upland adjacent to Lake Brophy shoreline. It was noted in the grant application: “Lakeside property of this quality and elevation is very seldom available for public use in Douglas County.”
Phase I of the park land acquisition included 33 acres purchased in 2011 for $500,000, which was funded with grants and private funding.
Phase II included 40 acres purchased in 2012 for $667,000, which was funded with grants and private funding.
Wayne and Gloria Lee reportedly provided the local share of matching funds for phases I and II; a total of about $300,000.
Al Lieffort, Douglas County parks superintendent, said, “The Lees were committed to making this property into a park and they were very generous with the county.”
ABOUT THE PARK
Lieffort said there aren’t plans yet for a groundbreaking, but some sort of park development could begin as soon as this summer.
“We will begin by getting access for people to get into the park by constructing some sort of roadway system and some sort of visitors center,” he said. “Getting some sort of restroom facility and parking area out there is a high priority for us.”
Once the county finalizes the land acquisition, the parks department will move ahead and prepare a master plan for Lake Brophy Park.
Lieffort said, “Right now, it’s like a blank blackboard – there are so many things it could be used for. With a park this size, it’s important we provide for a wide mix of uses out there. We want to be careful to prepare the park so that as outdoor recreation trends change over next few years, we can incorporate them into this area.”
There are no definite plans for the park yet, but several ideas for the space have been floated around the parks department office, Lieffort said. Things like a large parking and restroom area for snowmobilers to start and end trips on the Central Lakes Trail, mountain bike trails, primitive tent sites for bike-riding trail users, lakeside activity space and more.
“It’s reasonable with a park this size that we keep plenty of space available to shift and modify to respond to the needs that people have,” Lieffort said.
There’s also reportedly an opportunity to partner with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to expand parking at the existing public water access on Lake Brophy.
ISN’T THERE ALREADY A BROPHY PARK?
Currently, Brophy Park is located on a bluff overlooking the west side of Lake Brophy, along County Road 82.
To try and avoid confusion, there are plans under way to change the existing Brophy Park to Lake Brophy Wayside, Lieffort explained.
The name change is subject to county board approval.
DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY LOST?
Has the county taken away development opportunity by buying up 142 acres of land near Lake Brophy?
Lieffort said, “We did have that discussion with township officers who were quite concerned that they were losing tax base.”
However, Lieffort said, there are several residential development properties and opportunities nearby.
“Yes, the park could have been developed residential, but more likely, it’s going to make the already subdivided properties quite a bit more valuable because there will be this large outdoor recreation area nearby,” he said. “It’s likely the township will benefit from that. Those values will go up because of this park, I believe.”
LAKE BROPHY PARK WAS FIVE-YEAR, THREE-PHASE PROJECT
Phase I - DONE
•33 acres bordering north end of Lakes Brophy and North Union and Central Lakes Trail
•Purchased in 2011 for $500,000, funded with grants and private funding.
Phase II - DONE
•40 acres bordering north side of Lake Brophy and Central Lakes Trail
•Purchased in 2012 for $667,000, funded with grants and private funding.
Phase III - PENDING
•56 acres bordering Centennial Drive and 6 acres adjoining public water access
•Purchased in 2014 for $397,000, funded with grants.