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Spiffin' up Runestone Park

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News Alexandria, 56308
Echo Press
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Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

In 1972, the 305-acre Kensington Runestone Park was established by Douglas County.

Now, nearly 40 years later, the park will undergo some significant changes and major improvements.

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"It's a grandiose plan," Al Lieffort told the commissioners at last week's Douglas County Board meeting.

Lieffort, Douglas County parks superintendent, along with Veronica Anderson from Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH, Inc.), a firm of engineers, architects, planners and scientists, presented a schematic design report for Kensington Runestone Park to the commissioners.

Anderson explained that the commissioners adopted a park master plan back in 2006 and that the schematic design is just the next stage in the design process and that it provides a greater level of design detail.

The next steps will be to procure funding, prioritize the schematic design elements, phase in the construction stages and then come up with a final design and construction documents, according to Anderson.

Lieffort said that most of the funding for the project, which is estimated at $691,062, would come from grants, specifically the Legacy Fund. He added that the local share of the Legacy grant would come from county park division labor.

He said one thing to keep in mind is that the total cost of the project depends on how much would be built and how it would be split into different phases/stages.

"It is unlikely we could tackle all of this in one project," said Lieffort.

Commissioner Jerry Johnson noted that he's heard some resistance from residents in the Kensington area about moving the entrance to the park.

Lieffort told Johnson that for right now, the only step the county is taking is to finish the restoration project on the Ohman house, which is part of the original farmstead, where the Kensington Runestone was found.

However, as part of the schematic design, the public access to the park would be changed, as well as how the park would be used by the public.

A new entry road from County Road 103 could be located approximately 850 feet from the current entry road. The design report noted that although the current access to the park from County Road 103 is good, the arrival sequence is not clearly defined. This is due in part to a collection of structures and artifacts that are not original to the site and seem to be randomly sited.

While talking to the commissioners, Anderson said that there is not a strong sense that Kensington Runestone Park is a historic site but rather just a mix of amenities found in a typical county park.

Commissioner Bev Bales asked about how the changes would affect the park and if there would be a need for attendants at the park or if the county would be charging a fee.

Lieffort assured Bales that there is no plan to have the park manned by attendants nor will the county start charging a fee to visit the park.

Bales noted that she is in full support of the project.

OTHER ADDITIONS TO THE PARK

According to the schematic design, a system of trails will be repaired and in some cases constructed to create a trail network that accommodates a range of activities for a variety of users with varying degrees of mobility.

Interpretation will be woven into the recreational network, as well, and could include signs, self-guided tours, audio tour, brochures and maybe an interpretive video.

A new 2,100 square-foot picnic shelter would be constructed and provide both indoor and outdoor picnic areas. The inside picnic area could accommodate four eight-person tables and the outside area would accommodate two eight-person tables and two six-person tables.

The picnic shelter would include both men's and women's restrooms, which would be accessible from inside or outside the building.

In addition, the picnic shelter would include a small, but efficient, kitchenette with a sink, stove top, refrigerator, closet and counter space.

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