Beach's fate goes to CapitolWith wind chills plunging to 30 below or more, it’s odd to be talking about a beach. But it’s a hot topic – at least for the moment.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
With wind chills plunging to 30 below or more, it’s odd to be talking about a beach.
But it’s a hot topic – at least for the moment.
A bill was set to be heard at the Capitol yesterday, Thursday, that could possibly result in the closing of a popular Alexandria public beach on Lake L’Homme Dieu.
Beach goers, however, can take comfort in this: Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, who chairs a committee that will consider the legislation, has told beach supporters that he will not support the bill.
Here’s some background on the complex legal maneuverings about the beach:
The beach is located on a right of way easement acquired in 1957 by the Minnesota Department of Transportation for Trunk Highway 29.
Initially constructed as a wayside rest, the property quickly became popular as a swimming spot.
In 1992, Douglas County entered into a 20-year lease agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to improve and operate the facility as a public swimming beach.
With assistance from the Alexandria Golden K Kiwanis Club, the property was rebuilt with new restrooms, parking lots and beach area.
In 2005, a developer, Dennis Larson and his brother purchased about 1,700 feet of L’Homme Dieu lakeshore, starting at Lake L’Homme Dieu Villas and extending 400 feet north of the L’Homme Dieu/Geneva channel.
A land survey of the property showed that the stairway leading to the lake wasn’t actually on the property the Larsons owned. The stairway was instead located on a triangular piece of property that, since 1956, had a permanent state transportation easement on it.
Larson sued the state and county to discharge the existing easement in 2008.
A district court, the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court all ruled for the state and the county in preserving the existing easement upon which Lake L’Homme Dieu Beach is located.
Larson’s local DFL legislator, State Senator Gary Kubly of Granite Falls, introduced Senate File 229 this year to allow the partial discharge of easements.
If the bill is enacted, it would allow Larson to once again apply to the courts to order the discharge of the easement on which the beach is located if it is not being used for the purpose for which it was originally acquired.
Larson contends the easement was acquired for the construction of Highway 29 and that the portion of the property/easement used as a wayside rest and beach is not in keeping with the purpose for which the easement was originally acquired and thus should be discharged.
If the easement upon which the beach is located were to be discharged, Larson would own the property without the easement’s current restrictions and would control its use.
Public access to the beach could legally be denied once the county’s existing lease/permit expires, according to Keith Carlson with the Minnesota Inter-County Association in St. Paul.
The non-profit association represents 13 growing or urban counties in Minnesota, helping them plan and implement projects and programs. It doesn’t represent Douglas County but it is interested in the outcome of this issue because it could impact easement agreements in other areas involving the state, counties, townships and cities, Carlson said.
Senate File 229, was scheduled to be heard Thursday, February 10 at 1 p.m. in Room 15 of the State Capitol in St. Paul – after this issue of the newspaper went to press.
Watch the Echo Press for a follow-up story about what happened.