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County park decision stirs up residents

Chalk it up to confusion, but they're giving it another go.

The Douglas County Board has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, March 31, at 10 a.m. to again consider the Lake Brophy Park Legacy Grant application request.

On March 22, Douglas County Parks Superintendent Al Lieffort asked county commissioners to allow him to apply for Lake Brophy Park grant funding.

Instead, he walked away with a 2-3 vote against submitting the grant application. Commissioners Paul Anderson, Norm Salto and Jerry Johnson voted against submitting the grant application and Bev Bales and Dan Olson supported sending it in.

The application is for a $500,000 Minnesota Park Legacy Grant to purchase 64 acres of land set back away from the north shore of Lake Brophy.

The grant would provide $500,000 and the local share of the grant is $167,000, but the Wayne Lee family, which owns some of the property, has agreed to cover the local share for the county.

Other than Lieffort's time spent filling out the grant application and money spent to survey the property, there would be no cost to county taxpayers.

"This is a very unique opportunity," Lieffort told the newspaper Monday. "To me, it's a dream come true."

The application deadline is March 31.

Tomorrow, Lieffort said he will present a resolution that would allow him to apply for a grant to purchase 40 acres of land that directly borders Lake Brophy's shore, rather than the 64-acre grant application proposal that was rejected March 22.

Residents rise up and spread word

Once word hit the streets that the board opposed applying for the park grant money, residents took to technology and spread the word via e-mail and Facebook.

A message went out over the weekend encouraging people to contact their county commissioner asking them to reconsider their vote. If the board held a special meeting before the grant application's March 31 deadline, the park project could still be considered for funding.

The Cowdry, Taylor, Stony and Union Lakes Association reportedly supports the Brophy Park parkland expansion and they sent word via e-mail to many people, including members of the Douglas County Lakes Association.

From there, Jake's Bikes got wind of the vote and they Facebooked their support for the land acquisition. They encouraged their Facebook friends to do the same.

Jake Capistrant, owner of Jake's Bikes, said he'd like to see the Central Lakes Trail corridor near the park remain undeveloped and preserved.

"I've lived in the area for over 30 years and I keep seeing things being taken away that are free to do in the area," Capistrant said.

When asked about his reaction to the fact that the county board has scheduled a special meeting to reassess the information, Capistrant said, "I think it's good that they've listened to the public. We are the ones who put them in office and it's good that they're listening."

Barbara Benson, of the Cowdry, Taylor, Stony and Union Lakes Association, told the Echo Press: "I'm hoping county commissioners move forward with the resolution to submit the grant. With the county growing the way it is, it could be a legacy for commissioners if the grant is funded."

Similar situation one year ago

One year ago, county commissioners voted 4-1 against a similar grant application request.

That request was regarding phase I of the effort to secure 33 acres of park land near Brophy Park.

The first phase included applying for grant money to purchase the acreage north of Lake Brophy and bordering North Union Lake.

However, after a generous offer by the Lee family to cover the county's local share, commissioners voted 5-0 to support submitting the grant application.

That project funding was approved and the land was purchased this year. The Legacy Grant provided $375,000 toward the purchase of the land and the Lees covered $125,000, the local share of the grant.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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