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Douglas County Board supports application for Kensington Rune Stone Park work

A resolution to support the Kensington Rune Stone Park project was brought before the board of commissioners and passed October 11.

Park Superintendent Al Lieffort presented the resolution to the board to act as legal sponsor in application for a Minnesota Park Legacy Grant. The proposed project includes a new Visitor Center, new utilities, signage and multi-use trails.

"This is really a promising year to have a grant application go in," Lieffort said.

A change in legislative leaders has increased the amount of funds available to areas outside of the metro area. Funds have almost doubled in the statewide grant program, from $6.8 million last year to $15 million in 2012-2013, according to Lieffort. He said he believes the board knows how fortunate of an opportunity this is, which could have influenced its decision to pass the resolution.

"In order to build this, we are going to need to redevelop the current utilities that support this property: that includes water, sewer and electric utilities. Part of the project would be to bury the electric utilities that are exposed," Lieffort said.

As part of the requirements for the grant, the new utilities would be greener and more energy efficient, resulting in a lower cost of operation. The cost of operating Kensington Rune Stone Park in 2009 was just under $90,000 as reported by Lieffort. In addition, the new facilities would increase maintenance costs by approximately $8,250 per year.

The estimated cost of this project, only one of many planned for the park, is $550,000. If awarded the full grant, $500,000, the local share would be paid from line items in the park budget. These line items totaled $64,000 in 2011.

The funds would come from an allocation of between $50,000 and $150,000 annually in the Douglas County budget for the park division of the Public Works Department.

Lieffort said three grant applications are in process that would be applied toward costs for several parts of the schematic report released in 2010.

Currently the Visitor Center is located in the original Ohman farmstead's dairy barn that was made into a meeting space in the 1970s. The new Visitor Center would house public restrooms and indoor and outdoor picnic space. It would be located near a new entrance to the park on the land previously purchased from the Strands last year.

A restoration process would be planned for the barn to be included in the interpretive story of the Ohman family's farmstead. Lieffort said the barn has become important to the community for functions such as family gatherings and emphasized that the new Visitors Center would serve the same purpose, just in a new location.

Most of the plans are "sketchy" at this point, Lieffort admitted, adding that things can change between planning stages and implementation of the project.

"If we get funded, we have to get serious," he said.

The application deadline for the grant is October 31, 2011. Awards will be announced in late fall 2011 or early 2012.

Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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