A promotion for park promoter
Brad Bonk, Douglas County parks superintendent, has a new title to add behind his name.
Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed Bonk as a member of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission that helps fund park projects in Douglas and other western Minnesota counties.
The commission was established in 2013 to to advise the Legislature on projects funded by Minnesota's Legacy amendment, which provides grants through the state’s parks and trails fund. Douglas County has two projects partly paid for by the legacy fund — Kensington Rune Stone Park's new visitor center and the development of Lake Brophy Park.
As a member of the commission, Bonk will have direct influence over where the legacy funds go. He said the commission doles out about $8.5 million annually, but it varies based on sales tax collections.
Bonk will serve District 3, which covers 18 counties in western Minnesota including Douglas, Pope, Grant, Stevens and Todd. There are six districts in Minnesota.
Project applications are submitted to the commission and the 13 members, all appointed by the governor, vote on whether the project receives funding. For projects in Douglas County, however, Bonk said he will advocate for them, but would abstain from voting to avoid a conflict of interest.
But it will be a while before Douglas County can apply for legacy funds, Bonk said. Both current projects have to be completed before Douglas County can apply for more funding.
The Kensington Rune Stone Park project visitor's center was just completed. The county's portion of the cost for the project is about $200,000, with the bulk of the money, $800,000, coming from the legacy fund.
The visitor's center includes a community room, lobby, interpretive room, outdoor patio, bathrooms and more.
"The project as a whole is beautiful," Bonk said. "We were excited to open it up."
An open house for the visitor's center is planned for Wednesday, Jan. 3.
Before the center was officially opened, Bonk said, a few groups of people toured the new facility.
"To see peoples' jaws drop because of how nice it is was a lot of fun," Bonk said.
The work at Lake Brophy Park, Bonk said, is just beginning. He said design work is being done now, with hopes of going to bid this winter with construction starting in the spring.
The master plan includes a beach area, pavilion, shelter, playground, picnic tables, trails, sledding hills and more. The beach, however, won't open until the summer of 2019, he said.
Over the past five years, Douglas County spent about $1.7 million purchasing the land for the park, which features high hills, lakeside space, secluded spots, big open fields and access to the Central Lakes Trail. The money came from park funds, grants and private donations.
The county will work with the Department of Natural Resources, the Viking Sportsmen Club and the Big Ole Bike Club, along with several other groups, as it develops the park.
Kensington Rune Stone Park open house
The public is invited to an open house at the new visitor center at Kensington Rune Stone Park, 8956 County Road 103 Southwest, Kensington, on Wednesday, Jan. 3, from 2 to 6 p.m.
The visitor center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the community room can be reserved for special events. Call the Public Works office to make a reservation, 320-762-2999.