Poised for a park and development, sale of Pilgrim Point on Lake Ida is final

Douglas County buys 8.2 acres for $2 million with $1 million of that money being donated.

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Pilgrim Point, located on the east side of Lake Ida, was a camp owned by the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ. The 46-acre church camp had been in operation since the late 1950s. (Echo Press file photo)

The dotted line has been signed and the deal is done. Douglas County now owns 8.2 acres of land at Pilgrim Point on Lake Ida.

The closing took place on Monday, Nov. 30, with the funds being transferred and sale finalized on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

The county purchased the property for $2 million with half of that money – $1 million – coming in the form of a cash donation from Gene Hauer who lives in the Twin Cities metro area. Hauer’s family, including his daughter and son-in-law, Jill and Mark Swanson who live on Lake Ida, owns Pilgrim Point Shores LLC.

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This map shows the location of the land at Pilgrim Point that Douglas County purchased and will be turning into a county park. (Forum Design Center)


Pilgrim Point Shores purchased the rest of the Pilgrim Point land and is the group that will be developing the land. Back in September, the commissioners signed a joint purchase agreement with Pilgrim Point Shores. The group was going to donate 4 acres of the land they purchased, but decided later that Hauer would just donate the $1 million so that the county could just purchase the land outright, according to Brad Bonk, Douglas County park superintendent.

In a previous article, Bonk said the joint purchase agreement accomplishes what the county set out to do in the first place, which is use the property for a county park with a swimming beach as the predominant use.

“If everything goes right, we’ll do a park plan this winter to figure out how to lay it all out,” he said.

Bonk said there will be plenty of opportunity for the public to voice their wishes on what they would like to see at the park. He said there will be an open house planned for a later date, and a survey would eventually be available.

He said there would be no road access in 2021, but that the park and the swimming beach could possibly open in 2022.

At the September Douglas County board meeting, Jill and Mark Swanson said that because they knew the church didn’t want the property to be fully developed and not accessible to the public, they decided to go in on the joint venture with the county. They said they have such a passion for the lake and knew that they, too, wanted a part of the property to be accessible to the public.

Not an easy decision to sell

Shari Prestemon, conference minister with the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ, is especially excited about Douglas County purchasing a portion of the property. The church has owned the 46-acre camp since the late 1950s.

The decision to sell the property was a hard one, said Prestemon, as the property has been a special place for the church and its members.


“This was not an easy decision by any stretch,” she said. “But we know it was the best decision. We’re eager to see how the county progresses with their plan for the land.”

Prestemon said talks with the county began quite some time ago and that the county has had a long-term interest in the property. She said the county has been eager to have more public park space, especially with access to water.

Prestemon said after the decision to sell the property was finalized, a hope from that point was that a portion of the land would remain open to the public and would be preserved as natural green space. She said the church places a high value on that, which is why its members are excited and happy that the county will be able to honor “that beautiful space.”

“It is such a sacred place for our members,” said Prestemon. “With a portion remaining public, our members will still be able to visit and have access, which is such a gift for us.”

As far as the rest of the land, which will be developed, Prestemon said the church did not want the land to be over developed and that by splitting it, it gives them the assurance it won’t be. It is her belief that the developer has plans to develop small lakeshore lots.

As happy and delighted she said the church group is, the sale of the property comes with some regrets and some time for grieving as it has been a part of the church and its members since the 1950s.
“It truly was a special place for our church and its families,” she said.

As part of the agreement with the county, Prestemon said the church will be working with the county to put up some type of historical marker describing the history of the land, what it was used for and the Pilgrim Point camp.

“We are grateful for that and look forward to working with the county,” she said.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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