By Jerry Rapp, Douglas County commissioner

It is a true honor to write one of the first In the Know columns of 2021. As the newly appointed Douglas County Board chairman, this is my first opportunity to introduce myself to those outside my district.

I was born and raised in Douglas County and currently live in Carlos Township. My wife and I have raised our family here and I’ve made a living in construction and farming. I’m an outdoors kind of guy, and enjoy hunting, fishing, and trail riding on my ATV. I have a special interest in making sure we take good care of our lakes and the land around them.

As a commissioner, my job is to review plans for the use of those lakes and lands, determine if the costs associated with the plans are justified, and then use platforms like this column to tell you about our vision.

In 2020, we took some really big steps. The board approved the purchase of 8.2 acres of land on Pilgrim Point which is on Lake Ida. This will allow people who don’t live on the lake to enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches in the county. We plan to have a nice recreational area you can drive to or ride your bike to in designated bike lanes. If you have a boat, you will finally be able to pull up on shore. We will have many more details to come this year including how we plan to honor the history of this land.

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The board is also looking forward to improvements at Chippewa Park. That’s in Brandon Township and it too has beautiful beaches. Two of them right across the road from each other. We will be expanding the park for more camping, building a bathroom that can be used as a storm shelter, adding a playground, and installing a bridge to connect to the land to the north. The bridge will allow emergency vehicles to cross and be high enough to accommodate boat traffic. We will also be adding to the already wonderful cross country ski trail in the park. If you haven’t been out on that trail, give it a try this winter.

There’s also great cross-country skiing at Rune Stone Park in the Kensington area and in Spruce Hill Park in the northeast corner of the county.

At Lake Brophy Park there is plenty of room for snowshoeing, a skating rink for the kids and a fabulous sledding hill. Get out and enjoy the fun and let us know what you think. If you would like more details about these parks and directions on how to get to them, check out our website at www.co.douglas.mn.us. And, if you aren’t sure who your commissioner is or how to call him or her, the website has that information too.

As we close 2020, I’d like to thank all our residents who contact us with their ideas for our future and I’d like to extend a special thanks to Douglas County law enforcement, firefighters and first responders whose 24/7 dedication keeps all of us safer.

We expect 2021 to be a very productive year. We hope you’ll follow along as we present our five-year plan for improving roadways (there will be a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 9 a.m.), work with our partners on clean water projects, and transform the former First Lutheran Church into an administration building for the county housing: Human Resources, County Coordinator, Finance, Auditor/Treasurer, and the License Bureau.

One of my top goals is helping the public better understand what we do. I know everyone is busy so here’s a couple of time saving tips. We meet the first and third Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. on the second floor of the Douglas County Courthouse. Our agenda is in the Echo Press and on our website before each meeting. Minutes and public notices are also published in the Echo Press and there’s a summary of board actions published in this paper on Fridays and on our website under Latest News on the main page.

We have an energetic board and take great pride in how the county provides services to our residents, including veterans and senior citizens. As I look ahead, I have nothing but positive thoughts for the future.

Jerry Rapp is the chair of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.