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Master Plan: Implementation

This Master Planning process makes it apparent that Benton County Residents are very supportive of protecting existing parks and facilities, expanding the open space, and creating connections through a trail system. This is an excellent way to preserve and enhance the quality of life for current and future Benton County residents.

Role of the Park Board

A formal citizen advisory committee can be an effective tool to bridge the gap between the citizens and staff members responsible for implementing projects. The committee helps share concerns and expectations so that the final project mirrors the community's intent. Typically, an effective committee is a diverse mixture of people of various age groups, family status and other demographic criteria, and technical knowledge of the subject.

In 1988, Ordinance Number 186 and Resolution Number 1988-32 established a park board in Benton County. These documents establish the membership and term criteria, but do not detail the mission and role of the Board, nor the specific duties of membership.

It is important to review or establish the mission, role and membership of the Park Board now, to be prepared to effectively implement the park plan.

In general, it is recommended the Park Board focus on larger issues and act in an advisory capacity to County Staff and elected officials to help determine the annual goals and strategies of the park program as prioritized by the master park plan.

Citizen Support

The most successful park and trail programs have active citizen support. In addition to an effective park board, this can be accomplished by establishment of a "Friends of the Park" organization, volunteer opportunities coordinated by the county park staff, or occasional fund-raisers supported by individuals or groups in the communities.

Benton County's General Recommendations for Plan Implementation

As a result of feedback from the public, community leaders, elected officials, environmental organizations and special-interest user groups, and with consideration of technical standards and current recreation trends, the Benton Park Program will emphasize the protection and restoration of natural environments, promote natural resource-based recreational opportunities, preserve culturally significant features and provide opportunities for environmental education.

The following mission statement was developed based on a culmination of goals, policies and public input identified in the county comprehensive plan and this planning forum:

To provide a regionally significant natural resource-based park program that provides multi-use recreational opportunities for all people, in a way that protects or restores the county's natural resources and unique features.

The mission statement reflects the community's desire to:

  • Promote our rural heritage
  • Enhance the quality of life
  • Protect our resources for future generations
  • Provide recreational opportunities for all citizens
  • Support regional planning and development considerations

 

It is often difficult to determine just how large a park program must be in order to meet the needs of its citizens and to complement regional efforts. One traditional reference is the National Recreation and Park Association Standards (NRPA). Since the early 1980s, the NRPA established standards for parkland acquisition, and for Counties, the target is 20 acres of parkland per1000 population.

Today, the NRPA has shifted from these traditional standards, and promotes community self-direction where the number of acres proposed for park and recreation land is based on what the citizens determine is best for themselves. However, for the sake of establishing a benchmark for Benton County staff and citizens to use to determine potential future needs, the commonly accepted NRPA standards were compared to the current situation.

NRPA STANDARD Acres/1000 Population EXISTING ACREAGE (2002) RECOMMENDED ACREAGE (2002) DEVIATION FROM STANDARD (2002) PROJECTED FUTURE NEEDS (2020)
20 37 Developed
318 Undeveloped
685 -330 940

According to the national standards, the county is well-below target. This technical information supports and validates the citizens' interest to acquire more property for parkland and to develop key properties per the priorities identified in previous sections of this plan.

Further, for future planning and implementation purposes, a chart has been developed to outline the classification of county parks that could support the mission of the Benton County Park Department and meet citizen and consultant recommendations. Please refer to Appendix to see the Classification of Parks that Support Plan Implementation.

In addition, specific goals and strategies have been developed to support the successful implementation of this plan.

Goal No. 1

Preserve or restore the county's natural resources and unique features by acquiring significant properties and integrating the long-term protection or restoration of these resources in park management programs.

Strategies:

  • Safeguard existing ecosystems in current county parks and minimize the cumulative effects of recreational use in areas desirable for resource protection.
  • Cooperate with, and seek technical assistance from, natural resource management agencies
  • Develop policy directives on protecting natural resources and unique features
  • Promote advance acquisition of parkland to protect significant properties that would otherwise be lost to development
  • Use native plant material to restore disturbed natural areas
  • Identify and protect historic and culturally significant sites

 

Goal No. 2

Provide diverse recreational opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and income.

Strategies

  • Develop recreational areas that will incorporate strategies to minimize conflicts between users
  • Preserve public swimming and boating access to the county's lakes
  • Provide fishing piers to increase the opportunity to participate in this activity
  • Develop a network of designated cycling routes on existing roadways
  • Develop multi-use trails to accommodate motorized and
    non-motorized use
  • Develop canoe access points and destination water trails on the county's major rivers
  • Provide universally accessible park facilities and programs suitable for a variety of physical abilities and age groups
  • Develop maps / brochures indicating the location and services of the county park program

 

Goal No. 3

Promote opportunities for environmental education

Strategies

  • Place interpretive signs on trails and in strategic park locations
  • Develop facilities which support environmental education opportunities and naturalist programs

 

Goal No. 4

Promote cost-effective methods of park development and management

Strategies

  • Maximize revenue opportunities
  • Consider acting as a partner with other governmental agencies
  • Consider purchasing services from private sources
  • Use other public and private funding sources to support the acquisition, development and maintenance of the Benton County park program.
  • Establish a Benton County Park Foundation

 

Goal No. 5

Encourage citizen involvement in park management activities.

Strategies

  • Involve the community in a wide variety of stewardship programs
  • Promote volunteer opportunities
  • Support the establishment of a "Friends of the Park" organization

Natural Resources and Open Space

The section below briefly summarizes strategies for implementing top recommendations made by committees, the public, and consultant for the protection of natural areas. It includes topics such as amount and sources funding, potential processes, and time frames.

Rum River Falls Area – Granite Ledge Township

The falls area of Granite Ledge Township was consistently mentioned by committee members and citizens alike as a top priority for protection. Conversely, concerns were also raised by a number of property owners in the area over types of facilities and activities that might be considered for a park in this area. As such, it is highly recommended that any efforts to purchase property for a County Park in this area include a public input component, such as a series of town meetings. This will help to gather additional information about the concerns and interests of local citizens and guide future plans if a property is purchased.

The purchase of a property in this vicinity is a good candidate for a MN DNR Scenic and Natural Areas grant. If purchase of the falls area is not possible, protection of the property through tools such as a conservation easement should be presented to the landowner(s) for their consideration.

Since this park might be considered for trails, parking area, foot bridges, and interpretive signs, it would be recommendable to include a Park Master Planning process after purchase, if that occurs. This Master Planning process would allow for more detailed facilities planning, and better cost estimating for ongoing infrastructure and natural communities maintenance.

Activity Estimated Cost*
Public Planning Process (staff/material cost) $10,000
Land purchase (80 acres) 200,000
Park Master Plan (consultant) 15,000
  $225,000

 

Thielen Prairie and Surrounding Landscape

This complex of mesic prairie and savanna-like pastures is a good candidate for some type of protection, particularly since mesic prairie - anywhere in Minnesota - is now rare, Additionally, the prairie hosts a population of the State-Endangered Tubercled-rein orchid. Protection of the rare plant population and mesic prairie may be possible without purchase by working with the landowner and conservation partners to establish a long-term management strategy.

This may include something as simple as developing a management plan or more permanent protection such as a conservation easement. As well, if the landowner is interested in selling the property, it represents a great chance to partner with the MN DNR Scientific and Natural Areas Program and others to protect this rare landscape.

Activity Estimated Cost*
Planning Process (Staff and Consultant) $ 7,500
Land purchase (~ 80 acres) 160,000
Initial restoration/infrastructure investment 20,000
  $187,500
Ongoing restoration/maintenance $ 1,500/year

Protection of other Natural Areas

There are a number of other regions in the county where natural areas occur that were recommended for protection. These recommended areas did not include mention of specific properties. Depending on the type of approach used for protecting natural areas in these general regions of the county, the costs for park planning, mode of protection, and long-term maintenance may vary widely.

For this reason, we recommend an adaptive approach that begins by engaging the landowner in a conversation to learn their interest in long-term protection of their land. Depending on landowner interest, a number of partners may be involved in assisting with land protection strategies, including the MN DNR Division of Wildlife, MN DNR Division of Fisheries, MN DNR Scientific and Natural Areas Program, Benton County SWCD. Non-governmental Organizations such as the Minnesota Land Trust, Pheasants Forever, McKnight Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and others may also be important to include, based on the particular interests of a landowner.

Some potential tools for natural areas protection that do not involve the outright purchase of land include:

  • Conservation easements
  • Land retirement programs
  • Property tax relief programs
  • Restoration cost share programs
  • Registry programs
  • Deed restrictions
  • Leases
  • Management agreements

 

These land protection options can result in a cost savings of 25-80% compared to outright purchase. A complete description of these and other tools is too lengthy to include in this report, but can be found in the publication "Land Protection Options: A Handbook for Minnesota Landowners" published by The Nature Conservancy, MN DNR, The Trust for Public Land, and The Minnesota Land Trust.

Additional opportunities for the protection of natural areas may be realized outside of the information gathering

Existing and Future Parks and Facilities

The section below briefly summarizes strategies for implementing top recommendations made by committees, the public, and consultant for future parks. It includes topics such as amount and sources funding, potential processes, and time frames.

Benton Beach Park

Benton Beach Park is a much loved park in Benton County and was placed high on the priority list for redevelopment and revitalization. Because of this priority not only from citizens of Benton County but Bonestroo staff we recommend that County proceed to the next level, the development of a Master Plan for Benton Beach.

The opportunities include water and its related recreational facilities and activities, environmental restoration, bank stabilization, interpretive signage, infrastructure improvements and updated play areas. The Master Plan must meet the needs and concerns of the citizens and County from a safety and operations standpoint.

Key issues for Benton Beach Redevelopment include:

  • Current recreational needs to be identified. Evaluation of the existing facilities and how they meet those needs.
  • The new site amenities and their location must be carefully integrated into the park design
  • Adding aquatic amenities such as splash pads or in-water play features could transform the beach into an area more attractive to families.
  • The area's demographics make the challenge for design to create a draw for all ages.
  • Safety is always important in a public park.
  • Priority phasing would look at facilities to be developed in the short and long term.
  • Short and long-range facility management looks at the quality of equipment installed as well as maintenance costs for inclusion into the County's capital improvement plan.
  • Carefully define the costs for developing the proposed facility.

 

The tasks for the Master Plan would be as follows:

  • Site Inventory
  • Site Analysis
  • Design Alternatives
  • Final Master Plan

 

These tasks include a public facilitation, presentations, cost estimates, recommendations for implementation and phasing.

The Estimated Cost for Park Master Plan is $15,000 - $20,000.

The table below is a start of the estimated construction costs based on the following elements and gives the County a starting point for including costs for their capital improvements.

Site Name Proposed Facility Development Development Cost
Benton Beach Park Entry Feature $15,000
  Interpretive Markers $20,000
  Splash Pad $75,000
  Restroom Upgrade $100,000
  Trail $200,000
  Playground $100,000
  Basketball Court $15,000
  Pavillion - 2 $50,000
  Pedestrian Bridge $75,000
  General Development $200,000
  Total $850,000

* General Development includes such activities and facilities such as grading, landscaping, picnic tables and benches.

Zuleger Creek Watershed Study

Zuleger Creek enters Benton Beach Park from the north and drains a watershed of 18.5 square miles. The drainage area is extensively drained and tiled accounting for wide fluctuations in water level in the creek especially during storm events. The "flashy" nature of this stream causes problems within the park during snow melt and storm events by contributing to flooding in the park proper. A regional watershed survey should be conducted to assess the potential of the creek to contribute to flooding in the park during storm events of various intensities.

The consultant recommends a characterization of the Zuleger Creek watershed be done to establish the following:

  • Historic wetlands that have been drained
  • Potential ponding areas where stormwater could be stored during
    storm events
  • Identify bridge crossings that could be analyzed for stormwater storage
  • Computer modeling of the watershed to determine water levels during various storm events
  • Development of maps that serve as the basis for on-going improvements in the watershed

 

An analysis of the Zuleger Creek watershed for managing flood water will lead to the development of a management plan for the watershed to prevent or reduce flooding in Benton Beach Park.

The major tasks of such an analysis would be as follows:

  • Identification of historic wetland areas
  • Hydrologic analysis of the watershed to determine pooling and ponding during various storm events (computer modeling)
  • Creation of a GIS layer showing potential storage areas to be developed throughout the watershed to reduce flooding in the park

 

Estimated Cost is $4,200 to $6,800. Estimate based on preliminary project understanding.

The Graves Farm

The Graves Farm, the County's newest acquisition, is 289 acres of land waiting to be developed into park facilities for the citizens of Benton County. The proposed Graves Park has many possibilities that could include habitat restoration to the original Anoka sand plain, historic preservation, maintain the existing natural areas, provide pedestrian trails with interpretive markers, and scenic overlooks.

A Master Plan should be developed as the next step for the Graves Farm. As part of the master plan process a natural resource inventory of the property should be completed to help guide placement of facilities and management of existing natural communities and areas for ecological restoration. The Master Plan would allow for the overall design of the plan, look at preliminary costs, implementation and phasing.

The tasks for the Master Plan would be as follows:

  • Site Inventory
  • Site Analysis
  • Design Alternatives
  • Final Master Plan

 

These tasks include a public facilitation, presentations, cost estimates, recommendations for implementation and phasing. This Master Plan process would include interaction between agencies necessary to approve the plan for park development as well as the natural resource inventory and management plan.

The Estimated Cost for Park Master Plan is $30,000 - $35,000.

Trails and Connectors

The next step for each of the recommended trail projects is to complete a conceptual study of each corridor specifically identifying the preferred and alternate alignments and assessing feasibility for acquisition and construction, and associated costs. This will enable the County to pursue a plan for acquisition of segments as they become available and identify funding sources, such as Federal Aid Funding under the Enhancements Program or National Park Service funding, for future development of trails in each of the corridors.

To begin developing trails along County and township roads within the County, the trails plan should be compared with the existing County and township roadway capital improvement plans, and opportunities should be identified. Programming and financing agreements will also need to be established between different County departments or between the County and various townships.

Trail Funding

There are several funding alternatives available to Benton County for improvements to parks, trails and natural areas. Below is a list of funding sources that can be utilized for various types of improvements. Please also refer to the Grant Sources listed in the Appendix .

  • Federal Aid funding
  • State DNR Grants (See Appendix)
  • Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources
  • County funding
  • City funding

 

Each of these funding sources has a unique set of requirements and criteria that must be met to receive funding; in some cases this includes successfully competing for limited funding. There are also rules that govern how the money can be used. Below is a more detailed description of the funding sources, how to receive the funds and how the funds can be used.

Federal Aid Funding

States receive federal funding for highways through the Surface Transportation Program of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Federal Highway Trust Fund revenue is generated from the federal gas tax, taxes on truck sales, use and tires, and from the General Trust Fund. Currently each state receives a minimum amount of federal aid equal to 90 percent of the amount it contributes in taxes.

The Federal Aid or TEA-21 funds are administered through the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT). The federal funding usually covers 80 percent of a project's construction costs. The other 20 percent must come from other funding sources. These sources could include other funds listed within this plan. The federal categories and an explanation is provided below:

Surface Transportation Program (STP)

STP funding is available for roadway construction and reconstruction, capacity projects, safety projects, bikeway or walkway components of projects, transit projects, park and ride facilities and traffic management projects.

Under the STP, projects can be submitted in one of three categories:

  1. Non-freeway, principal arterial highways
  2. Projects on the "A: Minor Arterial Highway System" as defined by the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB); and
  3. Bike and walk projects
    • A bikeway project must be a major bicycle transportation facility designed pursuant to an overall plan for the transportation use of bicycles, or other vehicles propelled by human power. A walkway project must be a pedestrian transportation facility designed pursuant to an overall plan and designated for the use of pedestrians.

 

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ)

CMAQ provides flexible funding to state and local governments for transportation projects and programs to help meet the requirements on the Clean Air Act of 1990. In general, eligible projects provide some type of reduction in toxic emissions. These include alternative fuel vehicle purchases, traffic flow improvements, transit projects, rideshare activities and telecommuting. CMAQ funding can be used in various fashions to defer the costs of implementing these strategies.

Transportation Enhancement Program (TE)

Transportation Enhancements are transportation-related activities designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation's intermodal transportation system. The types of projects that are eligible for funding under this category include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, scenic beautification, historic preservation, environmental mitigation and transportation museums. Transportation enhancement funding is the largest potential funding source for trail projects throughout the County.

County Funding

Benton County funding is provided to maintain and construct the county road system. These funds are used for roadways not on the CSAH system and some improvements made to County State Aid Highways. Trails added along county roads during construction or reconstruction can be funded through this source.

City Funding

Each city within the County allocates funding to maintain and construct its roadways. This funding provides the County with its yearly allocation for roadway maintenance and construction.

Additional Project Funding

Friends of the Parks/Benton County Parks Foundation

Benton County could establish a legally separate foundation or a "Friends of the Parks" organization that would be eligible to receive donations as a trust entity. The foundation could accept general donations on an ongoing basis, or receive endowments for specific park features that were designated in the County's master plan in exchange for naming privileges. The County could then also apply to the foundation for money for projects as needs arose.

Grants

Grants are available to help defray the costs of building or rejuvenating parks and open space. We strongly encourage you to contact some of the resources we have provided below to get further information or to check on the submittal process.

DNR

The Department of Natural Resources has an entire book on funding called the DNR Financial Assistance Directory. To obtain a copy, call, write or email:

Emmett Mullin
Office of Department Y& Budget Services
DNR
500 Lafayette Road, Box 10
St. Paul, MN 55155-4010
Phone: 651-297-4831

Email: Emmett.mullin@dnr.state.mn.us

LGEAN

The Local Government Environmental Assistance Network has a website that has a section devoted entirely to funding. Go to:

http://www.lgean.org/financing.cfm

At the end of that Funding Section there is also a "Funding Archive" link. Check that out, too.

LCMR

The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources provides grants in four issue areas, including Recreational and Natural Systems. To get information on this program, write, call, email or go to:

LCMR
100 Constitution Avenue
Room 65, State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-2406

www.lcmr.leg.mn

Email: lcmr@commissions.leg.state.mn.us

Please also refer to the Grant Sources listed in the Appendix .

Capital Improvement Planning (CIP)

The County implementation and acquisition will be successful if the County can allocate money each year through its CIP. We recommend annually devoting $25,000 for acquisition and $25,000 for implementation efforts for a period of 10 – 20 years to develop Benton County's parks and trails.