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Master Plan: Other Past Plans

In addition to previous plans completed by Benton County, there are several other planning efforts and resources influencing recreational opportunities offered to residents. The municipalities within the County have varying degrees of parks, trails, and open space as part of their plans. In addition, recreational and environmental issues have been identified by state agencies and through regional cooperative efforts.

Benton County

Benton County – A Survey of Public Attitudes Towards Park & Open Space Issues (1998)

A survey on the public attitudes toward park and open space planning issues was taken in 1997 by conducting 400 interviews among residents of Benton County 18 years and older. The survey was to explore how residents felt about their existing parks, the parks’ uses and future parks and open space.

Results of this survey clearly indicated that the residents of Benton County supported protecting open space for future generations, and that now is the time to begin planning for these new areas so the opportunity is not lost to development. A strong majority also supported a minor tax increase to protect these naturals areas and to improve existing parks. County residents also felt that adding trails would be a strong benefit.


This county-based Master Plan for Parks, Trails and Open Space will not provide prescribed and precise direction the cities in the County should take. Rather the County plans to work cooperatively with the cities to help ensure that countywide efforts complement local efforts. In addition, as the county park program expands, recommendations on park standards, goals and policies, and acquisition and development priorities can support the communities as they move forward in implementing their own plans.

City of Foley Comprehensive Plan (1993)

The City of Foley has a Comprehensive Plan that provides direction for future growth and redevelopment within the defined boundaries of the City over the next 20 years. The plan is based on policy planning and design development, and provides guidelines for the decision-makers and recommendations for future open space and recreational facilities.

Foley now has two parks that are centrally located in the community. The City intends to:

  • continue ongoing development of the city trail/path system
  • pursue park development within new developments, and
  • work with the school system regarding the need for additional active recreation.

City of St. Cloud Parks System Plan (1997 and 2002 update)

St. Cloud is in the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan, which includes an update of the parks plan.

This provides a great opportunity to merge the goals of Benton County with the City of St. Cloud around three specific categories:

  • Preservation of Open Space and Natural Areas
  • Park Development
  • Trail System Development

City of Sartell Park and Trail Plan (1997)

This plan was developed to determine whether the existing parks system meets the needs of the growing population and to identify future park needs, resources and locations. This plan was an update to the comprehensive plan and was prepared in conjunction with the City of Sartell’s Growth Management Strategy. Community input was the major tool used to create recommendations for the plan.

As in all planning processes, goals were established after first analyzing existing conditions. These goals reflected how the City of Sartell plans to address long-term growth, land use development and the quality of the physical environment.

These goals included, but were not limited to:

  • Providing a system of parks and open spaces connected by trails, paths, sidewalks and streets.
  • Protecting and preserving the natural setting.
  • Providing adequate park, recreation and open space areas to meet the needs of a growing population.
  • Maintaining a presence on, and reconnect to, the Mississippi River for public use and enjoyment.
  • Identifying a framework that guides the placement of parks and trails.


Using these goals and information gained at workshops held with residents, the principles of development were established and a framework for implementation put into place. This framework identifies both existing and proposed parks, trails and open space.

City of Sauk Rapids Comprehensive Plan Update

Since the 1970s, Sauk Rapids has experienced heavy growth—growth that is expected to continue. There is an increased demand on public facilities and services and a need for additional land suitable for development. This plan helped identify where growth had occurred, and identified issues and established policies and goals that will help the community deal with future growth and meet its long-term goals.

The policies and goals reflect issues related to those of Benton County and are based on five development framework plans:

  • Concept plans
  • Land use
  • Transportation
  • Community facilities
  • Administration


The development framework establishes the general parameters, issues and goals that are to be achieved.

A parks and trail system plan, and new classifications for future parklands within the community, are currently being developed.

City of Rice (2002)

The City of Rice is currently in the process of developing its comprehensive plan. This plan will include discussions on recreational opportunities and natural resources protection.

The City’s only park, Westside Park, is being developed. Some of the planned amenities include skating rinks, a warming house, picnic facilities and trails. Two other undeveloped parcels are available for development.

The City has a park dedication ordinance requiring that the developer donate either land or a fee during the subdivision process. Typically, land is donated within a subdivision, resulting in an opportunity to develop neighborhood or community parks.


Central Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Coordinating Board (1999 – ongoing)

The Central Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Coordinating Board members include representatives from the counties of Benton, Sherburne and Stearns. Although all cities are represented through their respective counties, representatives from the cities of Sauk Rapids, St. Cloud, St. Joseph, Sartell and Waite Park are also board members due to their geographic location in the fast growing St. Cloud metropolitan area.

This Coordinating Board was established by the Legislature in 1999, with its general purpose being to develop a regionally significant parks and trails plan that includes existing and proposed projects. In developing, enhancing, and maintaining the plan, the Parks and Trails Coordinating Board must develop priorities for spending grant monies.

Benton County has not previously had the benefit of comprehensive parks, open space, and trails planning focused specifically on itself. However, the Central MN Regional Parks and Trails Coordinating Board developed a Central MN Regional Parks and Trails Plan for the Tri-County Area. Although the plan was not formally adopted, it suggested development of two major trail corridors in Benton County. They were:

  • A trail extending along the Mississippi River along the western edge of the County.
  • A trail from St. Cloud following Highway 23 and the abandoned rail corridor eastward through Foley and Ronneby to the eastern edge of the County.


MN DNR County Biological Survey (Draft map as of 2002)

During the 1990’s, staff from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources County Biological Survey (MCBS) underwent a process to identify the best remaining examples of natural communities in Benton County. Although there is a substantial amount of land that is not developed in Benton County, the MCBS project sought to look at only the highest quality remaining natural communities— that is to say those areas that exhibit the least human disturbance and most resemble natural communities that would have been found in the area at the time of Euro-American settlement.

Because the MCBS looked only at the very best quality areas, there are many natural areas of lesser quality that are not represented in the work they completed. Natural areas that MCBS staff did not inventory may still retain predominantly native species and/or have the ability to be managed back to a higher quality through ecological restoration.