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Master Plan: Public Recommendations

Natural Resources and Open Space

During the process established for creating this plan, information about existing natural areas and opportunities for protection were shared with members of the Technical Advisory Committee, Policy Advisory Committee, and Citizens Advisory Committee. After this information was shared with the these groups, they were asked to provide recommendations to the County on what areas they felt were the highest priority natural areas for integration into the park system. Below is a summary of the comments received from these groups.

High Priority Natural Areas Recommended for Protection by TAC/PAC/CAC

  • Granite Ledge Township
    • Protection of forest tracts and falls area
    • Mentioned as high priority by all 5 groups
  • Little Rock Creek/Natural Communities north of Little Rock Lake
    • Various natural features mentioned in this area
    • Sand dunes/savanna north of lake (MCBS)
    • Confluence of Bunker Hill Creek and Little Rock Creek
    • As connection to Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
  • Confluence of Elk River and Mayhew Creek
    • Mentioned by two groups as high priority
  • Peace Rock
  • Graves Property/MCBS area
  • Platte River (floodplain, hardwood forest, oaks, MCBS sites and eagle nest)
  • Peat swamp by Sartell WMA
  • Southeast corner areas (general interest in Glendorado Township)

 

Other natural areas listed as potential sites for protection by TAC/PAC/CAC (not in priority order):

  • Theilen Prairie (this site supports population of Tubercled-rein orchid)
  • Pull Meadows on east side of Sauk Rapids
  • Small rivers throughout the county
  • Ridge line from heavy soils to sand areas in southern part of county
  • Wetland south of Honda House
  • North of Bibles slough – Maple-basswood forest
  • Bifurcating stream (Mayhew Creek north of Mayhew Lake)
  • Natural area on south edge of Watab Township, southeast of Jack Frost Feed Mill

Public Participation

During an open meeting, the public had an opportunity to view recommendations made by TAC/PAC/CAC. The several dozen citizens who attended were then invited to prioritize natural areas and to write down their comments supporting their selection. In general, the areas the public indicated as high priority natural areas coincided with those of the TAC/PAC/CAC.

These include:

  • High Priority Natural Areas Listed by Public Participants
  • Mayhew Creek/Elk River confluence area
  • All Natural Areas in Granite Ledge Township
  • Sauk Rapids area
  • Natural area just northeast of Foley

 

It should be noted that this meeting provided a forum for both positive and negative input from the public. As such, there were two comments submitted in writing during the public meeting against the idea of a publicly owned natural area in Granite Ledge Township, and one written comment against a park in that area.

A map of the proposed natural areas from the vision and goal setting process is provided

Natural Areas

Existing Parks and Facilities

All parks have a purpose and function. In Benton County they are the preserves, the open areas, the recreation areas that serve the residents of more than one municipality. The parks provide opportunities for passive recreation and minimize the impact on the land’s natural features.

During the process established for creating this master plan, information about existing parks and facilities were shared with members of the TAC/PAC/CAC. After this information was shared with the these groups, they were asked to provide recommendations to the County on what amenities they felt were the highest priority for the existing parks and facilities.

Benton Beach Park, located on the north side of Little Rock Lake is the most used park in the system. The water quality of Little Rock Lake is not a part of this project, although residents have made comments to address this issue. The Redwood Inn, bought in 1997, needs a great deal of work that may outweigh the benefits, and legally may not be possible due to regulations within the Flood Plain Management Ordinance.

Improvements and amenities rated the highest in priorities residents wish to see are:

  • Lakeview Center – increase use, consider concessions
  • Upgrade the restroom/shower facility
  • Add pedestrian and bicycle trails
  • Upgrade play equipment as necessary for the different age groups and make ADA accessible
  • Picnic areas to be more defined, possible council ring or barbecues
  • Defined open space for activities such as volleyball, horseshoes, bocce, lawn bowling and croquet. Have the ability to check out equipment needed for activities.
  • Add a water feature such as splash pad area
  • Improve lake water quality – install shower for swimming
  • Camping improvements, new layout plan w/landscape used for screening.
  • Upgrade shelters

 

Other amenities recommended but not suggested as high priorities include:

  • Develop the pond near the Redwood Inn as a interpretive area, garden area or fishing pond
  • Add fishing pier
  • Establish educational/interpretive markers

 

Please refer to Concept A & B developed as a culmination of concepts derived in a small group exercise listed as Benton Beach Concept A & B on the following pages.

Concept A

Concept B

Mayhew Lake Park

Mayhew Lake Park, located on the south side of Mayhew Lake, is currently used for boat access onto the lake and as a picnic area.

Improvements and amenities rated the highest in priorities residents wish to see are:

  • Install fishing pier
  • Add pedestrian trails
  • Add seating areas
  • Create improved picnic area
  • Install low maintenance plantings
  • Educational/interpretive markers
  • Additional parking
  • Acquire additional land around the lake

St. Regis Park

This park is located midway on west side of Little Rock Lake. Improvements and amenities rated the highest in priorities that residents wish to see are:

  • Install low maintenance plantings
  • Educational/interpretive markers
  • Add canoe launch
  • Restore shoreline

Rose Anna Beach

Rose Anna Beach is located on the southwest side of Little Rock Lake and used primarily for winter access. Improvements and amenities rated the highest in priorities that residents wish to see are:

  • Install low maintenance, habitat enhancement plantings
  • Upgrade parking
  • Educational/interpretive markers
  • Picnic area should be defined more

St. George Township Park

St. George Township Park is undeveloped at this time and currently landlocked by other properties. State Highway 95 is to the south of the park and county state aid 25 to the west of the park. Improvements and amenities rated the highest in priorities that residents wish to see in the future are:

  • Pedestrian trails used for nature study and education.

Wapicada Village

Wapicada Village – Mayhew Park is undeveloped at this time. State Highway 23 is to the south of the park and County State Aid 8 to the north and west of the park. Improvements and amenities rated the highest in priorities that residents wish to see in the future are:

  • Bicycle/Pedestrian trail with bridge for access
  • Develop primitive camping/picnicking

Future Parks and Facilities

During the process established for creating this master plan, information about land use, DNR Inventory, program requirements and site characteristics (what makes a good park) were shared with members of the TAC/PAC/CAC. After this information was shared with the these groups, they were asked to provide recommendations to the County on what areas they felt were the highest priority for new parks and facilities.

Where in Benton County do the residents want to see additional parks? Our groups in their visioning selected many areas of the county for future parks and facilities.

The Appendix contains the meeting minutes from our visioning and goal setting meeting, all comments and locations are listed, and the priorities are:

  • The 289-acre Graves Farm is located in the Watab Township on the east side of the Mississippi adjacent to a 220-acre wildlife refuge.
  • Use as a Historical Preservation Site
  • Maintain natural areas and restore fields to pre-settlement vegetation
  • Provide trails with interpretive markers

 

(Note: This property was acquired by the County after the Visioning and Goal Setting Meeting.)

Refer to Proposed Graves Regional Park map on the following page.

Graves map

  • Mayhew Creek area at Elk River, located in the Minden Township near State Highway 23 and County Road 47.
    • Make use of gravel pits
    • Hardwood forest area
    • Provide trails
  • Park located east of Foley adjacent/near State Highway 23.
    • At present no existing County Park exists in the east side of county.

Other park areas listed as potential by TAC/PAC/CAC (not in priority order):

  • Sauk Rapids City Park and High School Area
  • Granite Ledge Area – Waterfalls
  • Harms property – 55 acres, on the Mississippi River
  • Benton Beach – Although listed as an existing park, participants felt strongly about this park being expanded as well as improved
  • Zuleger Creek
  • North of Little Rock Lake at Little Rock Creek

Please see Proposed Parks from Visioning and Goal Setting map on the next page.

Proposed Parks from Visioning and Goal Setting map (parks)

Future Trails and Connectors

Recommended Trail Segments and Major Destinations

The PAC/TAC/CAC committee meetings and public input sessions suggested a number of trail segments connecting places and features within the County. Refer to the Proposed Trails from Visioning and Goal Setting map on the following page.

These include:

  1. Trail from Mayhew Lake Park to Benton Beach Park
  2. Trail from Benton Beach to the Graves Farm Property/Mississippi River through Rice (possibly along County Road 2 with a crossing of Highway 10)
  3. Trail from Mayhew Lake Park to Foley
  4. Trail along the length of the Mississippi River through the County with lookouts at Peace Rock, the Graves Farm Property, and Pirates Cove
  5. Trail along Little Rock Creek
  6. Trail along the Elk River
  7. Trail along the abandoned railroad corridor paralleling State Highway 23 from St. Cloud toward Milaca.

 

Two additional trails were suggested that connect park and open space features or communities to connections beyond the County. They are:
  1. Trail connection to the Soo Line Corridor Recreation Trail in Morrison County
  2. Trail connection to the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

 

Please see proposed features from Visioning and Goal Setting map following the map on the next page. This proposed features map includes all parks, open space and trails selected by the public.

Trails from Visioning and Goal Setting map

Proposed features from Visioning and Goal Setting

Public Survey Results

County staff provided surveys for citizens who could not attend meetings, and evaluation forms to planning participants in order to determine general citizen interests. Following is a summary of those findings:

  • Citizens thought that protection /preservation of the county’s natural resources and unique features were more important than providing increased recreational opportunities. However, they believe protection can be balanced with appropriate and compatible recreational opportunities.
  • Many people do not visit Benton County parks on a regular basis, but would use them more often if the parks were improved or expanded.
  • Some of the most common park components or features that citizens would like to see provided in the county park system include:
    • Hiking/walking trails
    • Bicycle trails
    • Cross-country ski trails
    • Equestrian trails
    • Snowmobile trails
    • Opportunities for nature observation
    • Environmental education
    • Historic interpretation
    • Picnic sites
    • Swimming areas
    • Fishing piers
    • Canoe access on rivers and lakes
    • Boat launch areas
    • Camping
    • Dog parks
    • Playgrounds or youth activities

 

Other suggestions include:

Establishment of a 1000 – 1500 acre Forest Preserve. Combine good forest/ environmental stewardship practices with low impact recreational activities. Include horse trails, walking trails, ski trails and other passive recreational opportunities.

Zone remnant natural communities are permanent open space so there is incentive for landowners to preserve them.