'Pools and pots of money' aiding Scott Co. parks

  • Article by: DYLAN PEERS MCCOY , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2014 - 2:51 PM

Scott County’s partnership with Hennepin yielded capital improvements and park growth.

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Cedar Lake Farm Regional Park has benefited from Scott County’s partnership with suburban Hennepin County in ways that include the addition of programs such as this fishing class.

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Four years after its partnership launched with Hennepin County, Scott County’s parks are growing. Park visits rose 24 percent last year, after the opening of a new park. And the county’s most popular park is ready for something of a face-lift this summer.

Cleary Lake Regional Park will see renovations to the visitor center, golf greens and roadways over the next year.

“The road reconstruction project was the driver of this,” said Mark Themig, who manages the regional parks in Scott County. “The entrance road has exceeded its life expectancy. The pavement is failing. We experience significant potholes.”

The Hennepin-based Three Rivers Park District, which owns Cleary, decided to take the opportunity to make other improvements. The walkways around the visitor center, which are also deteriorating, will be replaced. A handicap access ramp to the building will be moved to a more convenient location.

Here’s a quick guide to some changes coming up, how they fit in the bigger picture, and who’s covering the cost:

A polluted lake

Cleary Lake has excessive nutrients, which can lead to unwanted algae growth. As part of the improvements, the district will add new landscaping designed to filter stormwater that runs from the grounds and roadways into the lake. Depressions in the ground will hold materials like sand, layered with vegetation and wood chips. As the rainwater flows through, they will remove some of the nutrients.

“There’s more stuff that needs to be done. The park is only a small part of the watershed that goes to that lake,” said Paul Nelson, the natural resource manager for the county. “The park, by being a leader, and setting an example, is taking steps to address that with their facilities.”

One advantage to installing the features in a public park, he said: It will help educate visitors about the wider issue of stormwater management.

Golf improvements

The renovations will also offer some perks for visitors who would rather learn about golf then stormwater.

Officials are expanding the driving range from 25 to 40 tees and redoing the practice green to be more like the greens that players encounter at courses.

The golf facilities have been well used in recent years in the park’s First Tee program, which teaches golf to young people, Themig said.

Prairie restoration

At Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, another Three Rivers-owned park in Scott County, staff members have recently begun a 75-acre prairie restoration project. The park will plant Minnesota wildflowers and vegetation in the area, which should help restore native wildlife as well as the native landscape.

The bigger picture

The improvements at Cleary Lake Regional Park are just one mark of the increasing focus on parks in Scott County.

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