Carver County is pursuing state funds to relieve overcrowding and build a second public boat launch at Lake Waconia.
After years of waiting, Carver County officials hope the time is finally right to buy 19 acres of land for a public boat ramp at the metro area's second largest lake.
County Board members voted recently to ask for $2.8 million in state bonding money for the final addition to Lake Waconia Regional Park. The park already offers a popular swimming beach, conference center, and camping and picnic areas, and wants to add 800 feet of shoreline for boat access and other amenities.
"It's the last piece that we need to make this regional park complete," said county administrator David Hemze.
The 130-acre park receives about 90,000 visits per year, Hemze said, and hosts a June triathlon and several other large events.
It also contains the Waconia Ballroom, purchased by the county in 2008 and used for receptions, weddings and other activities.
The state's contribution for the new parkland, if approved by legislators in 2012, would be about half of the $5.7 million cost of buying and developing the land. The county would contribute about $700,000, and the Metropolitan Council, which funds regional parks, would finance about $2.1 million.
The property was identified as future parkland in a 1995 master plan that set goals and boundaries for the regional park's growth and development.
Making the purchase possible, Hemze said, is that the county is dealing with a willing seller of the privately owned property.
"Anyone who's visited the area quickly sees it's a gem," he said.
The lake covers 4.8 square miles and is second only to Lake Minnetonka in the metro area in size, but it has just one public boat access on its east side with a concrete ramp and 40 parking spaces. That access is managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and is frequently overcrowded on summer days, according to Carver County parks director Marty Walsh.
He said vehicles and boat trailers overflow the site and park along county roads 155 and 92, causing traffic problems and safety risks.
The new boat access, if built, would be near the southern edge of the lake. Walsh said it would have 40 parking places for vehicles and their boat trailers, and would be run by the county.
Walsh said the property also is valuable for other reasons.
"At one point it has a knoll that's about 40 feet above the water elevation," he said. "It provides a fantastic view from that vantage point onto the lake and Coney Island." The property also would connect the park with downtown Waconia along a planned trail. Waconia's City Council also endorsed the idea last month.
Some of the strongest advocates for the changes are homeowners near the shoreline who would like to see a section of Old Beach Lane closed and converted to park use.
Hemze said he's guardedly optimistic that the request for state funding will be successful. The recreation area is of regional, if not statewide, significance, he said, but budgets are tight. "It's far from a guarantee, that's for sure," he said.
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388