The township road leading to the remote Whitetail Woods Regional Park south of Rosemount will have a gravel surface when the park opens next fall, and Dakota County won't pave it until 2015 or later, county commissioners decided recently.

Whether gravel and dust flying up from the road would deter visitors to the metro area's newest regional park has been a point of discussion, and Commissioner Nancy Schouweiler questioned whether it made sense to open the park and inconvenience people by closing the road later to pave it.

But after hearing that the county did not include money in the budget for blacktop paving this year and learning there may be benefits to waiting, the commissioners decided to hold off.

Paving the roads would cost the county $800,000 to $900,000.

The route to the park runs south on County Road 3 (Robert Street becoming Biscayne Avenue), then east about 2.5 miles on 170th Street to Station Trail, and on to the park.

Empire Township intends to rebuild 170th Street and a section of Station Trail in July before the park opens in September, according to county officials. The roads are in poor shape now and rebuilding them will level the road beds and give park visitors "a nice gravel road" to arrive on, said Taud Hoopingarner, director of operations management for the county.

The county would benefit by waiting to pave the surface until the spring because the rebuilt road could settle during the winter and low spots could be corrected before the paving, said transportation director Mark Krebsbach.

Commissioner Chris Gerlach of Apple Valley said he may not be willing to spend the money on paving until he sees how many visitors the park draws. "I've never been in a rush to pave this road." Early visitors are going to be avid park-goers who will not be deterred by a gravel road, he said.

Commissioner Mike Slavik of Hastings, who represents Empire Township, said the township is trying to cooperate with the county by doing its part of the road improvements this year. He said he would like the county to follow through with the paving next year. The county is spending close to $5 million to create the new 460-acre park in Empire Township. Opening amenities will include picnic grounds, shelters, restrooms, camper cabins, parking lots, playgrounds and an observation point overlooking Empire Lake.