Minnesota veterans and disability advocates are urging Orono leaders to reverse a decision they made earlier this month to dump the docks on Lake Minnetonka’s Big Island.
City leaders say that removing the docks will save about $8,000 in annual upkeep costs. But Dean Ascheman, chairman of the Minnesota Veterans 4 Veterans Trust Fund, said in a statement that the council’s action is illegal and “was made for political reasons, pure and simple.”
Veterans and members of disability groups plan to attend the City Council’s meeting on Feb. 27 to let the council know they’re unhappy and want the docks restored.
Big Island, with about 275 acres of woods and wetlands, actually consists of two islands separated by a narrow channel. It was home to a short-lived amusement park before becoming a veterans campground in the 1920s, offering recreation for war veterans.
In 2006, the city bought the property for $5.8 million with plans to turn a 56-acre site into a public park. The purchase was funded with donations and $1.5 million from the city.
Big Island features seasonal cabins and two 80-foot docks, which are pulled out of the water at the end of the boating season. Staffers said it costs Orono $8,000 a year to remove and reinstall the docks.
Ascheman said a condition of the sale was that veterans would continue to have access to the park. “This decision was done without due diligence and is a complete slap in the face to our state’s veteran community,” he said.
But at the Feb. 13 meeting, Mayor Dennis Walsh said that Big Island is “a regional park ... [and] we’re not a regional park operator.”
The Minnesota Veterans 4 Veterans Trust Fund was founded to oversee the money received through the sale of the camp. Interest from the fund provides grants for veterans projects.
Staffers recommended at the Feb. 13 meeting that the council hold off on making a decision until it could collect public feedback and notify stakeholders. But the council voted unanimously to drop the dock access, revise its management plan and start the process to sell the docks before spring.