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Land swap could bring new park on the river

Wadena County may add some additional park land for residents and visitors to enjoy next spring if a land exchange between Potlatch Corp., and the county is approved by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, according to Deana Skov, parks director.

The land is located by the Crow Wing River and adjoins Tree Farm Landing in northern Wadena County. It already has some nice trails and Skov said if the county gets the land it could create a campground with a parking area.

"It's one way to bring people into our county if we have good recreation with a river, because we don't have a lake," said Lane Waldahl, county board chairman.

Acquiring the land would extend Wadena County's parks by 17 acres, Skov said. In exchange for the park land, Potlatch would receive a 40-acre-tract in Lyon's Township southeast of Nimrod and a 20-acre-tract south of Cottingham Park.

Even though Potlatch is receiving considerably more acreage, the value of the land is comparable because of the river frontage, she said.

Potlatch owns and manages 1.5 million acres of timberlands located in Arkansas, Idaho and Minnesota and a 17,000-acre hybrid poplar plantation in Oregon. The corporation also operates 15 manufacturing facilities that produce commodity wood products and bleached pulp products.

The land Wadena County is interested in is not usable for timber because of the river. Because of this, Potlatch was interested in selling the land, Skov said. The corporation originally approached Wadena County with a proposal that the county purchase the land outright.

"I pretty much said 'no way,'" Skov said after she examined the dollar value per acre. "There are too many more important things for the county to spend money on."

After the county refused to buy the land, Potlatch brought the idea of a land exchange to the table, Skov said.

"That was a little more palatable to the board, as well as myself," she said.

The earliest the land can be transformed into a park is next spring, Skov said.

The EQB meets quarterly so the county will have to wait until January to find out if they will approve the exchange, she said.

"[The land] really is a nice addition," said Mary Harrison, county commissioner. "The bend in the lake is beautiful."

A public meeting was held at the Sept. 5 county board meeting to provide members of the community with an opportunity to voice their opinion on the exchange. No members of the public attended. Due to an error in the publicized legal description of the land another public meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 21 at the regular county board meeting.

Other items discussed at the Sept. 5 board meeting included:

• Luke Manderschied will assume a temporary full-time Wadena County Sheriff's Deputy position beginning Sept. 16. He will replace Deputy Gary Stelzer, who is on a leave of absence serving with an international police force in Iraq.

• The board approved Mainetence Superintendent Rudy Yglesias's request for a bid opening for a rubber roof to be installed on the Friendly Rider bus garage. A 2005 estimate for the cost of the roof is $66,000 with a current estimate closer to $85,000, he said. If the board waits until next year, Yglesias estimates the cost of the roof will increase by 35 percent from the current estimate.

• Scott McKellep, emergency manager, informed the board that Stop Tech, Ltd., has scheduled a demonstration of its Centurion Security System for the Sept. 21 county board meeting. He also said the cost of the system will be closer to $7,000 plus modules, rather than the $6,000 that was previously estimated. If the board chooses to buy the system, it would be used to increase the security of the Wadena County Courthouse.

• The board accepted a $146,410 bid from Midwest Contracting of Marshall, Minn., for the County State Aid Highway 23 bridge replacement. The board selected the lowest of seven bids that topped off at $197,711.49. The engineer's estimate was $148,691.50. The board also accepted a $117,600 bid from Vogt's Dirt Service of Bemidji for a gravel crushing contract with the county. The engineer's estimate was $105,000.