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Two Minn. counties taking unique step forward to promote recreation, quality of life

One of the goals is to develop trails connecting recreational areas and communities in the corridor. The Minnesota River Water Trail has been part of the corridor's recreational features for more than 50 years. Forum News Service file photo1 / 2
Dennis Frederickson, right, is seen in 2012 with Courtland Nelson, former director of the parks and trails division with the DNR. Forum News Service file photo2 / 2

NEW ULM, Minn.—Two southern Minnesota counties are working with the Department of Natural Resources to create a plan for more outdoors activities, whether it be for hiking, horse riding, fishing, paddling or sight-seeing.

Those assets can help companies recruit new workers to the region.

These are among the benefits that Dennis Frederickson, southern regional supervisor with the the DNR in New Ulm, foresees as Renville and Redwood counties adopt a master plan for the Minnesota River Valley corridor they share.

Now in its draft form, the public in June will have a final opportunity for input on it.

With 30 years of experience in the state Legislature, and the last six years in his role with the DNR, Frederickson said he is well aware of how unusual it is for two counties to work with the DNR in developing as diverse a recreational area as a 65-mile long river corridor.

He said he's confident the work will pay off. It will go a long ways towards helping the counties achieve a regional park designation for the public areas within the corridor. The designation opens up possibilities for new funding to enhance those assets, he explained. Over time, that means the possibility of more amenities at county and municipal parks as well as DNR recreational facilities.

The plan calls for expanding a wide range of recreational opportunities, as well as developing a trail network to connect communities in the corridor with those assets. "It's an ambitious goal but it is a goal worth pursuing,'' said Frederickson of the call for connecting trails.

It's also why having a long-range plan is so important. Trail development is a difficult process that requires lots of patience and persistence, he said.

Having grown up in the valley, Frederickson said he was not surprised by the wide range of activities available. Yet he noted that many people are not aware of the diversity. If you're focused on fishing or hunting, you may not be aware of the horse riding or paddling opportunities, for example. The coordinated effort to develop these assets should make more people aware of them, he said.

The big step ahead for the plan is to appoint an advisory committee to carry it forward. "We've had a large amount of public input already into this plan and we want to continue to have public involvement, public input,'' he said.

The plan should be finalized by the end of June. It can be viewed on the DNR's website at: https://goo.gl/KlRBGJ.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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