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Laying the groundwork for regional park status

Agency seeking public input on Hole in the Mountain County Park

Photo courtesy of Lisa Graphenteen Supporters are seeking regional park status for Hole in the Park County Park in Lake Benton.

LAKE BENTON — Grant supported improvement projects could be part of the near future at Hole in the Mountain County Park.

The Lincoln County park, located on the west edge of the Lake Benton city limits, is being considered for regional status through the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. A regional designation could open the door to grants aimed at making the park more of an attraction for visitors from a wide area.

The county will continue to own and operate the park facilities if the designation is approved. Grant applications will originate at the county level.

A display about the regional status application process was featured this fall at the Lake Benton city office. Residents had the opportunity to comment about possibilities for future park projects.

“Public input is very important at this stage of the process,” said Lisa Graphenteen, a consultant with the Development Services Inc., administrative services agency based in Ivanhoe. “We want to hear from both current users of the park and others who might want to use it. A regional designation is more likely if a wide range of people show interest.”

The parks and trails commission was established in 2013 with the goal of supporting recreational resources outside the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area.

It awards grant dollars each year for projects in locations throughout Minnesota. A regional park designation makes a local site much more likely to qualify for grants.

“For a park to be considered regional, it must have unique features that aren’t found in most places within the same area,” Graphenteen said. “The site at Hole in the Mountain lends itself to that. It’s a location in the Buffalo Ridge with plenty of hills and trees.”

Items likely to be included in grant proposals include the park’s camping facilities, picnic area, trails, and chalet building. In the past the county operated a downhill skiing and tubing hill facility that could be considered for redevelopment.

If a regional status is approved in upcoming months, there would be time to submit grant applications in 2021. If there’s success in obtaining funds, improvement projects could start as early as 2022.

“We’re at an important stage in the planning process,” Graphenteen said. “What we’re doing this fall will lay the groundwork for the actual projects.”

Hole in the Mountain is the largest of four county park areas in Lincoln County. Two of them, Norwegian Creek County Park and Stone Hill Park, are on the shores of Lake Benton. A fourth park area, Picnic Point, is in central Lincoln County on Lake Shaokatan.

Lake Benton City Administrator Eileen Christensen said Hole in the Mountain attracts visitors throughout the year, especially during the peak of summer and fall outdoor activities. It includes a horse-related tradition tied to the city’s annual Saddle Horse Holiday in June.

She added that the display attracted strong public interest this fall. A survey and virtual information meetings have also taken place.

“People are very interested in what we might be able to do at Hole in the Mountain,” Christensen said. “It’s one of our community’s most important assets. It definitely helps to bring people to town.”

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