Last week’s May Township Board of Supervisors meeting was all about the future, with the
introduction of Square Lake Park Master Plan (nearing approval), the Long Lake Conservation Area Stewardship Plan, and discussion of growth at the River Grove School.
Square Lake Master Plan
Connor Shaefer, planner with Washington County Parks, came to the Board seeking a resolution in support of the County’s master plan for Square Lake Park. Square Lake Park is a very popular regional park with unrivaled water quality and clarity. More than 2,000 comments were received during the planning process from local and regional users.
Protecting water quality and preserving the scenic natural setting are high priorities. There is significant demand for improved lake access and programming for non-motorized watercraft. A canoe/kayak launch was the most popular proposed improvement. Lake access for scuba diving and training also ranked highly.
The master plan includes restroom improvements as well as accessibility improvements to the beach, and the addition of a fitness station trail loop requested by survey respondents.
Water resource improvements focus on restoring wetlands, protecting water quality, addressing stormwater in the parking lots and flooding from snow melt near the lake, as well as protecting the lake from invasive species with educational signage, and a cleaning and inspection area for boats. Natural resource management would address oak tree decline, and invasive species, including emerald ash borer.
The Master Plan proposes the acquisition of 9.5 acres to the south at the Golden Acres site, which would then include a mix of long-term and shorter-term camping as well as a new play area. Acquisition of 55 acres to the north, at the Wilder Forest, would focus on conservation and protection from development. There are no current timetables for the purchase of these properties, which would be dependent upon funding and availability.
Board members expressed satisfaction with the plan and moved to draft a resolution in support of the plan to be voted on at the next meeting.
Long Lake Conservation Area Stewardship Plan
June Mathiowetz, senior planner with the Washington Conservation District, presented the draft stewardship plan for preserving natural habitat, water bodies and wetlands in the 37-acre Long Lake Conservation Area. This is the first conservation area in Washington County, and it is located on the Northwest corner of Long Lake.
The heavily forested area is ranked as very high quality, with significant wildlife and rare and endangered species in the area. County Park activities will focus on minimizing invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and prickly ash, thinning the tree canopy to encourage oak regeneration, restoring a savanna area with canopy thinning and prescribed burning, and ongoing monitoring.
The plan also calls for improved public access for recreation, including hiking and skiing, archery hunting, waterfowl shotgun hunting on the southern pond, and trapping by permit.
The plan estimates spending $75,000 on upgrades in the first three years. State grant funds typically require a 10%-50% match.
River Grove School
John Arneson, chair of the planning commission, reported that the commission had received many comments from residents, parents and students regarding the proposed change in the conditional use permit for the River Grove School. The vast majority were in favor of approving the change to allow for growth of the school. There were concerns about the impact of increased traffic on the surrounding community, including wear and tear on the roads and safety concerns. The commission asked township staff to work with the school to identify possible solutions. The CUP will be discussed at the next planning commission meeting, but the public comment period is closed.
Supervisors asked about enrollment for the next school year and the number of May Township students who attend the school. Dan Miller, Board Chair of River Grove Elementary, said that a “big slice of the pie” of the student body live in May Township and Marine. The school has a waitlist of 50 pre-enrolled for 20 spots. Sixteen of those students had siblings at the school so they move to the front of the line. There will be a lottery for open spots.
Boat Launch Parking
Resident Julie Andrich reported on the results of a survey of residents along Otchipwe and other roads impacted by overflow parking from the boat launch. Forty homes received information and 21 responded: 14 were in favor of expanding the No Parking zone, 3 were not in favor; 2 of those were located in the existing No Parking zone. Five households shared concerns about safety but some would be negatively impacted by a change.
Joe Gustafson, Washington County traffic engineer, drove through the area. Home construction that day meant construction vehicles were parked along the road, providing a good opportunity to see the visual impact of parking along the curved road.
His suggestion was that the No Parking zone be extended an additional 1,000 feet north and south of the boat launch on both sides of the street. The zone would extend just past the right-turn lane at 127th Street to the north and just north of the railroad tracks to the south.
Andrich asked if the negatively impacted residents could receive a resident parking permit to allow them to park in front of their properties. Gustafson said no such permit system exists in the area and this would be an issue for the sheriff’s department when it came to enforcement.
County commissioner Fran Miron said he would be asking the sheriff’s department to focus on enforcement of the existing No Parking zone, initially with warnings and then by mid- to late-summer, with tickets.
• Election judges were appointed for the March 9 township election. They are Jacqueline Hogan, Jane Keller Malenfant, Elaine Larson, Donna Michael, Walter Peterson and Robert Swinehart.
• A variance was approved for 5051 Austin Trail with the requirement that the property meet several requirements, in particular that the property owner enter into a shared driveway agreement and that the driveway meet the shared driveway standard.
• Action on the 177th Street code violation is held over until the March meeting.
• The business permits for Fornell Floor-Most and E&P Excavating are rescinded due to closure of the businesses.
• Supervisor Adams withdrew his motion regarding the Norell Avenue road project and the planning process will continue as scheduled.