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Lake Bella trail plan scrapped

A proposed recreation trail at Lake Bella has been scrapped by the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- After a couple months of consideration, the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District decided Tuesday not to pursue creation of a rustic recreational trail around Lake Bella.

0 Talk about it

The idea was proposed by watershed member Jay Milbrandt as a way to promote the park and encourage others to share the natural setting filled with tall grasses, wildflowers, trees and the lake. Last month, OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl presented a drawing for how a trail might look on the 74-acre parcel.

The trail would have been a mowed walkway, with a few small bridges necessary to cross small gullies in the landscape.

Just 10 acres of the park are mowed, said Livdahl, and that is where most of the recreation occurs. There is a boat landing in the park, along with two shelters and rustic restroom facilities.

Since last month, Livdahl contacted the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust regarding additional liability if a mowed trail was established for hiking and biking. He said the added cost, if any, would be minimal.

"The only feedback I've got from this is negative," said OOWD board member Rolf Mahlberg, adding that he's received comments about keeping the Bella area as it was designed -- a wildlife area and buffer for the lake.

"Thinking about the pros and cons, and the expanding bike path in Worthington, as a board member I'm not enticed with the thought anymore," Mahlberg said. "I think (the park) has tremendous value, as is."

OOWD Board Chairman Les Johnson also had concerns about developing a trail. He said the original criteria set for the watershed board did not have as its intent developing recreation for people.

"If we have something down there that protects the water and serves a recreational purpose, that's a byproduct," Johnson said. "We only have one employee, and I think he's got a lot of things to take care of already -- things that are more the criteria for what our purpose is."

Johnson said he'd also heard concerns from the public about trail use during the hunting season.

"We do want people to enjoy it and use it," Johnson said of the park, adding that it provides space for hunting, fishing and even bird watching.

Nobles County Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr., a non-voting member of the watershed board, thanked Milbrandt for "thinking outside the box" with his suggestion for a recreational hiking and biking trail around Lake Bella. He said he was concerned with the costs of building and maintaining the trail for "the few people who would use it."

In other action, the board:

  • Voted to retain legal counsel from Mike Tow, Fairmont, for an initial consultation to assess Ken Meyerdirk's alleged watershed rules violation. Livdahl reported that a notification sent by certified mail requesting Meyerdirk restore a culvert under a township road provided 60 days to complete the work. The culmination of the 60 days was on Monday, and Livdahl said the work was not done.
  • Meyerdirk replaced a corrugated culvert with a smooth, double-walled culvert that results in increased water flow through the culvert. The watershed district also contends Meyerdirk lowered the culvert. Both are violations of watershed rules. Meyerdirk has hired an attorney, and it was reported at last month's watershed meeting that he does not plan to restore the culvert to its original type and location.
  • Livdahl said the legal counsel who will be retained by the watershed district knows the community and the site. Tow also does legal work for the Heron Lake Watershed District and the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District, both of which comprise portions of Nobles County.
  • Received a 2014 budget proposal, based on a levy of $170,000. This is the same amount that was levied in 2013. The budget as presented will include an an increase from $100 to $150 per acre for producers willing to install filter strips; as well as a 3 percent pay increase for the watershed district administrator.
  • Approved a request for cost-share from Doug Anton to reconstruct a waterway on his property in Bigelow Township. The project cost is $4,720, with the OOWD covering 75 percent of the total cost, up to $3,540. In order to receive cost-share, landowners must agree to maintain the project for a minimum of 15 years.
  • Approved a permit for Bill Wetering, Worthington, to install a rock area for drainage on his property along Lake Okabena.
  • Approved a fall seeding of CRP mix on the St. John's property owned by the watershed district. This parcel is located along Minnesota 60, near Buss Field.
  • Discussed plans for touring a lake in Plymouth this week to look at an aeration system and equipment used to skim algae from lake water.
Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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