WORTHINGTON — Four years after Jake Smith took on the role of Nobles County Parks Superintendent, the Brewster native and county parks board members have worked together to make improvements to the seven parks in the county system.
The latest task was to update the county parks ordinance — a document so old it seems no one knows exactly when it was written. Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder theorizes it dates back to 1970, when the county was purchasing park property.
The newly written document was formally adopted Tuesday, following a public hearing before the Nobles County Board of Commissioners.
“There’s been little or no changes to the ordinance since it was written,” Schnieder told commissioners.
Commissioner Don Linssen, one of six individuals serving on the park board, said the group spent a lot of time on the ordinance. It looked at park ordinances in other counties and came up with rules that better protect users of the park system.
“The idea is to keep the parks as open as possible,” Schnieder added, noting that it’s up to the parks manager to stop or restrict certain activities when necessary.
Among the most notable items in the new ordinance is that dogs must be on a leash when in a county park — especially those where campgrounds are located.
“It’s just for safety of all of the people around,” said Smith.
Fires in county parks will also be more regulated. The new ordinance states that people will only be allowed to use firewood sold by the park, unless they are burning cured lumber. Smith said the change is due to concerns over Emerald Ash Borer and Sudden Death Oak.
“(Sudden Death Oak) would be really sad for the park because we have a lot of mature oaks on there on Maka-Oicu, Fury’s Island and Hawkeye Park also has quite a few.”
Also, fires will only be allowed in fire pits, which are located in the campgrounds on both Fury’s Island and Maka-Oicu on East and West Graham lakes.
The ordinance now also clearly defines park hours as between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.
During Tuesday’s public hearing, Tom Krogman of Lismore said he had questions about the new ordinance as it pertains to dogs and hunting. He primarily visits Midway Park, southeast of Lismore, and was concerned it would be a blanket ordinance for all parks. Midway Park is often visited by people fishing, hunting or walking their dog — often off leash. He spoke of Midway and other parks where hunting is also common.
“I would hate to see that disappear,” Krogman said.
Schnieder said the county’s parks allow for different functions. He doesn’t want to see firearms being used in areas where people are camping.
“Rifles in a park are not a good idea,” Schnieder said. “Shotguns … in the hunting season, those types of things would be allowed in the park.
“Obviously, public safety is something we’re concerned about,” he added.
“Hunting-wise, we have in (the ordinance) that they can hunt, fish and sein within season,” Smith noted.
Krogman then offered accolades for the work Smith has done since becoming the county’s parks superintendent.
“I know Midway, that’s the cleanest the park has been in years,” Krogman said. “The pollinator plots are just outstanding — it really turned out nice.”
The new county parks ordinance is anticipated to be online for viewing on the Nobles County website sometime next month.