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Gamehaven eyed for $1.1 million in legacy funds

December 7, 2018

Efforts to continue molding Gamehaven Regional Park into a four-season, nature-based recreational venue could get a state boost next year.

The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission plans to recommend the Minnesota Legislature provide about $1.1 million in legacy funds to the park located deep in the southeast portion of the city.

“It’s a big deal for us and a big deal for the state to have this project move forward,” Rochester Park and Forestry Division Head Mike Nigbur said.

If approved during the 2019 legislative session, the funds would contribute to a $2.3 million project, which would add championship-caliber disc golf and snow-making abilities to the park just east of the Shoppes on Maine area.

Nigbur said the park is used for archery, mountain biking and some cross-country skiing, but the addition of improved parking and driveways, as well as utilities, would expand recreational opportunities, which would include a 2 kilometer cross-country ski loop and prairie restoration.

“The development of this park is one of the high-priority initiatives identified in the new Rochester Park System Plan,” he said. “This park encompasses a variety of uses during all four seasons, coordinates with different partners and helps enhance Rochester.”

He said potential benefits extend beyond Rochester, which helps support its chances for state funding.

“As a state-identified park of regional significance, this park will not only serve our local residents with great amenities, it will attract regional visitors to the community,” he said.

While a commission recommendation doesn’t ensure funding approval, Nigbur said the odds are in the city’s favor. In recent years, the Legislature has approved legacy funds based on the commission’s suggestions.

Legacy funds are provided by the 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which sets aside a portion of collected state sales tax for specific goals, one of which is to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

In 2016, the city received $1.1 million in legacy funds to purchase 93 acres to expand Gamehaven Park.

Nigbur said next year’s potential funding would be used to activate the new land, but noted it would not complete efforts in the park.

He said current and future efforts also will continue to rely on participation by the Rochester Active Sports Club, which is providing funding support along with significant volunteer labor to make projects successful.

In addition to the potential legacy funds to build within the park, the city plans to advocate for $1.5 million in state capital improvement funds to help build a trail to connect Gamehaven Park to the Willow Creek area.

“It’s a significant area that continues to be underserved,” Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said, noting more than 1,000 households are within a half mile of the proposed trail.

Additionally, the city also plans to request $2.75 million in state funds to continue efforts to improve Cascade Lake Park, which also is considered a park of regional significance.

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