Answer Man: How will we access a newly dredged Lake Zumbro?
Answer Man, purveyor of wisdom and knowledge, I have a few questions I’m sure you’ll know the answers to about Lake Zumbro. This lake can be quite busy on a nice day, and once the dredging is competed I’m sure it will get even more use.
I hope I’m wrong, but as far as I know there is now only one public boat access on the lake to launch a boat and it has parking room for only about 20 vehicles with a boat trailer.
Are there any plans to add another public boat access and public toilets? — Ol’ River Rat
If you dredge it, they will come.
That’s the fear of some homeowners on Lake Zumbro.
Most specifically, Laura Andrews and Aaron Rocklyn filed a petition asking to not be assessed for the dredging effort, citing a potential hardship based on the potential for increased lake activity.
“We object to being assessed for a project that will substantially increase river traffic by our home,” they wrote to the Lake Zumbro Joint Powers Board, which recently approved an effort to collect $2.75 million in assessments for the $7.4 million project.
Andrews and Rocklyn noted trespassing has been a problem in the past and noise will likely increase with added activity.
“Our recreation on the river will be impacted negatively,” they added. “Currently, it is a very quiet and beautiful place to kayak. With increased river traffic, this will no longer be the case.”
As Olmsted County’s only navigable lake in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Lake Zumbro has long attracted boaters, anglers and others engaged in water sports.
Activity has dropped in recent years, with shallow waters limiting some activities and access, but it’s highly likely the lake’s popularity will grow again once sediment is removed next year. That expectation is part of the reason Olmsted and Wabasha county commissioners have agreed to spend tax dollars on the project — $526,000 from Olmsted and $131,000 from Wabasha.
However, while the project will bring the opportunity for added use, it won’t necessarily expand access.
Ponderosa Campground near Mazeppa offers the only public boat launch, even though there are other private locations to put a boat in the water.
At the same time, kayaks and canoes have been launched from the public fishing access at the end of Fisherman Drive Northwest, near Fisherman’s Inn.
A second public boat ramp was located by Shady Point off White Bridge Road, but it was closed when increased sediment made access impossible. Inquiries on whether that site would reopen after dredging have met with mixed replies, so it’s likely a wait-and-see scenario.
“The dredging project plans include the White Bridge Road area,” according to Jess Althoff, area supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Parks and Trails. “When complete, the planned dredging project greatly increases the potential for developing a second boat launch in that location. The DNR hopes to pursue any viable options to increase public access to Lake Zumbro and welcomes discussions with local government officials.”
Althoff also reported other options are being considered.
The current lack of public amenities could lead to recreational boaters violating private spaces, but hopefully the state’s ongoing efforts to find other access points will come with the addition of public amenities to help ensure lake users can have fun and respect the property owners along the shoreline.