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Nisswa: $35,000 donation to kick off Nisswa Lake Park development

A 94-year-old Brainerd woman's $35,000 donation to Nisswa will kickstart development at Nisswa Lake Park with the construction of trails and other amenities, such as picnic tables, benches and barbecue pits.

The city and the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park accepted Mildred Gjertson's donation Friday, Aug. 18. The Friends of Nisswa Lake Park is a fundraising group for the park being built on city-owned land on the west side of the Highway 371 tunnel on Nisswa Lake.

After learning of the pending donation at its Wednesday, Aug. 16, regular meeting, the Nisswa City Council voted 4-1 to allocate up to $35,000 from the city's park dedication fund toward those park amenities. Gjertson's donation is slated for physical improvements to the park; any engineering fees will be paid through park dedication fees the council allocated. The park dedication fund has about $57,000.

Mayor Fred Heidmann cast the dissenting vote. He said he supports Nisswa Lake Park, but thought approving up to $35,000 in park dedication money for engineering fees was too much. Matthew Hill, parks and recreation director, said he didn't anticipate the engineering fees would be that much, and he wouldn't spend more than necessary. Hill also said the parks department has other upcoming projects where matching funds may be needed, including a Gull Lake Trail.

Council member John Ryan proposed the city match the $35,000 donation. He said he has talked to people who want the park to be developed and who perceive a lack of interest by the city. Ryan said the city's donation could generate more interest for the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park.

Heidmann said the council has no idea how much any engineering fees would be or if in-kind donations could be used instead. Hill said he could research whether in-kind donations would be available.

Council member Ross Krautkremer said the city has the chance to get infrastructure and usability at the park, so the council needed to give Hill the ability to use funds designated for park improvement.

"We can throw around numbers and come back with a proposal, but keep in mind we have the opportunity to put in trails so people can use the park. If it costs $35,000 in park dedication fees, we should look at that," he said.

Hill also told the council that a committee had been formed to help prioritize development at Nisswa Lake Park.