Pequot Lakes: Idea for recreational facilities on city land again discussed

After reviewing work ICS Consulting did in 2019 to engage the community to help determine the best use of that land in the city’s Heart of the Good Life development, the council agreed to again ask the Pequot Lakes School Board its thoughts on putting recreational facilities there.

The Pequot Lakes City Council heard a progress report at its Tuesday, Jan. 7, meeting on potential plans to develop recreational space on land in the Heart of the Good Life development, between the Paul Bunyan Trail and the four-lane Highway 371 south of the city’s business park.

After an eight-month hiatus, a proposal to turn 40 acres of city-owned land into recreational facilities again came before the Pequot Lakes City Council at its Tuesday, March 2, meeting.

After much discussion, the council agreed to have City Administrator Rich Spiczka engage the Pequot Lakes School District in conversation to gauge the school district’s interest in the project.

The council first reviewed work ICS Consulting did in 2019 to engage the community to help determine the best use of that land in the city’s Heart of the Good Life development, which is the property south of the business park between the four-lane Highway 371 and the Paul Bunyan Trail.

The city is promoting public or private development of the entire 85 acres, including recreational, commercial and industrial development.

During that community visioning process in 2019, Spiczka was the school district’s Community Education director. Residents indicated they were interested in athletic facilities for the space, including softball and baseball fields.


The council learned last summer that project options ranged from $1 million to $6 million, and said then that the school district's response would help determine how best to move forward regarding potential funding options.

The council now has three new members, and discussion March 2 included donating or selling the land to the school district, using less than 40 acres for the project, and determining costs to use the southernmost tip of land, among other potential ideas.

Questions included who would build the project and who would maintain it.

Mayor Tyler Gardner said for the project to become a reality, the council needs to work with the school board.

Council member Scott Pederson said: “It’s the numbers that will do the talking.”

After discussing this project last July, the council wanted to know whether the school district would be a partner in the venture. The school board last August said it would only move forward if the city donated the land and voters approved the funds.

Also March 2, the council held a public hearing to create a tax increment financing district for infrastructure improvements in the Heart of the Good Life development. No one from the public spoke during the hearing.

After Jason Murray, from David Drown Associates, presented the plan, the council agreed to create the nine-year economic development TIF district.


The purpose of the TIF district is to promote development in the commercial and industrial park by funding a portion of the costs associated with street and utility extensions to the area, with the flexibility to fund private development through the use of pay-as-you-go assistance, specifically site improvements, and acquisition and other related public improvements costs.

If the council does designate some of the land for recreational use, those acres would be removed from the TIF district.

Murray said the only downside to the TIF district is the loss of potential tax revenue, but the city doesn’t have that revenue now anyway with no developments in that area. TIF is a way to encourage development.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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