Village of Colfax eligible for DNR outdoor recreation grants for park improvements

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — The Village of Colfax is included in Dunn County’s Outdoor Recreation Plan, so the village is eligible to apply for recreation grants available through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

In the past, “we’ve found that eligible towns and villages tend to forget about the (DNR) grants and not utilize and access the funds,” said Addison Vang, a planner and zoning enforcement officer with Dunn County, who attended the Colfax Village Board’s October 23 meeting to talk about Colfax and the county’s outdoor recreation plan.

[emember_protected] Vang said his main purpose for attending the meeting was to remind the village board Colfax is eligible for the DNR’s outdoor recreation grants.

The 88-page Dunn County Outdoor Recreation Plan covers the years 2016 to 2020 and is an inventory of all the public parks in Dunn  County, including state parks, county parks, town parks and village parks.

Colfax has six parks listed in the plan that cover about 35 acres all together: Iverson Park, Colfax Fairgrounds, Tom Prince Memorial Park, Stuart Park, J.D. Simons Memorial Park and Tower Park.

The DNR uses the outdoor recreation plan to determine who is eligible for the grants, Vang said.

Vang said he walked all the parks in Dunn County last year and wrote descriptions.

What was missing, he said, was the history of the parks, so Vang asked municipalities to add more to the descriptions of the parks to “add to the story.”

Dunn County’s Outdoor Recreation Plan includes a schedule of improvements for the parks and an estimated cost for completing the projects.

The improvement schedule is an important component of the outdoor recreation plan because it shows there has been thought put into the projects, Vang said.

In previous years, the DNR gave out grants for parks, but then DNR officials discovered there was little or no support from the communities for those improvements, he said.

The improvements are an indication the public is using the parks and that the improvements are important for the parks and the communities where they are located, Vang said.

Dunn County will not hold the municipalities responsible for completing the projects in any given  year, but keeping the improvements on the list will help the plans not to become lost and forgotten, he said.

If a particular improvement is not completed in the year in which it is listed, the improvement can easily be moved into the next year, Vang noted.

Soo Park

Vang asked about Soo Park and if there were plans for developing the space into a park.

Soo Park refers to the space south of the Colfax Railroad Museum.

Herb Sakalaucks, curator of the railroad museum, would like to turn the space into a railroad park and include a miniature train ride.

The village has looked into the possibility of using the Soo Park space for a duplex or for a garage to house Commercial Testing Lab’s route vehicles.

For the majority of the last nearly 100 years, the ownership of the park was not established.

Soo Park has been called Soo Park since the late 1800s and has never been developed, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.

The village is trying to decide right now what to do with the property, she said.

“It may or may not be a park,” Niggemann said.

Vang said he realized plans were not yet established for a park in the Soo Park location, but because of the parcel’s history, “it seems like the perfect location for a park.”

Plans

Two park projects for this year include the roof on the ice skating warming shed and the roof on the concessions stand at Tom Prince Memorial Park.

The two roof projects will be completed with donated labor but the village will pay for the materials, Niggemann said.

During the village board meeting, Niggemann said she would have to check whether the roof projects were expected to be completed yet this fall or if they were going to be held over until next spring.

In a conversation several days later, Niggemann said she had learned the roof projects were expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Other projects on the list include the fence at the Colfax Fairgrounds around the beer garden and the refreshment building, at an estimated cost of $6,000, and bleachers in the beer garden at an estimated cost of $8,000.

The list also includes a walking path from the Colfax school district to Eighteen Mile Creek and a walking path along the creek.

The trail would start at Iverson Park and go down to Eighteen Mile Creek, then across the creek and back to state Highway 40/University Avenue, said Gary Stene, village president.

A local business in Colfax is willing to donate a bridge for Eighteen Mile Creek, he noted.

Public parks

The DNR awards grants on the basis that the parcel is going to be open to the public forever, Vang said.

Bicycle trails and snowmobile trails are the only trails the DNR does not require to be “forever” because they often need landowner permission every year, he said.

“But once you get the grant, then that park is going to be open to the public forever,” Vang said.

The DNR also has land acquisition grants available and grants to help provide access to water for fishing, boat ramps and portaging, he noted.

Many of the parks in Dunn County are along a creek or a river, Vang said.

“All of our parks are located by water,” Stene said.

In fact, five of the village’s six parks are located next to either the Red Cedar River or Eighteen Mile Creek.

The only park not in direct proximity to water is Tower Park next to the Colfax Municipal Building.

Grant applications

Village board members wanted to know who would write the grant applications for the DNR money.

County personnel do not write any of the grant applications because Dunn County does not want to compete with private companies that write grant applications, such as Cedar Corporation, Vang said.

Dunn County will, however, connect municipalities with agencies and other partners and will provide documents and maps, he said.

“We would appreciate any help we could get. I would guess you would have insight from your department,” Stene said.

Vang noted that, unfortunately, he personally has not had any experience with the DNR grants because none of the municipalities have applied for the grants in the time he has been employed by Dunn County.

Vang said he sees park improvements that would qualify for DNR grants.

The DNR really prefers projects to help with river access and water access, he noted.

The Colfax Village Board approved a resolution last year for Colfax to be part of Dunn County’s Outdoor Recreation Plan.

The DNR wanted to make sure plans for municipalities are included and wanted the resolutions to make the participation more official, Vang said.

The outdoor recreation plan will be updated every five years, and when the plan is updated, then municipalities will have to consider another resolution to participate, he said.

The Colfax Village Board approved a motion to accept updates to the parks plans recommended by the village board’s parks committees.

The motion did not specifically list the recommendations from the parks committee.

Niggemann said she would provide plan updates to Vang as soon as possible.

Dunn County’s Outdoor Recreation Plan is available on the Dunn County website. Go to environmental services under the department drop-down menu at the top of the main page and select planning and zoning. On the planning and zoning page, the outdoor recreation plan is available under the plans and programs link on the left side of the page. [/emember_protected]