Park improvements create more county recreational opportunities

Submitted Photo A new pedestrian bridge crosses the pond in Old Settlers Park at Burlington.

Recreational opportunities have been increasing in the Minot area with recent improvements to the Ward County Parks system. Even more improvements are planned this year.

Visitors who have taken advantage of Old Settlers Park in Burlington will have noticed the new walking bridge over the pond. This year a lighted, floating fountain will be placed nearby in the pond. The pond also has a new inlet to help maintain the water level.

The county park board will be adding more wood chips this summer around the playground at Old Settlers. Children have been able to enjoy two new sandbox diggers and a new swingset. The swings include a handicapped-accessible swing and a parent-infant dual swing.

Old Settlers’ nine-hole No Man’s Land Disc Golf course also is open on land acquired with federal hazard mitigation dollars. Travis Schmit, assistant county engineer, said the course was built with removable equipment to be eligible for construction on the river greenway.

The park’s other improvements include a new shelter added two years ago and a new roadway to serve the new layout for camping. Gravel pads for campers replaced the former grass pads.

“The new layout and new pads promote easy access,” Schmit said.

A couple of years ago, two shelters with benches and trash receptacles were erected along the Minot to Burlington fitness trail. This summer, the park board will be installing a grouping of three pieces of outdoor fitness equipment.

Two shelters with benches and trash receptacles were added along the Freedom Trail running north of Minot, too. Rows of trees were planted to act as wind break and shade for the future along the trail.

Rice Lake property owners are planning about a half-mile walking trail that begins near a parking area and the Rice Lake welcome sign, around which residents recently did some landscaping. The new trail will complement county park-related improvements that have been ongoing.

This year, the park board will construct a switch-back trail from the parking area down the hillside to the boat ramp at Rice Lake. Last year, the park board purchased a lot at the lake, near the campground, to install a fishing pier donated by North Dakota Game & Fish.

At Nelson-Carlson Lake, the county added asphalt millings to improve the parking area. The former swingset from Old Settlers was installed at Nelson-Carlson.

Schmit said grant funds are being sought to move forward with plans for swim beaches at both Rice Lake and Nelson-Carlson. Rice Lake has a designated swim area now, but it will be improved with beach buoy delineators and an anchored raft. Nelson-Carlson will gain a designated swim area, also with buoys and a raft.

At Eastside Estates, Ward County has been working with Friends of the Souris River to develop a launch site for canoes at the end of 33rd Avenue Southeast. Schmit said the county bought land on the west side of future flood control for green space, and it has been left in its natural terrain.

Shannon Straight with Friends of the Souris River said the area could become a natural picnic stop for river enthusiasts. The goal of the group is to develop canoeing and biking opportunities throughout the area from east Minot and downstream, he said.

A couple of natural launching points have been located, and an island just below Gold Nugget Mobile Home Park provides a great stopping point and wildlife viewing area, Straight said. Land to the east is owned by the county, which has given the Friends group access to clear debris and dead trees.

Future plans for the county park board include new picnic tables at Old Settlers and Eastside Estates and three replacement barbecue pits at Old Settlers for the large older pits that came through the flood and are deteriorating. Future projects hinge on grant funds.

Schmit said the county has been able to fund as much as half the cost of projects through grants. The local county property-tax levy received by the parks program goes for any local match and for park maintenance.

The park board has been planning on a yearly basis for improvements but hopes to do more long-range planning.

“We hope to get to a five-year plan for our parks and be able to write grants further out to better accomplish our mission and goals,” Schmit said.

The Ward County Parks Visioning Committee has been in place for two years to provide input into the types of future improvements for the parks. The committee and park board are both open to ideas from the public, Schmit said.

One way to submit input is through Ward County Parks’ Facebook site, either through commenting or messaging. Information about county parks is available on Facebook or at wardnd.com. The website includes a link to county parks under the Community tab. The link provides information on the county park sites and the amenities available at each.

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