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DL's wildest park to expand -- sucker creek to add 46 acres, trout stream will be protected

Sally Hausken shows one of the many native flowers found growing on the new piece of land she hopes the city will receive grants to purchase and add to Sucker Creek Preserve. Photo by BRIAN BASHAM/RECORD1 / 2
the additional property next to sucker creek preserve, Upstream Sucker Creek, includes more of the creek and 10-15 fresh water springs.2 / 2

The border of the Sucker Creek Preserve will likely expand to include a 46-acre tract of land across the street from the park.

There are 10-15 springs that feed Sucker Creek on that 46-acre tract -- a major reason park matriarch Sally Hausken of Detroit Lakes says it's of "monumental importance" for the city of Detroit Lakes to own the land.

Hausken initially worked with the city to acquire the Sucker Creek Preserve. She was instrumental in helping to raise the $410,000 it took to purchase the land and build what has become a natural treasure within the city.

No tax dollars were used for the original preserve -- some park dedication funds were used to build the boardwalk -- and none will be used for the newest piece of land, Upstream Sucker Creek.

"When we look back, people will say this was a wonderful thing the city took initiative on. I don't see a downfall," Community Development Director Larry Remmen said.

The piece of property has been a part of the Hugh A. Long Family Trust for 47 years, and Hausken acquired it "about 40 days" ago. She plans to apply for grants to purchase the land for the city to add to the existing 64-acre preserve.

"I think we have a lot to offer and we need to capitalize on that," she said of the city. "Here's an opportunity for a municipality to own a source of fresh water. It's real important for a city to have a fresh water source."

Sucker Creek has long been designated as a trout stream.

"A chance to fish a trout stream in a city is a unique opportunity," Hausken said.

Besides the importance of having the springs on the property, the land is filled with rare and interesting wetlands and plants, she said.

Hausken said there are plants on the piece of property that she hasn't identified and is working with the DNR to identify them. She's talked to a regional ecologist out of Bemidji, and plans to talk to someone out of the St. Paul office to get the species identified.

She said the ecologist, Becky Marty, told her there are interesting wetlands and mineral seeps in that area, though she hasn't been there to identify them.

"This site is an excellent addition to Sucker Creek Preserve," she told Hausken.

The grant Hausken is applying for is through the DNR Parks and Trails Grant, which is part of the Legacy Fund. The main goal of the DNR is to preserve nature, she said, so this is a good fit for the grant. With so much competition for the funds, she said if the grant doesn't come through, she'll find another one.

"I'm an opportunist," she said. "I jumped and asked how high on the way up."

The city gave Hausken approval to apply to the DNR for legacy funding for the project, and the city would act as the legal agent for the grant.

At this point, the city would need to fund 10 percent of the grant, but that could change by the time the grant is awarded. It's that 10 percent that Hausken said she would raise through donations so the city once again wouldn't be spending any tax money on the project.

The 10 percent is determined by the cost of the land -- an appraisal is underway. The value will be available at the Aug. 7 council meeting, where Hausken will give a presentation on the project and the council will ask for public input.

Legacy funding increase

Last week during the regular Detroit Lakes City Council meeting, the council supported a resolution requiring Legacy funding to be more equally divided between outstate Minnesota and the metro area.

"It's a fairness issue, in my book," said Public Works Director Brad Green.

The resolution states that the parks and trails system in outstate Minnesota has been under funded compared to Legacy money that has flowed to the DNR and the metro park system.

"The first round of park and trail legacy funding in 2009 was unfair to Greater Minnesota, with 43 percent of the funding dedicated to metro park needs, 43 percent dedicated to DNR park and trail needs and projects, while leaving only 14 percent funding for a statewide grants program, some of which (20 percent) also went to metro parks.

In 2011, Greater Minnesota received 20 percent of the legacy funding, with 43 percent going to metro and 37 percent to the DNR.

Also in 2011, the Greater Minnesota park and trail proposed projects totaled $76 million. About $33 million was requested, which was four times the amount awarded.

The resolution states that the city believes the existing formula is unfair and is "not enough to carry out the state plan or meet public expectations."

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.