Olmsted County’s new boat ramp is ready in time for the upcoming warm weekend.
Karlin Ziegler, the county’s parks superintendent, said the dock for the ramp at the newly expanded park space along Lake Zumbro was installed Monday to get ahead of a potential rush.
“After seeing how busy it was last week, we wanted to make it safer for the public by putting the dock in early,” she said.
The new public ramp was made possible with the county’s $750,000 purchase of the former Fisherman’s Inn property in January.
The purchase extends the county’s parkland on the lake, which includes the White Bridge Fishing Pier. The area continues to undergo planning for revisions.
“We’re going to keep plugging away on that,” Ziegler said, adding staff work on the project has slowed as the county responds to the COVID 19 pandemic.
However, she said the new dock and striping in parking area makes the site ready for the official boat launch opening Friday.
While the state remains under a stay-at-home order, Gov. Tim Walz left room for outdoor activities that allow physical distancing.
“Boating is one of those great outdoor sports that is great for social distancing,” Ziegler said, adding that the county is encouraging people to respect others’ needs for space as boats are launched.
While the ramp is ready, the rest of the park continues to face changes.
The SkiDox Water Ski Team continues to remove its ramps and other items from the county site, and the county is moving toward demolition of the former restaurant.
Plans for a new pavilion partly funded by a $10,000 anonymous donation could also be on hold, due to expected belt tightening.
“We’ve been told our capital budgets for next year will be pretty minimal,” Ziegler said, noting the county is expected to match the private donation when the pavilion is built.
Elsewhere in the county park system, plans to build a new nature center at Oxbow Park are also seeing a potential delay. .
The project has been on a path toward receiving $2.1 million in state funds, but the status of the award from the Parks and Trails Legacy Grant Program is uncertain as the state Legislature deals with concerns surrounding COVID-19.
Mat Miller, Olmsted County’s director of facilities and building operations, said the uncertainty could postpone work until funding is confirmed.
“There is probably some pre-work that can continue, like design and sewer,” he told county commissioners last week.
Ziegler said she expects to hear more about the funding before the county needs to seek a construction contract for the project.
“The fact that they are not raising any red flags right now tells me to move forward,” she said of the state officials.