Fisherman’s Inn is coming to the end of its voyage, but owner Jim Peterson sees a continued journey for the property.

"There will be a park here forever," he said.

Peterson agreed in August to sell the property to Olmsted County for $750,000. After the sale closes next week, the county plans to use the land to extend its existing Zumbro Lake parkland, which includes the White Bridge Fishing Pier.

The building is expected to be demolished in the spring, after Peterson has had time to remove or sell items from the restaurant.

Peterson said he’d approached the county and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the past regarding the potential to purchase the property, which includes a boat ramp. While past inquiries had been declined, the county started looking for new parkland last year.

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"We always thought people would be appreciative if the landing was preserved," Peterson said.

While some of his customers have supported the decision, he said others are more concerned about the restaurant's closing.

"A lot of them are very sad, and rightfully so," he said.

Peterson bought the restaurant on June 16, 1987, with his parents and other family members. During the past 33 years, family members have sold their shares to Peterson, who continues to oversee daily operations of the restaurant.

He said he will continue doing so until the Fisherman’s Inn closes on New Year’s Eve for the final time.

As the day approaches, he said business has been brisk. Reservations continue to be taken, but he said he wouldn’t advise trying to get a table without calling ahead.

The rush has been building since the sale was announced in August, he said.

The county sought the property as part of an exchange tied to a deal with another area restaurant owner, Joe Powers.

Olmsted County plans to transfer the historic Biermann House to Powers, who has vowed to restore the vacant building and convert it to rental housing. The transfer of existing parkland, however, requires the county to replace the land.

Karlin Ziegler, Olmsted County’s parks superintendent, said the planned land swap still needs federal approval, which could come in February or March, but the Fisherman’s Inn site will be an asset to county residents, whether or not the plan is approved.

"I think there are a lot of people itching for a good public ramp," she said, noting the Fisherman’s Inn boat ramp is expected to be open in the spring.

Peterson had offered public access to the ramp for years, but maintenance and other costs made it difficult.

"It stayed open," he said. "We just had made it semi-private."

Use of the ramp has been restricted to people willing to pay for keys to gain access.

County Commissioner Mark Thein, who represents the county district that includes Fisherman’s Inn, said the closing is a loss.

"All being equal, I think we’d appreciate having Fisherman’s Inn there forever and have public access to the lake," he said.

However, with Peterson’s desire to sell the property, Thein noted the future was uncertain, and future development could have closed access to the boat ramp for good.

"They don’t make shore land anymore," he noted, saying the site is likely the county’s last option to create park space on Lake Zumbro, which was recently dredged with the help of state and county funds.

"You can’t really have a private lake with $4 million of public investment in it, so I think it’s a smart move," he said of the decision to add a site to the county’s portfolio.

Ziegler said work continues on a master plan for the site, but a pavilion is already in the works.

An anonymous donor, who reportedly has ties to the lake, has pledged $10,000 to help create the pavilion, which Ziegler said will be matched with county funds. Other funding and potential donations are being sought to ensure the facility is a focal point in the park.

Thein said he’d like to see a variety of amenities added to the site, to make it a popular draw for families and others, but he’ll wait to see what is proposed as a master plan is developed.

"I have a lot of things in my head of what I’d like it to become, but we’ll see what it becomes," he said.

Peterson said he also sees public potential in the site as he moves to his next endeavors.

"I have irons in the fire, but they won’t be restaurants," he said. "Thirty-three years is long enough."

The SkiDox Water Ski Team has been a Zumbro Lake fixture for decades.

The team’s weekly Monday practices and Wednesday ski shows near Fisherman’s Inn have been a summer tradition for many area residents over the years.

Dunoon Warnke, a ski team member from Red Wing, said she’s hoping the tradition continues.

"As of right now, we are planning to stay there," she said, noting the site’s change to a county park could draw a bigger crowd for the ski shows.

Karlin Ziegler, Olmsted County’s parks superintendent, said no plans exist for a formal agreement with the team, but county ownership of the Fisherman’s Inn would not stop the shows and practices from continuing.

However, the county’s plan to use the site as a public park would require the ski team to remove its shed from the property by the end of 2020.

"This does not exclude them from being able to use the water for their ski practice and shows and use the public launch, but they will not be able to have a home base on the property," she said.