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Restoration project gives Chub Lake Park new lease on life

Chub Lake Park has been an asset to Carlton County for nearly 40 years, and a special project completed this summer will ensure the popular park will continue in that tradition for many more decades to come.

Chub Lake Park has been an asset to Carlton County for nearly 40 years, and a special project completed this summer will ensure the popular park will continue in that tradition for many more decades to come.

"The County Water Plan [group] saw Chub Lake as a priority," explained Joan Weyandt, recycling and resource coordinator for the Carlton County Planning & Zoning Department. "The wide expanse of park shoreline needed an upgrade to serve as an example of good lake stewardship and reflect the standard the county is encouraging for all lakeshore owners."

To facilitate the project, Weyandt applied for a grant from the Department of Natural Resources Division of Fisheries for backing to revegetate the park. At that point, her appeal also brought to the attention of the DNR Division and Waterways the compromised condition of the park's boat access, and a cooperative project began to upgrade both the beach and the access simultaneously.

After two years of planning, the planting, grading and building began at the park this past May. The County Water Plan group worked to design and plant some 400 feet of shore land buffer at the park, and a segment of aquatic vegetation was added to develop a safety zone for the swimming beach. Planting included some 400 transplants and three pounds of native seed.

"The buffer areas will result in a display of colorful native vegetation that will reduce nutrient inputs from the large lawn into Chub Lake," explained Weyandt.

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The overall plan was to provide a better separation between the public boat landing, the picnic areas and beach use and keep the shoreline from eroding into the lake and causing degradation of the water. Funding for recent project came from non-local tax dollars.

The DNR Trails and Waterways Division also worked to upgrade the boat access and design a new parking area to incorporate curbing and rain gardens to act as responsible shore land stewards by reducing runoff.

Two weeks ago, Weyandt hosted officials of the state and regional DNR offices out at Chub Lake Park to showcase the fruits of their collective labors. And while the full impact of the recent changes at the park may take a few years to come to complete fruition, they remain an important part of preserving the park's integrity.

Thousands of visitors have used and enjoyed the Chub Lake Park area over the four decades since it was first purchased by the county, and the land on which it stands has been a recreational mecca for residents and tourists alike for even longer.

"The land was a natural location for a park," said County Commissioner and Carlton resident Gordon Aanerud, "because if you look back at Carlton County history, there was once a big pavilion right where the picnic shelter now stands, and residents used to have weekly dances there. When we first established the park out there, there were a lot of people who come out with metal detectors who were finding rings and coins and everything from the old dances that had been held there in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. The pavilion burned down prior to the late '40s or early '50s, and it was never rebuilt."

Aanerud went on to detail how, at one time, Ritus Brown had a boat rental and little resort right next to the land where the park now exists.

"He owned all that farmland around there," Aanerud said, "and his son, Don, still lives on the original homestead."

In 1967, Aanerud and neighbor Ed Kavanaugh were serving on the Carlton County Park Board together, and they arranged for the county to purchase the land on Chub Lake for a park. The county paid $1,800 for 30 acres of lakeshore, fields and woods.

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"The parkland itself was owned by Lee Lumber Company of Carlton," explained Aanerud, "and when I moved to the area in 1965, they had offered the land for sale to many different people. Most said, 'Who wants that mud hole?' When it came up to Ed and I, we gave them an offer and they took it. I could have bought it myself if I hadn't suggested it to the county - but then thousands of people would not have enjoyed all those weekend afternoons out there, company picnics, family outings, and a lot of those types of things. It's a shared asset."

The summer the county bought the land for Chub Lake Park, they also bought land on Island Lake in Cromwell and the following year they bought Bear Lake in Barnum.

In 1968, the county secured LAWCON funds from boat gas tax money and administered by the Department of Natural Resources. The county used the funds to develop the beach area, the changing rooms, the picnic benches and the surrounding areas.

"That was back in the 1960s and '70s when there was a lot of state and federal money around that was being shared with local governments and dedicated toward recreation," said Aanerud, "and that was how we spent ours."

Then in 1971 or 1972, the main ball field was put in on the lower flat of the park. A few years later, the group worked to get some Minnesota recreation money through the DNR and then put in four more ball fields, as well as revamping the main field and putting in some buildings.

"It was quite controversial at the time," Aanerud recalled. "In fact, just to establish the park was controversial because people who live on a lake really don't want to share it with the public if they can help it."

The boat landing was there before the county bought the land for the park.

"The DNR has always had a public access there because the lake is over the number of acres the state requires for an access," said Aanerud.

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Aanerud said this summer's upgrade to the park reaffirms the important role it plays in the recreational and environmental impact on the area.

"It's been kind of a fun project watching it materialize and knowing I had something to do with it," Aanerud mused. "I think it's important to have parks and access to water because not all of us can own a cabin and not all of us can own a beach. But by the same token, we should have the right to use the lake. A public park provides access for the people.

"The park has evolved into something pretty nice over the last 40 years," Aanerud continued. "People sometimes forget you have to look 20-30 years down the road. You can't just look at today - but we expect our leadership to. I think it's been a real asset to Carlton County. If you want to attract people to your area, you have to have amenities for them to enjoy, and it's all based on what we call the quality of life. I think developing a park is as much economic development as building a plant to employ people. People like to move to communities where they've got things to do, and that's all-important."

Pine Journal Publisher Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: wjohnson@pinejournal.com .

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