Dead Lake wildlife area dedicatedPublished 9:33am Thursday, September 16, 2010
What was once projected to be a large-scale development at a peninsula on the north side of Dead Lake was dedicated Wednesday as part of the Dead Lake Wildlife Management Area. Of the 800 plus acres in the preserve, now owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 246 of those acres were once part of the development formerly known as the Blue Heron Bay project.
“Credit for making this happen goes to the Dead Lake Property Owners Association,” said Mike Carroll, DNR Northwest Regional Director.
The Dead Lake Association’s litigation, starting in 2003, demanding an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), was the first step that led to the eventual DNR preserve. Later, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of the association on the EIS and other matters.
The EIS was subsequently completed and led to revised development plans with substantial development conditions to protect Dead Lake.
Later, the Blue Heron Bay property owners faced foreclosure. In another financial twist, the foreclosed property’s lender failed and the FDIC seized Sioux Falls-based Bank First in 2009.
The Minnesota DNR, prior to obtaining the foreclosed property from the FDIC, received assistance from The Trust for Public Land (TTPL) in acquiring 56 acres on the east portion of the property in 2007, combining it into the adjacent Dead Lake Wildlife Management Area. The TTPL then became the agent for acquiring, in 2010, what was once the Blue Heron Bay property, totaling 190 acres.
Last month the Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA) presented the 2010 Lake Association of the Year Award to the Dead Lake Association. COLA noted the association’s opposition to the Blue Heron Bay project. The Dead Lake Association believed that the project was not in the best interest of lakeshore residents or the long-term well being of the lake.
Attorneys, engineers, appraisers and others cost the Dead Lake Association $325,000. To pay for it, the association members held auctions, raffles and monthly pancake breakfasts.
“We’re proud that the lake association persevered,” said Otter Tail County Commissioner Doug Huebsch who spoke at Wednesday’s dedication. “We as a county board, and others, are extremely happy with this solution.”
Don Schultz, area wildlife supervisor for the DNR based in Fergus Falls, said the Dead Lake Association was correct in its early concerns with the development, in light of the shallow bay, potentially heavy boat traffic and the possible negative effects on wildlife.
“There’s now seven miles of shoreline in this beautiful preserve,” said Schultz, “and the general public will be able to enjoy spending time at the 800 acres of property.”
Walt Spidahl, former property owner at the site, said he has fond memories of spending time at Dead Lake in the years following World War II. Spidahl and five fellow property owners enjoyed duck hunting and deer hunting in the area.
“Back then we called this Sioux Bay,” said Spidahl on Wednesday, during the dedication. “Our families, including the Muggs Townsend family, had a lot of fun here, as well.”
Terry Lejcher, recently retired DNR area hydrologist, was among the estimated 40 people who attended the dedication, under a large tent, during rainfall.
“I never thought we’d see this day,” said Lejcher. “The Dead Lake Association, DNR and others had a lot of frustration, for many years. In the end, t was all worth it.”
Others, including State Rep. Bud Nornes, said the people of Minnesota, through voter approval of an environmental constitutional amendment, also had a hand in making additions to the Dead Lake Wildlife Management Area a reality. Some of those tax-related dollars were used to purchase land for the preserve.
“Over the years many of us learned a lot about the history of Dead Lake, and the need for preservation,” said Nornes. “Today is a great day.”