Young Park awarded $25,000 grant

Baldwin residents Dean Kleinhans and Sue Hix are seen walking with the SWCD’s Gina Hugo last fall at Young Park. The Otto Bremer Foundation has awarded the park $25,000 for boardwalks.

Baldwin Township has been named the recipient of a substantial grant that will help pave the future of its treasured Young Park.

The St. Paul-based Otto Bremer Foundation has awarded the township a $25,000 grant that will be used to install three handicapped-accessible boardwalks over the wetland areas of Young Park that will allow the trail system throughout the park to be completed.

“We are very fortunate to have received this grant,” said Tom Rush, vice-chairman of the Baldwin Town Board and the board’s point man on the township’s park issues.

The grant will make possible the installation of the boardwalks in three sections of the park, Rush said. In-kind donations from area businesses and Baldwin Township residents will be called upon to further supplement the project, he said.

“Once completed, people will easily be able to use the trail system to walk around the entire 80-acre park,” Rush said.

The boardwalks will be a little over 500 feet, total, Rush said.

In its grant application, Baldwin officials wrote that township leaders are focused on improving the quality of life and expanding opportunities for its residents through growth. That goes hand-in-hand with the vision of the Otto Bremer Foundation, that states that it makes a priority of moving communities forward in meaningful, powerful and broad-based ways.

The man who donated the park land to Baldwin Township, the late Kermit Young, made his gracious donation with a vision of a park that would be a place where future generations could congregate for events, stay active, and enjoy nature’s gifts. The township has come a long way in the past year in making Young’s vision a reality through a strong collaboration between township leadership and a strong base of community volunteers. The Otto Bremer grant will bring that hard work to the next level.

The township still hopes to be the recipient of a $2,500 grant from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe that will further complete the vision of Kermit Young, Rush said.

The total cost of the proposed Young Park improvements is $226,954, according to the grant application submitted to the Otto Bremer Foundation.

Now in the final phase of a three-phase project, the township, park board and volunteers are focusing on accessibility aspects of the park.

Phase I included developing the basic infrastructure of the park. Much of this work was completed in 2011, including the installation of a parking lot and installation of playground equipment. Another Phase I goal was to plant a rain garden on the property. With the helping hands of the Sherburne County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), township leadership and community volunteers, that project was completed just last Saturday.

Phase II includes restoring 32 acres of natural habitat. The SWCD took the lead on this project, which included employing invasive species control techniques, planting new native prairie grasses and enhancing the park’s oak woodlands.

Phase III is where the Otto Bremer grant comes in. The goal is to make the 1.3-mile trail system visible and accessible to people of all ages and physical abilities.

Proposed projects include adding a shaded park pavilion that will accommodate community events and provide seating, adding crushed granite to the trails to ensure a firm trail surface, constructing the three handicapped-accessible boardwalks to bridge the wetlands to a center island on the property, and install park welcome signage.

Baldwin Township also envisions adding a sandlot baseball field at the park, Rush said.