Crow Wing County Parks Director Michael Kearns wants to broaden the use of public accesses to waterways in the county and to improve the park component of these sites.
Kearns, who joined the county as its first park director June 3, initially thought he was going to have to create a park department from scratch. He then realized the county already had park land.
In December 1978, through the Land and Water Conservation Fund Project, the county developed one beach access area -- Whipple Beach in Baxter -- and three public water accesses.
"This was the seed to this department," said Kearns.
Today there are 18 public accesses in the county.
As part of his effort to improve these public accesses, Kearns will ask the Crow Wing County Board this month to approve park boundaries and a park ordinance.
The county board also may adopt a park plan. Kearns said a park plan would be helpful to the park department as it considers development opportunities. The Park Advisory Committee has begun working on this plan. The committee was formed six months ago and consists of 12 members who meet monthly. The committee has been reviewing the history of county parks as part of its research.
Part of the park plan includes consideration of improvements at public water accesses, such as adding playgrounds for children or picnic tables.
Another part of the park plan will look at erosion control.
"We have no serious problems with erosion," said Kearns. "The work is more for prevention."
In the past year, Kearns has been busy writing standard policies, procedures and safety programs and evaluating staff. He supervises three employees. He also has reviewed the conditions of equipment in the department and ordered a lawn mower, ski trail grooming equipment, a trailer and other needed tools. He has been visiting with organizations about the park department. For instance, he recently spoke to the League of Women Voters of the Brainerd Lakes Area.
Other responsibilities as park director include overall operation of the park department; preparation of project specifications; recommendations and proposals for the development of park and recreational land; promotion of public awareness of the park system; preparation of the department budget; and development of cost estimates for construction and maintenance projects.
One recreational issue Kearns said is on hold right now is the use of motorized and all-terrain vehicles on trails. The Legislature is tackling the issue .
Kearns earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1992 from the University of Southern California. He was employed by the Clark County Park and Recreation Department in Las Vegas for seven years before coming to the county. He worked as a camp manager, a program administrator and he supervised the park maintenance staff.
Kearns said the main purpose of any park department is to provide recreational activity and to promote an active lifestyle. Kearns said recreational activities benefit economic development in the area.
"Before people just came up (to the Brainerd lakes area) to go fishing," said Kearns. "But now they also want to go on the trails or want to go to a movie."
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