The proposal to move star attractions of the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center to This Old Farm jumped one more hurdle Thursday.
The Crow Wing County Planning Commission unanimously recommended rezoning 23.35 acres of Alan Rademacher's agricultural property in Nokay Lake Township to a public district. This would allow Rademacher to move Paul Bunyan Amusement Center attractions to This Old Farm. The Crow Wing County Board will make the final decision on the commission's recommendation.
This Old Farm includes 160 acres seven miles east of Brainerd on Highway 18. Rademacher bought the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center rides from owner Don McFarland. The statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are now owned by Rhythm of the Rails, a non-profit theater group, and will be located on the This Old Farm site.
Rademacher's request, which was presented by Phil Martin of Landecker and Associates, Al Jabs, Rademacher's spokesman, and attorney Ray Charpentier, was to rezone the property to commercial.
Roger Landers, commission chair, said after listening to neighbors' concerns he believed the main issue was land classification.
"If we zone it commercial I would be opposed to doing that," he said. "But zoning it to public I would support. This would allow you (Rademacher) to do what you want to do. It's a win-win situation for everybody and would protect the area from going commercial."
The commission approved the rezone to public. A public district is used for urban parks, a developed recreation area, churches, hospitals, colleges, armories and similar type uses on public or private land.
Rademacher must follow 15 guidelines created by the commission for the operation of the center. The center would be open from May to October and operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with Rhythm of the Rails operating from 7 to 10 p.m. There would be no overnight camping allowed. Creating a right turn and bypass lanes on Highway 18 also would be required as a condition.
McFarland attended the meeting to talk about what he has experienced since his announcement to give away the statues.
"I had no clue what would happen," he said. "I heard from people all over the U.S. It was overwhelming."
Roger Landers, Crow Wing County Planning Commission chair, made a point during the This Old Farm rezoning discussion Thursday night during a meeting at the Elks Club building.
McFarland said he sat down with his family to discuss what to do. He said an important consideration was his employees. He said the decision came down to the Rademachers and another choice that he did not want to name.
"We want him (Paul Bunyan) to stay here," he said. "We picked the Rademachers because they're good people and that is very important to us. They guaranteed us they would take care of him and it would be used by the public. We are convinced they met every restriction."
Mark Cunningham of Nokay Lake Township said he built his house where he did because he likes the area and wants his children to have this type of atmosphere.
"It's a nuisance noise," he said of the park noise. "I'd like to sit on my deck and have a peaceful night."
Les Museus, Rademacher's neighbor, also was against the park moving into the neighborhood. He was concerned about the noise and the traffic. He said, "How am I supposed to get out of my driveway? Then I can't go to work and then I'll have to go on welfare. I don't believe it belongs there."
Alan Cunningham, the Nokay Lake Township clerk, said as a resident he would like to keep Paul Bunyan in the area. He also said the Rademachers are good neighbors and have a good site plan.
However, he was concerned about the area going commercial. He said, "Do you want Highway 18 to be a Highway 371 corridor?"
"It'd be a great thing for the community," said Ed Minke, a neighbor. Minke said people are concerned about the noise.
He said he works at Viking Coke, near Paul Bunyan Amusement Center, and he can barely hear the noise, aside from the helicopter. The helicopter rides will not be offered at This Old Farm.
Katy Matich of Baxter said Paul Bunyan and Rhythm of the Rails have had an impact on her life and offered her many opportunities.
"This is a positive place where families can go," she said.
Barb Almquist, who lives near This Old Farm, said, "No one is against Paul Bunyan and Babe. It's the park and the location. I'm concerned about the traffic pattern. It should have been put in a more convenient spot.
"I don't want it in my area."
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