Water plans push ahead; County seeking to net land near Ramsey Mill Pond

Published 10:54 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Photo taken from the abandoned railroad bridge over the Cedar River. Photo by Tim Ruzek/Mower Soil and Water Conservation District

Photo taken from the abandoned railroad bridge over the Cedar River.
Photo by Tim Ruzek/Mower Soil and Water Conservation District

The community is continuing to make waves toward developing land around Ramsey Mill Pond and the Cedar River.

The county board unanimously voted Tuesday to seek a $149,900 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to go along with a $175,100 Hormel Foundation grant to acquire about 18 acres of land on the west side of the Cedar River just south of Ramsey Mill Pond for $325,000.

The move comes as part of an ongoing effort by Vision 2020’s Waterways Committee and other partners to enhance recreational opportunities around Ramsey Mill Pond.

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Map of CR Watershed DistrictThe county’s acquisition, which is in partnership with the city of Austin and the Waterways Committee, would net about 16.5 acres of former golf course land and about 1.5 acres that’s currently residential, but the family is in talks to sell the land. The former golf course area is already a natural, grassy area.

The DNR’s Wild Indigo Scientific Natural Area (SNA) Trail begins in the area and heads toward Dexter.

Vision 2020 intends to pave part of the trail around and over an old railroad bridge, which is currently half publicly owned and half privately owned.

“A lot of people in our community don’t know about the SNA trail or this natural resource out there, so we’re just trying to open it up to a lot more people and visitors to the community as well,” said Tim Ruzek, the co-chair of the Waterways Committee and the outreach coordinator for the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The city and Vision 2020 are also seeking $3 million in state bonding for the Ramsey Dam and Ramsey Mill Pond area to acquire more land, build the trail, restore a railroad bridge, improve the dam and build public amenities to enhance the area. The walking trail would eventually cross the bridge and run down to near the dam.

Hormel Foods Corp. is also interested in donating Ramsey dam just south of the pond to the city of Austin.

The land acquired by the county would likely eventually be turned over to the city, as would a portion of former golf course land called “the old clubhouse” that’s currently owned by the county.

Vision 2020 and SWCD officials like the Ramsey Mill Pond area because it’s the largest body of water in Mower County and is already surrounded by a natural area. Ramsey is about 53 water acres, while East Side Lake is about 40. It’s also surrounded by about 400 acres of wildlife management area and by Meadow Greens Golf Course.

“It’s a very natural setting,” Ruzek said. “A lot of history out there as well.”