Public access to Big Sand Lake is undergoing safety upgrades.
Currently, boat trailer traffic intersects Grouse Road when launching and retrieving at the access. The new access will also comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
In 2013, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchased a house and boat landing adjacent to the existing public access to expand the entire site. The house once belonged to Fred and Polly Boggs.
David Schotzko, area supervisor for the Parks and Trails Division, said the project will be done in phases.
Construction began July 26 on the new parking lot and much of the proposed new launch area.
The existing boat launch will remain open until Sept. 7, Schotzko said, then it will be closed and rebuilt over the course of three weeks. The construction of the ADA parking area will also take place during this third phase.
During the week of October 4, all areas of the facility will be reopened for public use.
The paving, the last phase of the project, will be completed in the spring of 2022.
Schotzko said the DNR was working closely with the Big Sand Lake Association (BSLA) and resorts because they feared losing business during the closures.
Kent Skaar is a senior project manager for MNR’s Parks and Trails Division, based in Bemidji with Schotzko.
In a December 2020 letter to the BSLA, he wrote that the DNR understands that, “as this is the only public water access to Big Sand Lake, its closure for any period may have substantial impacts on residents, non-residents, and commercial access/use In circumstances such as this, where there is a single public facility providing access to a particular lake for recreational boating, the Division of Parks and of trails consistently emphasizes limiting construction and closure to the shortest period of time and ensuring the facility is open at the end of the boating season for private seasonal equipment moves.
Skaar wrote, “The current DNR design proposal will allow launch and recovery of pleasure craft to be confined within the boundaries of dedicated public water access isolated from Grouse Road.”
He noted that the existing launch area “is not ADA compliant, containing surface qualities that exceed recommendations and can only be addressed by a complete reconstruction.”
In a June 2021 newsletter, BSLA President Don Kinlander expressed dismay that “many large and beautiful white pines have disappeared” from the Boggs property.
Kinlander thanked the 56 BSLA members who “sent 216 emails to the DNR and lawmakers expressing their feelings about the need for and timing of ramp reconstruction.”