Land for New Park Secured at Nisswa Lake

Land along Nisswa Lake has been protected for a new Nisswa, Minnesota, regional park, The Trust for Public Land and the City of Nisswa announced today.

The purchase of the 2.1-acre property completes the second of two conservation efforts in 2010 to conserve land along the city’s namesake lake. Both properties were purchased from Mr. Arnold Johnson, president of Arnold S. Johnson Properties, LLC. Johnson had purchased 15 acres along Nisswa Lake from the Thurlow Estate at the appeal of the City of Nisswa and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) so that they would be able to acquire portions of the property for public use and enjoyment. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, facilitated both acquisition efforts.

The property purchased last week will become A. and J. Johnson Nisswa Park and is now owned by the City of Nisswa. Mr. Johnson donated $300,000 of the land’s value to help complete the conservation sale for the park.

“JoAnn and I are very proud of providing an opportunity for the acquisition of this land for permanent use by the public,” said Arnie Johnson. “We also wish to express our sincere appreciation to the City of Nisswa, MN DNR, the Trust for Public Land, the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park and the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation for all of their work and cooperation in completing this project.”

“We are pleased to have played a role in bringing a public access to Nisswa Lake and a new park to Nisswa,” said Susan Schmidt, Minnesota State Director for TPL. “We are grateful to Arnold Johnson for his forethought and generosity, to the City of Nisswa and DNR for their investments, and to the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park for their tireless commitment. This was a public-private effort to the fullest.”

The Friends of Nisswa Lake Park formed in 2009 to help promote the concept of the park and to fundraise for its purchase and development. Chaired by Mayor Brian Lehman, the Friends had representatives from all sectors of the community, and were successful in meeting its first phase fundraising goals. $94,000 was contributed by 67 individuals, families, foundations, businesses, clubs and the City of Nisswa. Major funding was also provided by the Parks and Trails Grant Program, funded by the Parks and Trails Fund which was created with sales tax generated through the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment passed by Minnesota voters in 2008.

“From starting to raise the funds in April 2009 for the Nisswa Lake Park, to purchasing this property in December 2010 was an amazing journey,” said Nisswa Mayor Brian Lehman. “We are very thankful to the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park and the hundreds of people and organizations that stepped forward to allow us to make this Park a reality.”

Nisswa Lake, part of the 13,000-acre Gull Lake Chain, is located in the popular Brainerd Lakes Area, but the public has lacked permanent access to it until June, when TPL purchased 3.7 acres from Johnson on Hazelwood Drive and conveyed the property to the DNR, which will develop the site and manage it for access to the more than 200-acre lake.

The newly purchased parkland is envisioned to serve the greater Brainerd Lakes region with opportunities for swimming, fishing, and picnicking, and a pier for visitors to dock boats and come in to town for food or shopping. Future plans also include a link to the Paul Bunyan State Trail. Components of the access will include a boat ramp, parking, native shoreland plantings, and stormwater ponds. Both the A. and J. Johnson Nisswa Park and the public access will be developed with input from the community.

The Gull Lake Chain is a popular fishing, boating, and swimming destination consisting of eight lakes and channels. The chain supports largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, crappies, and bluegills. During the summer, the population of the Nisswa area nearly doubles with second-home owners and visitors from throughout the Upper Midwest. Among 13,000 seasonal properties and over 3,000 lodging units in Crow Wing County, one-third are not on a lake. Before this parkland was purchased, the only other beach areas open to the public were located in Whipple Beach in Baxter and Pelican Beach in rural Crow Wing County.

The Crow Wing County Park Citizen Advisory Board, the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Foundation, the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corporation, Region Five Development Commission, Representative John Ward, were among the many groups and individuals providing support to the effort.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Since 1986, TPL has helped protect more than 87,000 acres of some of Minnesota’s most special land and water resources, including Mississippi River Overlook in Baxter, Clearwater Forest near Crosby, and 4,790 acres in the Pillsbury and Crow Wing State Forests. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.