The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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May 3, 2014

Benson Park plans are working

Judging from the uninformed comments and insinuations in the Sunday Free Press article about the prairie burning in Benson Park by North Mankato, I believe that it is time for a North Mankato Parks and Green Spaces Plan history lesson.

Back in 2007-2010, many residents volunteered to form a Parks and Green Spaces Advisory Committee with the mandate to come up with a comprehensive Parks and Green Spaces Plan.

The members worked for hours, talking to others in the community, doing research, getting input from master gardeners and the Audubon Society among others.

The result was a highly regarded Parks and Green Spaces Plan.

The City Council accepted the plan, which was then put into the parks work plan and the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan.

An expert in prairie restoration was hired and went to work following the plan.

Here is what you may not remember: the entire Midwest had significant drought in 2010, 2011 and 2012 at the same time the work occurred in Benson Park.

Essentially the whole park dried out due to the drought conditions, so the prairie did not flourish as it might have. However, much of the park is doing just fine, including the oak savanna.

The prairie restoration cycle is not quick and it is not easy.

It takes years of seeding, plugging, killing weeds and burning to get the desired prairie plants to take over.

As one Parks Advisory Committee member said: “This will take 20 years”!

A long time ago, someone said to me, “You plan the work, and then you work the plan.”

That is exactly what has been happening in Benson Park for the last 4 to 5 years. By the way, the past and current projects have all come in on or under budget.

Diane Norland

City Council member

North Mankato

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