MANKATO — A plan to turn McGowan's Farm into an 1800s river village, heading off a dispute with the federal government that could have ended the annual Historyfest, is quickly moving forward.
Earth-moving equipment was at Jack McGowan's property Thursday preparing a site about the size of a football field for excavation, said Joe Holtmeier of Holtmeier Construction. The real work will start Monday when tons of fill are brought in to level out a spot where several buildings will be moved to create the village setting.
McGowan said he isn't thrilled with the new plan but appreciates that so many people are willing to help him meet the government order to clear the flood plain. It proves the farm and Historyfest are community assets that people want to keep, he said.
"Win, lose or draw, we're moving the buildings and that's the end of it," McGowan said. "Then I'm going to ask them why I'm the only person on the river who is being required to move buildings. I seriously thought about giving the stuff up to the county and letting them deal with it. This is better, I guess."
McGowan received notice from Blue Earth County officials this summer that eight buildings — including a general store, lodge, saloon, sauna and hobbit hut — had to be moved because they were in what the Federal Emergency Management Agency considers a 500-year floodplain. The buildings had been built to be used during Historyfest events. McGowan also allows a variety of groups to use the property for business, family and youth organization events.
A letter from the county said the buildings, which were built without permits, didn't meet Department of Natural Resources and FEMA requirements. If the buildings weren't moved, all property owners in the county were at risk of losing federally backed flood insurance. McGowan said he didn't understand why the buildings were a concern now when county officials were fully aware he had been building them for more than a decade.