The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 30, 2013

McGowan farm in dispute with county about flood rules

McGowan, county at odds over new flood regulations

There was a time when Jack McGowan was very worried. Worried enough to get a lawyer, worried enough to wonder what would become of Historyfest, what he would tell the hundreds — no, thousands — of people, including kids, who come to his farm each year to pretend they're jousting, fly through the trees on a zip line or gather in the sheep shed for to toast a happy couple or gather with relatives for a family reunion.

Today, however, he's not very worried. But he is still a little worried.

The government and its rules caught up with Jack during last few months, and while McGowan initially believed the county wanted to shut him down, he's now resigned to working with the county and its land use officials who say the structures that make up the bulk of McGowan's farm are, in fact, in a flood way, and must be moved or at least retrofitted.

If not, the county says, they risk a worst-case scenario of FEMA revoking the ability of residents in the county to purchase flood insurance.

The county wouldn't comment on McGowan's case specifically because McGowan has retained the services of Mankato attorney Chris Sandquist, who is working for McGowan pro-bono because he believes McGowan and his farm are a community treasure.

Sandquist said the county has been congenial and willing to come up with a solution that will keep McGowan's popular attraction running, and one that will ensure events such as Historyfest, which brings 3,000 kids to the farm each fall for a day of learning, will continue uninterrupted.

McGowan, though, says he's growing weary of the situation. Sandquist said there are fixes that engineers say would probably work to satisfy the county, but McGowan's not sure he can even do that.

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