Crow Wing County Board hears pushback on Little Emily Lake Park proposal

“There's going to be serious environmental impacts,” said Kirk Soldner of Emily.

People talk in small groups in the County Board room
People linger to talk after the March 14, 2023, Crow Wing County Board meeting.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — After recently discussing a proposal to establish a county park with a beach on Little Emily Lake, the Crow Wing County Board heard push back from neighboring residents.

“There's going to be serious environmental impacts,” said Kirk Soldner of Emily. “It's going to be the destruction of a critical fish spawning area, damage the waterfowl habitat, serious shoreline impact including deforestation, wave damage, water contamination from additional runoff and watercraft and dramatically increased risk of AIS introduction.”

Soldner said there would also be a loss of existing use.

“It's an almost totally unspoiled natural area that's great for recreation as is,” Soldner said. “It's a safe small lake to bring children and others in small watercraft. … It'll destroy about 750 feet of natural lake shore.”

For a county with 400 lakes, there are few public beaches. A plan to add one on Little Emily Lake would provide another option in northern Crow Wing County.

Soldner said neighbors and other users weren’t notified or consulted and many still don’t know about the proposal. He questioned the criteria for beach site selection and asked about enforcement for things like trash and non-compliant behavior from the secluded nature of the site. He said many of the points he was raising weren’t addressed when the subject was discussed at the county meeting in February. The move to place a park there was inappropriate for the small land-locked lake.


Soldner advocated for working with the environment instead of against it and proposed enhancements for the area for parking and runoff, walking trails — all that would still retain a quiet lake and protect the ecosystem. Soldner requested the county withdraw its current proposal and allow time to formalize a sustainable use proposal in consultation with the neighbors and the city of Emily.

The board heard from a few other landowners from the area who were highly against the proposal. Later in the meeting, the board was asked for approval on an application and accept funds from the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Regional Trails Grant program. Gary Griffin, Land Services director, said they were applying for $575,000 for the Little Emily Lake Park. . He noted it was just an application and there wasn’t a firm location on any buildings or the beach. Once the snow recedes, he said there will be an opportunity to do a site assessment. He noted they did attend an Emily City Council meeting about a month ago as a start.

“This is just an application at this point,” Commissioner Steve Barrows said. “We don’t even know if we’ll get it. We don't have a draft plan for what a park would look like there.”

It's an almost totally unspoiled natural area that's great for recreation as is.
Kirk Soldner of Emily.

Barrows encouraged the board members to actually go and look at the land when weather permits and the snow is gone and engage the residents. Barrows suggested a meeting is then set up to talk about what people would like to see — if anything.

Commissioner Doug Houge said that has been the strategy from the beginning to share the concept, but he noted there is nothing on paper at this point about where things should be placed. The board approved the grant application.

In other business, the board:

Approved an update to the county’s comprehensive plan, a document that is used as a guide for development and direction on where the county wants to go in the future. Chris Pence, environmental services manager, said the current comprehensive plan has reached its shelf life. It was last adopted in 2004. Pence said the plan will take 18-24 months and the first three to six months will include getting feedback from the public and priorities. Pence said they are looking to establish an advisory committee. Pence said 20 years is a little long for the document and a review of five to 10 years may be better.

The resolution states a deep commitment to "possess firearms and intends to oppose, within legal limits, any efforts in the future to unconstitutionally restrict such rights."

About seven people addressed the board praising the three members who voted in favor of being a Second Amendment dedicated county during the open forum where people can speak for a few minutes on any topic not on the agenda.


Approved replacement hiring for the departure of Lindsay Krause, public health nurse, Katie Kostohryz, environmental services specialist, who are leaving the county March 24. Promoted Amber Nornberg, programmer with the sheriff’s office, jail. Hired Jacob Bosaaen and Bailey Boelter as correctional officers.

Provided performance reviews of Erik Flowers, veterans service officer and Tim Houle, Crow Wing County administrator. Both were noted for highly effective performance.

“His continued efforts of reaching underserved veterans in the County is commendable,” Flower’s performance review stated.

“The Veterans Service office continues to find innovative ways to provide outreach to the veterans including radio, social media and virtual meetings with veterans,” the review reported. “Mr. Flowers and his staff secured $85,000 in grants to assist 35 local veterans in a variety of areas including dental, optical and housing/utilities. In addition, the office assisted in an application process which resulted in a total of $54,524 direct housing assistance for 8 veterans. Erik and his team are selfless advocates for all veterans tapping into the appropriate benefits, and ensuring each veteran and their family members are highly valued for their military service and dedication to our country. The Board continues to be impressed with CVSO, Flowers’ budget management and are very supportive to provide him tools and resources for him to continue to lead and carry out the mission of serving veterans and families in our County.”

Among Houle’s accomplishments, the board noted his “leadership in advancing the strategic initiatives of the Board and fostering community relationships to enhance county services.” The board commended Houle “for his role in the coordination and communication with the Board for budget management, senior leadership initiatives as well as his leadership in navigating record-high valuation increases. Highly notable accomplishment was fund balances for all major funds reached targeted minimum balance levels in 2022. He is highly effective in his communication with stakeholders and community organizations as well as with the Board. His work in the areas of performance management and financial management have the desired impact of improving service and reducing costs.”

Donated used 800 mhz radios and automated external defibrillators to local Crow Wing County first responders and public safety agencies. The sheriff’s department received new AEDs in 2022 through a grant.

Accepted a $2,000 donation from the Cuyuna Range Fire Chiefs to the county’s drone team.

Approved a gambling permit for the Ducks Unlimited Garrison Wildlife Chapter April 23 at Lonesome Pine Restaurant and Bar in Bay Lake Township.


Added an on-sale liquor license for dirt track motor speedway fee of $1,000 to the county’s fee schedule.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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