Legislation could transfer state park land to Upper Sioux Community
Bills will be discussed in a Minnesota House committee hearing Wednesday afternoon
UPPER SIOUX AGENCY, Minn. — Bills introduced in the Minnesota Legislature propose transferring state land in Upper Sioux Agency State Park to the Upper Sioux Community before the end of this year.
The House bill HF 2388 , which was introduced Thursday, has its first hearing scheduled at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee at the State Capitol in St. Paul.
A companion Senate bill, SF2250 , was introduced last Wednesday and referred to the Senate's Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee. A hearing is not yet scheduled.
The legislation is only a couple paragraphs long. It says the Department of Natural Resources will transfer state-owned land in the park "for no consideration" to the Upper Sioux Community by Dec. 1, provided there are no legal barriers to the transfer.
HF2388-0 by West Central Tribune on Scribd
By Dec. 15, the DNR would be required to send a report describing any legal barriers that exist and recommending ways to address the barriers.
Contacted Monday by the West Central Tribune, Upper Sioux Tribal Chairman Kevin Jensvold said he plans to testify Wednesday and did not want to comment before the hearing. It would be premature to talk about the bill before its first legislative hearing, he added.
According to the Upper Sioux Community's website , the community's total land base is 2,325 acres and membership stands at 547. The history page on the website says the land called "Pezihutazizi Kapi (the place where they dig for yellow medicine) has been the homeland for our people, the Dakota Oyate (Nation), for thousands of years."
Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, who is also chairman of Friends for Upper Sioux Agency State Park, told the West Central Tribune on Monday that he first learned of the legislation late last week.
“We have heard the idea here and there over the last couple years,” he said, but he was surprised to learn late last week that legislation had been filed already.
The legislation leaves many unanswered questions, he said.
It’s not clear whether the park will remain open or if the land will be used for another purpose after the transfer, Smiglewski said.
The park is near Granite Falls in Yellow Medicine County . Efforts to reach state Rep. Chris Swedzinski , R-Ghent, and Yellow Medicine County Commissioner Greg Renneke, of Echo, were unsuccessful. Both men represent the area that includes the park.
The park has historic and cultural significance and is known for its quiet, peaceful setting, Smiglewski said. Its campground is usually full of campers from Minnesota and surrounding states.
The county and city have generally had open communication with the Upper Sioux Community, he said, and he would like to see that continue.
“All we’re asking for is, let’s slow down to gather input and share plans and ideas,” he said. “Now is the time to talk.”
Smiglewski prepared a statement in his role as chairman of Friends for Upper Sioux Agency State Park asking the legislative committee to delay action.
“We are unaware of what the transfer as written in the bill would mean for future public access and use,” he wrote. “Furthermore, we do not understand the urgency for this transfer without the benefit of input from the general public.”
He asked that a public hearing be held, preferably in the Granite Falls/Upper Sioux area to allow the public to have a say.