Pause before losing asset forever
I have said it before and I will say it again.
The Faribault County Fairgrounds in Blue Earth is a strange and interesting place. It is actually quite fascinating, on several different levels.
I have thought so since the first time I saw it, five years ago.
Just imagine driving around its perimeter for the first time.
You can see the entrances, but you also notice that there are baseball fields at a fairgrounds.
And, a go kart race track, with a sign that says it is the I-90 Speedway.
I found out the baseball fields were owned by the city of Blue Earth and so was the go kart track area, although it was operated by a separate entity, not the city itself. Of course, now that track has been abandoned. And that is another story entirely.
Cruising through the fairgrounds it is easy to see the grandstand. But, it appeared to have a very limited area in front of it. In fact, it seemed remarkably close to the baseball field.
I found out it was owned by the city as well.
The main fairground area itself was beautiful, with large mature trees and many, many buildings. I learned then that most of those grounds are also owned by the city, and are actually considered a city park.
But, the buildings are owned by the fair board.
Then there is a Faribault County Fitness Center, which isn’t operated by the county or the fair board, but by the city.
Let’s add the fact that there is a horse arena that is owned by the fair on their land and it is used all summer long, not just at fair time. And the fact that there is a hiking/biking trail that surrounds the fairgrounds/ballfield/city park.
Do you detect a theme? I do. The place is a sports and recreation center for the city and county.
And, once a year, it is transformed into a magical fun-filled attraction for a week in the summer when it becomes that county-wide gathering called the fair.
The final item I discovered at the fairgrounds was that there is a campground hidden away there. I noticed some signs for camping one day, but had a little trouble finding an actual camping area.
But, it is there. Tucked away behind some of the fair board-owned buildings is the camping area owned by the city.
It was more of a gravel parking area with some water, sewer, electric hookups than a camp in the woods, but it was there.
To be fair, it is along the river and the biking trail, and there is some grass, trees, campfire rings and picnic tables.
And the main point? It is used quite a bit. But, it has some problems and needs some work to bring it up to snuff.
Which brings us to the this issue. The City Council is discussing whether to spend some serious cash (about $25,000) to upgrade the camping area.
They would make some necessary and some cosmetic improvements, as well as adding a few more camp spots for a total of nine with services and six without, or cut it down to just two with services and six without.
Or option number three, which is just close it down altogether.
That suggestion had a lot of support, since the place doesn’t make any money for the city, and has created quite a few problems with some “social misbehavior” activity going on there.
I think the city needs to take a serious look at the campground before just arbitrarily shutting it down.
Like a pool or a park, the campground is an asset to the community. It is a nice amenity to have.
Sure, there are county parks around the area, including one in Elmore, and campgrounds nearby, such as the one near Fairmont. But, they are not in Blue Earth.
And yes, a camper can park in the Walmart parking lot for free. But a parking lot is not quite as scenic as a campground along the Blue Earth River. And there might be an issue with starting a campfire on the pavement.
Having a campground is just one more thing that helps brings some visitors/tourists here. It is an “attraction” in an area that is a sports and recreation complex in the city.
Think about that before deciding to axe it from the city budget. Maybe it just needs to be made more “attractive.”