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Land swap doesn’t please everyone

By Staff | Dec 9, 2012

Well, the Blue Earth City Council did make a decision Monday night concerning the land swap with the Faribault County Fair Board.

And, they did not employ King Solomon’s idea of splitting the land in half. They gave the whole baby to the fair board, shutting out a group who wanted to use part of the land for a youth baseball field.

While I agree that having the city gain ownership of the land that is home to the Green Giant statue and Giant Park is an important move, I am sure there is going to be a protest by the public concerning what the city had to give up to get it.

A neighboring daily newspaper had a story concerning the land swap vote that incorrectly lists the amount of land coming and going in the swap.

The property that composes Giant Park currently owned by the fair board is 1.8 acres. The land the city owns, which is going to the fair board, is not 2.66 acres as reported in that other newspaper, but rather 5.8 acres more than twice as much as reported.

That makes a difference when one is trying to determine exactly who is getting what size property in this swap.

The newspaper also reported the same wrong acreage sizes in an editorial on Wednesday that applauds the exchange.

That editorial ignored several facts in the ongoing dispute over how the former go kart property should be used.

For instance, these facts have been part of the discussions, but were not mentioned in the editorial:

There once was a baseball field in this location, before the go kart track.

A promise was made to put a ball field back should the track cease to operate.

There are two other baseball fields already there. Property near the land in question is not just used for the fair, but also for baseball already.

This land swap does not give the fair board ownership of all the fairgrounds, as hinted at by the editorial writer. The vast majority of the fairgrounds is still going to be owned by the city of Blue Earth as one of its city parks.

The land swap did not just include the go kart track area swapped for Giant Park. The fair board is getting the track area plus the grandstand area and the land the Veterans Memorial and horse stable buildings are located on.

But, not the land that all the other fair buildings are sitting on. However, the grandstand itself, currently owned by the city, is part of the swap.

By pointing all this out, you probably infer that I favor the ball field group over the fair board.

Not so.

As stated in this column before, the fairgrounds area is, in my estimation, an entertainment hub for the city of Blue Earth and Faribault County.

Ball fields, campgrounds, county fairgrounds, a Giant statue and rest stop, bike trails, fitness center, even an historic pioneer village, are all part of it.

And, not to be considered wishy-washy, it is still my opinion that the grounds can be used for all these things.

I guess that puts me in the group that thinks there should have been room for compromise, and every effort made to try and find a way to add a ball field if needed, and still get the fair board all the room they need to put on quality shows and entertainment at our county fair.

Is that just pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking? Maybe.

While accomplishing the land swap deal that gives the city ownership of Giant Park, it would be a very good idea if the council does not now abandon the baseball/softball field proponents.

They made their case that baseball is in a growth spurt and softball is seeing a resurgence as well.

For baseball, the youth teams are increasing by leaps and bounds each year. Surely, everyone must agree that having quality recreation programs for our youth is a good thing.

The adult softball teams also are looking for a place to play ball and to host multiple team tourneys.

Sure, there are six ball fields here now (three softball and three baseball) but it seems that there are times all are busy and in use or are not the right size.

The council should not turn their collective backs on this need, and work with the baseball association and the school to figure out how to build another field.

After all, they made a promise to do just that. And while a City Council can’t legally bind a future council to something, there still is the responsibility having to do with a promised obligation.

It would be one thing if there wasn’t a need. But from what has been presented to the council recently, the need sure seems to be there.