Fighting on for Fort Ridgely

To the editor:

The Minnesota DNR is at it again. This time they want to shut down the golf course at Fort Ridgely State Park. This, after spending millions of dollars to change the configuration of the course and adding grass greens and an irrigation system. Also, with the possible introduction of golf carts in the near future. But, in typical DNR fashion, this is how things are done.

Perhaps a little history is in order here. Many years ago, the DNR and Minnesota Historical Society wanted to make major changes to the State Park and Historical Site. The Friends of Fort Ridgely fought these changes with a letter writing campaign and news reports. A public meeting was held and the city auditorium in Fairfax was filled to capacity with the concerned public and state legislators. Thank goodness the public prevailed and those changes were discarded.

Then, in 2012, more changes were made for the sake of saving money. Fort Ridgely and Minneopa State Park both lost their park managers. Instead, they came under the auspices of Flandrau State Park. Other cuts were made in the general day-to-day operation of the Park, the main cut being that the office would not be open on a daily basis, but, would only be staffed part-time. People entering the Park to visit or golf would be on the honor system. It was assumed that everyone would be honest and deposit their money where needed.

At that time, a delegation from Friends of Fort Ridgely met with Dennis Frederickson, Southern Regional Director for Minnesota DNR. We expressed our concerns that these cuts would result in the suffering of many services. Even more important was our belief that the number of visitors and golfers would suffer because one simply cannot rely on the honor system to sustain a large state park such as Fort Ridgely. Mr. Frederickson assured us that services will not suffer and if numbers do fall, the DNR would take into account the problem with the honor system.

In a June 29, 2012 letter to the editor, I advised you, the public, that the Friends would keep a wary eye on the DNR.

Well, what the Friends was worried about has come true. Services have suffered. Mr. Frederickson did not keep his word. The Friends of Fort Ridgely intend to fight this latest DNR action. We represent the public not a bureaucracy. The best thing you can do is to continue to visit Fort Ridgely State Park and Historic Site. You can also join the Friends group. Now, more that ever we need a more broad membership. For $10 you can become a member for one year. For $100, you can become a lifetime member. You may contact The Friends of Fort Ridgely at PO Box 292, Fairfax, Mn. 55332 or one of the Board members.

John Fritsche, Chairman, 507-276-3234; Jeff Daniels, Secretary, 320-579-1199; Dave Nelson, Treasurer, 507-426-7475; Steve Palmer, 320-583-1874; Paula Weir, 507-426-8184; Randy Krzmarzick, 507-794-2382; Sarah Maas, 507-340-7859; Al Koenig, 320-848-6583; or Mark Tjosaas, 507-426-8325.

John W. Fritsche

New Ulm