New Camp Lake park site public opinions meeting

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Salem residents had an opportunity to voice their opinion on how a seven-acre lakefront property recently purchased by the town ought to be developed as a park.

The Camp Lake property was the subject of the Salem Park Commission meeting Wednesday. The town paid $375,000 for the lakefront land that adjoins existing Sunset Beach Park on the east side of Camp Lake. That money came from a fund of impact fees charged developers. There is still about $500,000 in the fund, which will have to be spent by 2018, said town administrator Patrick Casey.

Thomas Mortensen, a registered landscape architect with R.A. Smith National, outlined the process for planning the park. One of the first steps is gathering public opinion, of which tonight’s meeting was a part. The town is also accepting written comments.

Mortensen and his staff will then take the public opinions and what they have found at the site and draft a preliminary plan, which will then be presented to the Park Commission. After that, a pubic open house will be held to get feedbcak on the preliminary plan. After that, a final master plan for the property will be developed and cost estimates for the planned work developed.

Mortensen said he expected the draft plan to be ready by April and perhaps the master plan completed by June.

About 30 people attended the meeting outside of the board members and town staff. Here are summaries of some of their comments:

The first speaker asked that the property’s lakefront location be maximized. He suggested including a fishing pier and beachfront. “It’s all lakefront property so why not utilize the lake?”

Another praised the proposed park, but blasted many of the town’s other parks. “You propose this park, it’s a good idea, but you don’t take care of the other parks … no one uses them.”

Dean Hintzman of the Camp/Center Lakes Rehabilitation District said piers and beach at the property were both unrealistic. “Unfortunately there’s not going to be a lot of practicality with a pier. It’s one of the most shallow parts of the lake.” Bringing sand in for a beach is also not likely to be allowed by the state Department of Natural Resources. “Those days are over.” He added that the district favors the development of a park. “The lake district is totally in support of the development of this as a park … We believe it’s the best use of this land.”

A dog beach was the suggestion of another audience, who said she is already letting her dogs swim at the property and thinks others would like to as well.

Resident Chris Skrzynecki suggested part of the land be split off and developed as home lots to recoup property taxes lost by the property becoming tax exempt. Hintzman countered that the park would raise all property values in the neighborhood without having to develop any additional property and thus recoup the tax revenue spread across more properties.

Tennis courts that might also be able to be used as a skate court as well as horseshoe pits were suggested by another resident. The same resident said his children suggested tether ball equipment and another resident suggested pickle ball equipment. Sand volleyball courts also were suggested.

Parks Commissioner Karen Ihlen suggested the development of a nature study area or center, perhaps in the existing home on the site.

Rupert Langston said he was representing a non-profit youth sports organization that would be interested in working together on an indoor sports facility.

Another resident asked about the feasibility of developing a facility — perhaps the existing home — as a small meeting/wedding venue on the site.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Parks Commission Chairman Jo Weidman asked anyone who submits written comments to weigh-in on whether to keep the brick residence on the property. Hintzman said he feels there is a lot of support for keeping the building. Casey said the building has some damage, but is salvageable.

If you’d like to send a submit a comment on the park send it to


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