In a year that many people would just as soon get through and forget, one of the rare positives of 2020 has been Wright County residents enjoying the county’s robust parks system.
The crown jewel of the system is Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park in Monticello, which is currently undergoing significant long-term renovation – highlighted by the construction of a campground that will allow people to have extended stays at the park.
A piece of that project was creating a trail to connect the south parking lot to the athletic fields on the property. Wright County Commissioner Darek Vetsch complimented Parks & Recreation Director Marc Mattice for the job he has done with the trail. There had been safety concerns because many of those coming to attend games at the athletic fields had to walk along the road against traffic to get from the lot to the fields. With that impediment gone, Vetsch said Mattice and his staff have earned the praises of parkgoers.
“You’re a very popular man for that path you’ve cut through at Bertram this last week,” Vetsch told Mattice. “I’ve had so many people just raving about it finally being done. It probably should have been that way originally. It’s amazing that the little things – how far that goes.”
The county board asked Mattice to provide a project update and he stated the campground project is less than two months from being substantially completed.
“Building construction should be completed next week,” Mattice said. “We’re going to get the main power turned on and get all our inspections done. We will move to a punch list on all the buildings. Site grading has come along very well. They got all power pedestals in and all their upgrading done. We’ll be putting in Class 5 (gravel) in a couple weeks. We’re looking at the last week of October to start a punch list on that and will start seeding in October.”
Commissioner Mark Daleiden said he is looking forward to Bertram Park opening its campground in the spring of 2021. Already a beautiful place to spend a day, the ability to have an extended stay is likely going to see campsite reservations being filling at lightning speed.
“From what I’ve seen when I’ve been out there, it’s awesome,” Daleiden said. “That’s the best word for it. It’s going to be a very heavily-used campground when it opens. I would be surprised if there are ever any openings left in that one.”
Vetsch added that throughout the spring and summer, throngs of people have used Bertram Park as an oasis at a time of social distancing and many other entertainment options being unavailable.
While the people were spread out throughout the park when Vetsch visited there Monday evening, the sheer numbers were impressive.
“Based on the number of people out there (Monday) night, I would say there were probably more people out there at Bertram Park collectively than at a rock concert,” Vetsch said. “Go look at that parking lot. Parking is at a premium."
At a time when many people are just hoping to return to some sense of normality and put COVID-19 behind them, one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic has been the Wright County parks system. The parks have consistently seen record attendance this year as residents look for an outlet from the frustration of stay-at-home orders, masks and social distancing.
It has served as an oasis for those tired of being cooped up and forced away from gathering with family, friends and neighbors and Board Chair Christine Husom said Wright County is fortunate that it made such an investment in preserving parkland over the decades.
“One of pluses of having people with this whole COVID thing, they’re getting out and they’re enjoying the great outdoors, discovering our parks and what we have to offer here,” Husom said. “That is an upside.”