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March 14, 2004
Doug Grow Saves the Day

Just when you think there's nothing to write about the local news media, Doug Grow's column appears ... and the sun shines again. Grow performs the impressive feat of starting a biased and hack-worthy column, fisking himself in the middle, and still failing to grasp the situation by the end.

In this case, we have the situation of three families who made the mistake of leasing land from the state on what is now valuable property, if it was converted to private ownership. In fact, 1800 other leaseholders on Horseshoe Bay were allowed to do just that twenty years ago; they bought their leased parcels from Minnesota. Only six lots were held in reserve, and the families allowed to continue their leases, three of which eventually left. Now the DNR wants that land -- even though they don't have a plan for its use -- and the Legislature is about to extend the three families' leases instead of kicking them off land on which they've lived for decades.

Even though this effort is one of the few bipartisan initiatives in this session, Grow sees the evil hand of corruption in this decision and writes sneeringly of the Legislature and the three families involved:

It's nice to have friends in high places.

Very high places -- such as the Minnesota Legislature.

This generous body is on the verge of passing legislation that would benefit just three families who have cabins on lots, leased from the state, on Lake Superior's Horseshoe Bay. ... This little deal, which could cover the next half-century, is opposed by the Department of Natural Resources, which believes the three small lots on a beautiful bay should be turned back to the public.

The DNR decided on its own not to offer these families an opportunity to buy the land back in the 80s, not because they were a problem, but because they were there. They occupy 350 feet of Horseshoe Bay, while the DNR already controls 3,000 feet of shoreline on Horseshoe Bay anyway. But perhaps the DNR is just a better steward of this land?

The DNR does maintain a concrete boat landing on the bay and it installs a portable dock each summer. There's also a hiking trail, an outhouse and a picnic area on the public land of the bay.

The leaseholders, Burda said, probably do more maintenance -- such things as picking up trash around the boat landing and on a hiking trail -- than the state does. ... Holsten doesn't deny that the three families have been good stewards.

So we have three families who were locked out of a deal that the state gave 1854 other leaseholders, who have been better stewards of their land than the DNR has been of the state's, and who face expulsion in order to give the land to the DNR for some purpose that even the DNR doesn't know yet.

And Doug Grow supports that.

This little deal, which could cover the next half-century, is opposed by the Department of Natural Resources, which believes the three small lots on a beautiful bay should be turned back to the public.

How do three families have so much clout?

"They've got legislative friends willing to do this," said Mark Holsten, the DNR's deputy commissioner.

Indeed they do.

Oh, the poor, powerless DNR! Grow actually wants us to believe that the DNR is the little guy in this scenario, and those three families are part of the big, bad Establishment that's conspiring against them. Hogwash. Despite the plaintive quotes from Holsten that Grow uses liberally throughout his column, the DNR is in fact a powerful agency that dictates (and I mean dictates) the use and nature of all public lands in Minnesota.

Instead of speaking truth to power -- which would be that the DNR has enough public land on Horseshoe Bay to manage without adding more -- Grow would rather kick families off the land so that picnickers could eat there on the weekends instead. Remember this the next time Grow writes about the homeless, too. Maybe Nick Coleman needs more material.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 14, 2004 1:00 PM

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