MARSHALL -?People who love Camden State Park got a chance to find out about plans for the park and offer their suggestions at an open house given by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at the Marshall-Lyon County Library on Tuesday evening.
"It's the best-kept secret around," said attendee Barb Berkenpas. "I think about the times I took my kids to the pool or hiking, I want to share it with friends and family."
Plans for the park include improvements in trails and facilities and restoring the natural prairie ecosystem.
"We're planting native grasses," said Molly Tranel Nelson, regional resource specialist with the DNR office in New Ulm. "This fall we had the combine out harvesting grass on the native reserve and seeding."
The combine is a 1975 Gleaner model, according to Nelson. Native grass seed is harvested at a specific time of year and used to re-seed other parts of the park 25 to 50 acres at a time. The goal is to establish the native grass and wildlife species and encourage colonization by snakes, small mammals and provide better cover for deer.
The fire that burned about 80 acres in Camden on Monday was actually beneficial to this effort, according to Park Manager Bill Dinesen.
"It burned some of the restored prairie field and some wooded ravines with a native woodland community: burr oak, sugar maple and basswood," Dinesen said. "That's an area we'd regularly burn, there was no environmental damage. Burr oak is one of the few trees that can withstand prairie fire."
The DNR continues to work on expanding restored areas in the park that were formerly farmed and planted with imported species such as brome grass.
Other plans include repairing or rerouting horse and biking trails damaged by erosion.
"The trails have taken a lot of damage in the last few years of storms," said Curt Timmerman, member of the Friends of Camden. "The bridge on the Jones Millbank trail was washed out in September 2010 and a bridge by the horse camp. And for years we've been trying to get the pool restored with good bottom, get it dredged and cleaned out."
Some ideas being considered include introducing bison to the park to help maintain the natural native prairie cover and help preserve the herd of genetically pure bison in Blue Mound State Park.
"We've discovered the Blue Mound herd is genetically pure with no cattle genetics," said Alex Watson, regional naturalist. "Partnered with the Minnesota Zoo, we want to repopulate other parks and establish other herds. Camden is a proposed site."
Anyone interested who did not come to the open house will have an opportunity to submit their suggestions through the comment page of the Camden State Park section of the DNR website, according to Colin Kelly, principal planner of the DNR Parks and Trails Division.