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Walker proposes $11M funding injection at Willow River State Park

HUDSON — A dam project at Willow River State Park would receive a funding boost under a Gov. Scott Walker proposal announced Monday.

The Republican governor said his budget calls for $11 million in new funding to rebuild the Little Falls Lake Dam at the state park. If approved by lawmakers, funding for the project would total $19 million; Walker previously approved $8 million for work on the dam in the state budget he signed in 2015.

“This is one of the most attractive parks in a great park system in the state,” he said Monday at the Willow River State Park pavilion, where he was joined by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and Rep. Shannon Zimmerman — both Republican lawmakers from River Falls.

Walker couched the announcement as tourism driver, saying improvements will lure in more visitors at the park, which already sees about 930,000 each year.

“This is one more way to draw people in,” he said.

If approved by the Legislature, the project would likely begin construction next year, said Park Manager Aaron Mason. He said the tentative completion date would be sometime in 2020.

“It’s a very good step,” Mason said of Walker’s announcement.

Harsdorf, a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, said she’ll be lobbying fellow legislators to back the funding request.

“This is a critical structure to maintain the popularity of the park,” she said.

Both she and Walker admitted the legislative path to the governor’s desk isn’t always smooth, but the governor said he thinks Harsdorf wields significant influence at the Capitol.

“She’s got a lot of colleagues in both houses,” he said.

See this week’s print edition for more on Walker’s visit to the park.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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