I feel there is an abundance of misleading information being spread around to other local citizens about the recreational access projects in Ranier. The time is right for me to come forward to help clarify things for those of you who are being misled about the lack of transparency and suggesting a special interest group is pushing the project. What I hope this letter reveals is that the project’s intent is in the best interest of the entire Ranier community.
There have been questions about my involvement in this project, perhaps the following will help everyone better understand my motives.
My grandfather Charlie (Keenan) Williams and his mother Cora moved to Ranier in 1911. My great-grandfather Robert Williams settled Ranier in 1915 after my great-grandmother’s death in 1920. Williams married Lil King, a Swedish immigrant, who had been in business in Ranier for several years, shortly after he adopted my grandfather. My mother was born in my great-grandfather’s house near City Beach in 1933. She then attended the old Ranier School through sixth grade. Whether or not you like it, Ranier runs through my veins. I am very passionate about the area we live in and what the future may bring.
This passion is the very reason I came forward during the flood of 2014 and organized a meeting in Ranier of concerned citizens interested in forming a property owners association. Then in the fall of 2017, after discussing the safe harbor/dock idea with some Ranier residents, I was encouraged by them to approach the Ranier City Council with the idea.
Shortly thereafter, the council passed a motion (during public meeting) to pursue the project and form a Steering Committee. The committee was charged with assessing the recreational access needs of the city. The committee consists of 14 individuals, including myself serving as non-voting chairman (and serving as facilitator at meetings); Ranier non-voting city clerk (who takes notes, organizes materials), and 12 others who either live in Ranier or have business interests in the city.
From December 2017 – May 2019 the committee held four decision-making meetings, with the most recent being held on June 3. The decisions were brought forward in the form of recommendations to the city council for consideration (during public meetings). On March 19, 2018, a public informational meeting was held at the Ranier hall where the safe harbor/transient dock project was presented to the public by AJ Perkl of AMI Engineering and myself. The presentation consisted of current dock history, past intentions of a similar project that was proposed in 1996, initial dock design and amenities, proposed possible sites to relocate the existing boat ramp and explanation of grants that had been applied for. The public was able to ask questions at the conclusion of the presentation.
The question of whether a boat launch is needed has also been clouded. The committee stated that Ranier is a water front community and having a boat launch is very important. It also determined that the current boat launch was inadequate, encumbered business, and posed safety concerns. They also found the current parking lot to be poorly designed and hard to utilize. The committee looked at all available sites in Ranier and determined that Seven Oaks provided the best alternative. The benefits of this location are many; the location is over 300 feet away from the nearest residence, it will be easy to construct, it increases available parking in Ranier and provides for a newly constructed ADA (or Americans with Disabilities Act) parking lot behind the community hall building, which will be designed in a manner that is least impactful to area residents. It will also include an aquatic invasive species boat wash station. It is mandated by Minnesota state law that when a watercraft is removed from the water that it be free of any aquatic invasive species. See the website at https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/84D.10
Area boat launches are very crowded and are creating safety hazards. At times you will find vehicles parked alongside Highway 11 or overflowing the Rainy Lake Visitor Center parking lots, making it inaccessible for those who wish to experience the visitor center or ride the Voyageur tour boat. Some think the Ranier rapids poses a safety risk. That is a valid point, but please keep in mind the town of Fort Frances apparently doesn’t think so. They have a 60-slip marina and boat launch located downstream. This is the only municipal ramp in Fort Frances. If you’re concerned about the rapids, you can launch elsewhere.
There have been public meetings. There will be more meetings and this process has been transparent. There is not a special interest group involved, just individuals that have a passion and love for Ranier and Rainy Lake; the passion for a vibrant, diversified economy, to provide employment opportunities for our children or grandchildren, and to provide access for those who want to enjoy Rainy Lake and Voyageurs National Park.
I hope this clarifies the issues around the Ranier pier project. If anyone has any questions, please just ask me or a member of the committee.