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As part of deal, Herkenhoff conveys north pond to City of Crookston, stocks it with fish

This week, 400 pounds of minnows and buckets full of walleye and perch were stocked in Herkenhoff's north pond, which, as part of his deal with the City, is conveying it to the City as a natural park

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times
Jody Hanson, left, and Kay Miller get ready to dump a net full of walleye and perch into Bob Herkenhoff's north pond Thursday. Hanson will soon be building a home by the new pond, and Miller, 90, lives next to Herkenhoff's south pond nearby and loves to catch and release big walleyes previously stocked in that pond.

The transformation of Crookston’s far northeast corner as a residential and natural destination continues, with Bob Herkenhoff, the developer behind Nature’s View Estates and a frequent partner with the City of Crookston in that area of town in recent years, handing over his second pond to the City to be enjoyed by all as a natural park.

    Thursday afternoon, Herkenhoff had the north pond, less established than the residential subdivision’s first pond immediately to the south, stocked with small walleye and perch, as well as hundreds of pounds of minnows to provide the fish a food supply in their new home. As is the case on the south pond in Nature’s View Estates along Eickhof Boulevard, which is currently being expanded and paved all the way to Fisher Avenue/Polk County Highway 11, the public will be able to fish in the north pond when the fish are ready, as long as they practice catch-and-release.

    With so many organized activities for youth cancelled this past summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Herkenhoff said his south pond was particularly popular, with, he estimates 10 to 15 kids fishing it daily. But it wasn’t just kids; Kay Miller, 90, who lives in a home along the south pond and came to watch the north pond stocking Thursday, said she caught and released a very impressive walleye in the south pond this past summer.

    “(The south pond) has been used a lot more than I thought it would be,” Herkenhoff said. “I think the kids were bored as hell.”

    He added that he’d like to expand the trails going to and from the ponds so that visitors don’t walk in people’s yards to get to and from them. With the north pond already being conveyed to the City for a natural park area, Herkenhoff said within 20 years he’ll deed the south pond to the City, too.

    Herkenhoff works with 10,000 Lakes Aquaculture of rural Osakis. They first stocked his south pond with minnows, walleye, perch and bluegill two years ago, and Ethan Chalmers, son of business owner John Chalmers, coordinated Thursday’s stocking of the north pond. Herkenhoff said it costs around $2,500 to stock one pond.

Walleye and perch in a net, ready to be dumped in the north pond

    Each pond is around five acres in size. The south pond is 13 to 14 feet deep on average and the north pond is a bit shallower, at 10 to 12 feet.

Popular spot

    Herkenhoff owns a lot of land in Crookston’s northeast corner. He and the City worked out a deal several years ago that resulted in several new homes being built as part of Barrette Estates subdivision on the east side of Barrette Street.

    Meanwhile, he continued platting and selling home lots along Eickhof Boulevard just to the south and southeast, around his first pond, which was originally formed as a borrow pit dating back to the construction of Highland Middle School. The lots continued to consistently sell, to the point that it necessitated the extension of a paved Eickhof Boulevard north to County Highway 11.

400 pounds of minnows were dumped into the north pond Thursday to provide a food source for the small perch and walleye put in the pond a few moments later.

    Meanwhile, Herkenhoff and the City worked out another deal for two cul de sacs to extend from Barrette Street to the east – each one an extension of Fir and Spruce lanes, respectively. Each cul de sac has six residential lots, and one home is currently under construction. The homes, to varying degrees, have the north pond in their backyard.

    Currently, Herkenhoff has 14 lots available and, he said, six have already sold and a seventh sale is near. The lots with the north pond in their backyard are selling for $50,000 each, and across Eickhof Boulevard to the east and further from the pond, the lots are selling for $25,000. When a purchase agreement is signed, the property owner has two years to break ground on a home, otherwise they’ll face an assessment.

    Asked about who has bought the half-dozen lots, Herkenhoff said it’s two or three farmers looking to move into town, and the rest are current Crookston residents looking to build new homes and relocate to another part of town.

    The popularity of the lots has Herkenhoff looking to the future and also further to the east. City limits are around a half-mile away, and Herkenhoff owns 60 more acres in that direction. He said he’s willing to continue working with the City to expand residential housing options, and he said he’s not opposed to digging more ponds and creating more natural amenities for Crookston homeowners who want to live near them, and local residents who would be able to enjoy them, too.

Ethan Chalmers from 10,000 Lakes Aquaculture of rural Osakis holds the net while Bob Herkenhoff dumps baby perch and walleye into it. Looking on are, left to right, nearby property owners Jody Hanson and Kay Miller.

    Hoiseth said he’s currently talking with CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth about those 60 acres, and that it’s possible he could come to the City with another offer to work together on a potential next phase once winter settles in.

    “With so many lots selling so far, you have to look ahead two or three years at least,” Herkenhoff said. “There’s something about this area and what we’re doing with it and I think it’s just a real attraction for people. It’s in town so it’s convenient, but it’s natural and quiet and seems like you’re in the country…and you just can’t beat living by water.”