Paynesville Press - April 23, 2003

Community Perspective

Highway should not go next to school

By John Janotta

As principal of Paynesville Area High School and a Highway 23 Task Force member, I would like to share some thoughts about the future route of Highway 23. I might add that these are my opinions and not necessarily the opinions of the school district.

Having served on the Highway 23 Task Force for the Paynesville area, I have been following carefully the discussions on which route Highway 23 should take.

Two of the routes that are proposed make little sense from my perspective. The routes I am concerned about are the east bypass and any bypass that runs in front of or immediately to the west side of the high school.

My concern in regard to the east bypass involves the loss of school property. The golf course driving range is on the path that the east bypass would most likely take.

Many people do not realize that the golf driving range is on school property. Nearly ten years ago the school district and the golf course worked out an arrangement that allowed Koronis Hills Golf Course to build and maintain, but not own, the current driving range, which is still school property. In return, a long-term agreement was worked out in which the school would not have to pay the golf course for driving range usage, for golf team practices and meets, for cross country practices and meets, and for physical education classes pertaining to golf and cross country skiing.

This continues to be an excellent arrangement for both parties.

However, the east bypass would wipe out all these arrangements.

Safety is also a factor. This highway bypass would provide a safety concern in regard to students needing access to the golf course for golf, cross country, and cross country skiing - a concern that would be present most months of the year. A four-lane highway just to the west of the high school also provides some real disadvantages to accessing school grounds. I am told that the access to the school from Highway 23 would be limited to a right-hand only turn by the traffic coming into town from the west. This would present additional congestion to our other accesses, particularly during certain hours of the school day and also during evening or community events.

I estimate that on any school day there are approximately 500 vehicles that enter and leave the parking lots, most often immediately before and after school. Limited access of Highway 23 would cause a greater safety hazard.

The best solutions deal with moving the bypass further west, thus eliminating problems with the school.

I might add that as a member of Koronis Hills Golf Course Board of Directors in the early 1990s we checked with the Minnesota Department of Transportation about the impact of future highways before the expansion to 18 holes was begun. We were assured that it wasn't an issue and that we should continue the plans to expand, which included the driving range.

We did, and a short time later the discussion of highway plans showed a possible route that would eliminate the driving range as well as a part of the second hole. However, the expansion had taken place with concerns met for environmental issues. A land trust was established to preserve sensitive land from expansion. This land is never to be used for any type of building project.

To move or rearrange the golf course holes or driving range at this time is impractical and virtually impossible. Let's not forget the economic impact the golf course has on the area's tourism, besides adding to the quality of recreational life in the Paynesville area.

It is in Paynesville's best interest to have easy and safe access to Highway 23 from the middle and high school campus. It is also crucial to have excellent recreational facilities for students, community members, and visitors.

Let's not jeopardize what we have by allowing either the east bypass or the west bypass that is adjacent to school property to be chosen.

John Janotta is the principal at Paynesville Area High School and a member of the local highway task force.

Do you have an opinion about the future route of Highway 23 through or around Paynesville? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 or e-mail him at to inquire about expressing your opinion.

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