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Birch Island Woods plan calls for minimal changes
Eden Prairie News Story
Thursday June 27, 2002

Birch Island Woods plan calls for minimal changes
By Stuart Sudak
© 2002 Eden Prairie News

Advice offered by those charged with helping shape the future of the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area can be summed up in three words: don't change much.

Indeed, the Birch Island Woods Task Force Report urges that the northern Eden Prairie land be preserved as close to its current state as possible.

At the urging of a citizens group, the city bought the 31.6 acres of woods from Hennepin County late last year. The task force, comprised of many of those who fought to save the property, worked for three months with city staff and a consulting firm to mold a management plan for the woods.

The City Council signed off on the task force's plan via the report at its meeting last week.

"I think the philosophy basically was that people wanted it to look the same," said Jeff Strate, chair of the task force. "And if there is construction that it fit into the natural sanctuary quality of the area."

The task force did suggest some minor improvements. That includes work to trails, adding connections to surrounding areas, adding a parking lot, landscape work, and offering such things as a sign kiosk, trash cans and benches.

Stu Fox, the city's manager of parks and natural resources, said the existing east-west trail would continue to serve as the woods' main trail. It will not be paved, but it will be realigned slightly to create "a safe crossing of the future driveway and entrance/exit onto Indian Chief Road," the task force report stated.

Many of the existing secondary trails - developed by animals or people walking - will continue to be used and covered with wood chips.

The eight-car parking lot is to be accessed from a driveway off Indian Chief Road. Fox noted it is standard for every city park to have parking.

He added that the task force opted to have one central sign in the woods. That will give people a map of the land's terrain as well as information on its natural resources, history, and what animals and plants call it home.

Also, the city will consider creating a "woodskeeper" for the land.

Volunteers could be trained and educated "in a manner that would make them knowledgeable of management goals" for the woods.

What now?

So where does the management plan go from here?

Parks Director Bob Lambert will recommend the council use some money in next year's budget to build the parking lot, make a couple small trail improvements, and raise the sign.

Lambert said many of the recommendations made by the task force could be done over time through volunteer programs. He said the city gets many Eagle Scout project requests, and a few of the recommendations would be perfect for that since it's mostly "hand work."

Strate said the task force asked city staff to develop a list of projects that community groups or residents could contribute to with either labor or money.


A dog park is not in the woods' plans.

According to the task force report, some people walk their dogs without a leash in the woods. During two visits to the woods, Lambert said five out of the six people he saw came to the woods to turn their dogs loose.

City ordinance requires dogs to be leashed while in parks or public land. Lambert said the task force was "adamant" on enforcing that law in the woods.

"Dogs can continue to visit the woods but on a leash," Strate added.

Lambert said the city is looking at finding a place in the city for a dog park. "The problem with those things is nobody wants to live in those areas," Lambert said.

Off-road BMX bicycle use at the woods will also change.

According to a memo, a number of kids are building BMX jumps and trails that are "not suitable for use" by most people. The task force and city parks commission recommended the jumps be removed and that the woods are not the place for this type of off-road bike use.


A letter from the June 27 Eden Prairie News
Wednesday, June 27, 2002

For the dogs

The pet owners of Eden Prairie need a special place where their dogs can exercise without worrying about being on a leash.

Birch Island Park on County Road 4 is virtually unused by the public. It has nothing to draw people to it -- ball fields, tennis courts, etc. The city could easily turn this park into a dog park for Eden Prairie pet owners.

Cost would be minimal, and the park could be enjoyed by many, many pet owners.

Other cities have dog parks and the citizens love them.

Why let a park sit empty? Call your city representative and tell them to create a park where dogs are welcomed.

Larry Peterson, Eden Prairie

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