Protecting a natural legacy

Eden Prairie / Minnetonka, Minnesota
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Eden Prairie News Editorial

County parcel worth preserving

"Walk a 37-acre piece of property near Eden Prairie's Birch Island Lake that Hennepin County has deemed "surplus" and fit for sale and development and you'll find an impressive piece of open space. It has wetlands, woods, hills ... just about everything to make you forget that you're in the middle of a fast-growing suburb.

"Add that 37 acres to Birch Island Lake, to nearby Birch Island Park, to the Eden Wood Center camp next door and you have a much more valuable chunk of public open space. Just yards away are the Southwest LRT Trail for walkers and bikers as well as wetlands that are part of Glen Lake Golf Course.

"All of which makes it prudent that Hennepin County postpone the sale of that 37 acres for at least two years not a few weeks or months, but years so that Eden Prairie city officials and residents can make an effort to purchase and preserve the property as open space.

"The postponement request is currently before the Hennepin County Board, and its list of supporters is growing. Last week the Minnetonka City Council endorsed the city of Eden Prairie's plea, and a number of other organizations have sent letters to the county board among them the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, the West Metro Chapter of the Minnesota Land Trust, the Eden Prairie Conservation Alliance, Eden Wood owner Friendship Ventures, and the Natural Resources Committee of the National Audubon Society's Minnesota River Valley Chapter.

"The hitch, of course, is that Hennepin County sees a chance to generate some revenue by disposing of the property, a remnant of the former tuberculosis sanatorium site and one of a number of county properties it has declared "surplus" and fit for sale. The county isn't in the parks business; that's another agency, Hennepin Parks, which apparently isn't interested in the parcel.

"There are some funding options through the state and private sources, but proponents for keeping the parcel undeveloped say it will take about two years to fully explore those options and win the grant money needed to purchase the land.

"The county ought to authorize that reprieve. The delay would allow county and city officials folks who work for you and us to work together on a reasonable disposition of the land. They may find that a sliver of the parcel can be developed, keeping the bulk of it intact as scenic and natural open space. They may find development isn't worth pursuing at all.

"Local volunteers are being sought to work on the preservation effort. If you are interested in joining the movement, call Jeff Strate at 949-8980. The county board also needs to hear your voice. Call Hennepin County Board Chair Randy Johnson, whose 5th District includes Eden Prairie, at 348-7885.

"Residents often complain that Eden Prairie is losing too many of its forests, fields and wetlands as development marches forward. Here's a chance to preserve a sizable chunk that hasn't yet fallen into private hands."

The text quoted above is an editorial that appeared in the Thursday, December 2, 1999, Eden Prairie News. The editorial is copyrighted "© 1999 Southwest Suburban Publishing", who retain all rights to it.

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