Protecting a natural legacy
For the public good
April 21, 2012
The Friends would like to thank all of the volunteers who participated on April 21st for the citywide parks cleanup, FBIW potting party and the FBIW spring restoration project. Mother Nature helped us out by keeping the rain away until all of the events were completed and it made for a very productive and rewarding morning.
The potting party started at
9 AM with more than 20 volunteers pitched in to pot
bare-root shrubs and trees that will ultimately be sold at
the Birch Island Woods Plant Sale in early May.
Lots of smiles from our volunteers through the Eden Prairie High School Outreach Room along with Eden Prairie and Minnetonka neighbors.
The spring restoration project received approval and support from the City of Eden Prairie in Fall 2011. The City has also kindly installed two watering barrels that are filled weekly by City staff. FBIW volunteers spend approximately two hours each week watering the stock at both restoration sites. We’re especially excited about restoring birch trees to Birch Island Woods and will continue to work with the City of Eden Prairie to introduce additional projects within the Woods.
Phase III, to be completed by this Fall, will involve installing tree guards and fencing around the shrubs to protect the newly-planted stock from grazing and rubbing deer.
The Friends greatly
appreciate the generous donation of manpower and time by
our volunteers. We couldn’t do it without you!
It has been nearly nine years
since the 2002 Birch Island Woods Task Force unanimously
recommended a small parking lot be constructed off of
Indian Chief Road to allow safe and accessible access to
the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area is now near
completion. In August the City received the thumbs
up and permit from Nine Mile Creek Watershed District to
move forward with the parking lot construction. The City
of Eden Prairie began to earnestly move forward in late
September of this year by clearing the area of buckthorn,
removal of an old hog barn slab and some grading.
The new pervious pavement parking lot will accommodate 7
single and 1 handicapped vehicles. Vicky Miller,
current FBIW president and a member of the 2002 City of
Eden Prairie Birch Island Woods task force is excited for
the project’s completion as it will allow all patrons to
the conservation area safe and accessible access.
Miller commented “Most visitors to the woods parked along
Indian Chief Road which is extremely narrow and the line
of sight is very poor. Mobility challenged visitors
did not have the ability to access the woods as the main
trail head has an uphill slope, is narrow and
uneven. As part of the City’s management plan task
force, I have always advocated for the access of mobility
challenged visitors. And now all visitors will be
able to park, unload dogs, kids, strollers and
wheelchairs, and exit their vehicles without the fear of
being hit by a car.”
Once completed, the new lot will have a gate that will close parking at 10PM and the Friends of Birch Island Woods volunteers plan to monitor the area. FBIW is also in preliminary discussions with the City of Eden Prairie to provide funding and volunteers towards landscaping the lot with native trees, shrubs and wildflowers.
October 29, 2011
Friends of Birch Island Woods volunteers spent a warm late October afternoon collecting trash along Birch Island Road and Indian Chief Road as part of its Adopt-A-Street Program that is coordinated by the City of Eden Prairie. FBIW Board Member, Vicky Miller noted that there was a lot less illegal dumping this summer and was pleased with the smaller amount of trash collected. FBIW thanks the City of Eden Prairie for its continued efforts to promote local stewardships.
October 24, 2011
In April of 2010 Friends of
Birch Island Woods completed its first effort at restoring
native trees and shrubs within the Birch Island Woods
July 1, 2011
We are writing to clarify misperceptions in the June 30th article “Birch Island Woods Parking Lot Plans Draw Concern”.
Since the city purchased the Birch Island Woods from Hennepin County in December of 2001, it was clear to all involved that this area was to be made available to everybody. A parking lot was always a part of this vision and public accessibility (including handicapped accessibility) was a condition of the city’s acquisition of the woods. In 2002, a task force formed by the city unanimously recommended location of the parking lot off Indian Chief Road. Jeff Strate, former president of the Friends of Birch Island Woods Board of Directors, was a member of the 2002 task force.
The article leaves the impression that there is wide spread concern about the addition and location of a parking lot. The truth is that there are 4 or 5 very vocal individuals who are opposed to this action. Mr. Strate, leading this effort, suggests that careful study of the environmental impact of this construction has not happened, while in fact study has been on-going since 2002. City staff has worked diligently to assure that all procedures have been followed for the parking lot location off Indian Chief Road, including the approval of the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District. In fact, the $25,000 grant approved by Nine Mile Creek Watershed District for the parking lot materials is intended to utilize the most environmentally responsible materials for construction of the parking lot.
The article also cites concern about potential “indecent behavior” that will take place should the lot be built. Once built, the small parking lot off Indian Chief Road will not be concealed as are other parking lots in conservation areas such as the Richard T. Anderson or the Elizabeth Elliot conservation areas, where nuisance issues have not occurred.
In order for this city-owned property to safely be used by all and to partner with the city in its original vision, the parking lot off Indian Chief Road is a necessity. Contrary to Mr. Strate’s comments in the article that this project is supported only by a “few members” of the Friends of Birch Island Woods Board, it is unanimously supported by the Board. As stewards of the Birch Island Woods, the Board would not support a project that it believed harmful to a conservation area that it has worked so hard to protect over the years. It is time to put this issue to rest and move on.
Friends of Birch Island Woods Board of Directors
Leslie Cameron, Marcus Johnson, John Justin,
Vicky Miller, Geri Napuck, Roger Person, Terry Picha,
May 6th-16th, 2011
April 16, 2011
Saturday, April 16th dawned with very cool temperatures and snow lingering on the trees. Regardless, 27 volunteers arrived at the Picha Heritage Farm to participate with Friends of Birch Island Woods to pick up a winters worth of litter and to pot small trees and shrubs that will ultimately be sold at the 10th Annual Birch Island Woods Plant Sale. In a 1 1/2 hour period the volunteers potted up 253 small trees and shrubs on Saturday. In addition 6 large trash bags were filled with litter picked up within the conservation area, Birch Island Road and Indian Chief Road.
The Friends would like thank
all of the volunteers who gave their time to make this
event a success.
April 1, 2011
In the spring of 2010 Friends of Birch Island Woods, under the direction of the City of Eden Prairie began its first effort to restore native trees and shrubs within the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. This spring FBIW received approval to purchase and plant an additional six tree’s to compliment the original 35 in the old apple orchard at the intersection of Birch Island Road and Kara Drive. Jeff Cordes, with the City of Eden Prairie marked the new stock locations and FBIW members John Justen, Roger Person and Terry Picha dug the holes and planted the stock. FBIW is again pleased to have partnered with the City of Eden Prairie and look forward to completing a fall 2011 restoration project.
November 6, 2010
Thirteen volunteers from Friends of Birch Island
Woods and The West Metro Chapter of Minnesota Master
Naturalists pulled and cut buckthorn between Birch
Island Road and the trail that begins at
It was a beautiful day, unusually warm for this
time of year, and everyone participating had a good time
destroying the invasive plant. While the camradery
was the reward enough in itself, Lakewinds Natural Foods
(Minnetonka & Chanhassen) ) donated a gift basket of
goods that were shared with participants through a
drawing after the work was done.
October 13, 2010
June 10, 2010
Friends of Birch Island Woods today announced the receipt of a $5,000 grant from the Motorola Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Motorola (NYSE: MOT). The grant was made in honor of Motorola employee Vicky Miller who won Motorola’s CEO Award for Volunteerism for her work with Friends of Birch Island Woods.
The CEO Award for Volunteerism encourages worldwide community involvement and recognizes exceptional dedication by Motorola employees.
“Throughout the year, Motorola employees across the world dedicate their time, effort and finances to charitable initiatives,” said Eileen Sweeney, director of the Motorola Foundation. “The CEO Award for Volunteerism gives us the opportunity to call out the individual accomplishments of our employees. We are thrilled to celebrate Vicky’s contributions to Friends of Birch Island Woods.”
Friends of Birch Island Woods began as a handful of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka residents in 1998 to protect a small wood’s from development. Along the way we learned to celebrate and to steward the environmental, historic, scenic and recreational resources of the Birch Island/Glen Lake Area.
Vicky Miller responded: “Birch Island Woods gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment by being associated with dedicated people who give their generous time and abilities to keep this beautiful area as it should be – a natural and undeveloped habitat.”
The Motorola Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola. With employees located around the globe, Motorola seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The company achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships, fostering innovation and engaging stakeholders. The Motorola Foundation focuses its funding on education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming. For more information, on Motorola Corporate and Foundation giving, visit www.motorola.com/giving.
Motorola is known around the world for innovation in communications and is focused on advancing the way the world connects. From broadband communications infrastructure, enterprise mobility and public safety solutions to high-definition video and mobile devices, Motorola is leading the next wave of innovations that enable people, enterprises and governments to be more connected and more mobile. Motorola had sales of US $22 billion in 2009. For more information, please visit www.motorola.com.
May 18, 2010
9th Annual Birch Island Woods Plant Sale – May 7th – 18th
Despite dreary weather on opening day, the Birch Island Woods Plant Sale kicked off with smiling volunteers at the ready and happy customers carrying armloads of unique flowers to their cars. Volunteers are the driving force behind this event and more than 60 big-hearted people pitched in to greet customers, carry purchases and direct traffic throughout the sale's extended run.
Hennepin County Master Gardeners were also on hand to answer questions while Minnetonka beekeeper Dewey Hassig offered insights on the art of beekeeping and shared samples of his Minnetonka honey.
“Despite the cold temperatures and rain, I felt that the plant sale was very successful and we look forward to doing it again next year” said plant sale host Terry Picha. Each year, the Picha Family generously donates a portion of the sale proceeds to the Birch Island Woods fund, and this year's donation totaled $3200.00. The monies will be used for future projects within the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area.
Friends of Birch Island Woods would like to thank all of the volunteers who willingly showed up, rain or shine, and gave their time and effort to make this year’s sale a success. We also want to send out a special thank you to the Hennepin County Master Gardeners, Eden Prairie High School SLIC Program and the Picha Family—Terry, Kathy, Rob, Tammy, Teri and Ron—for their strong and enduring support of the community and Friends of Birch Island Woods.
April 17, 2010
Potting Party and Adopt a Street
Saturday, April 17th dawned with blue skies, warm temperatures and over 40 volunteers came out to participate with the Friends of Birch Island Woods to pot trees and shrubs at the Picha Farm, pick up litter along the roads and trails and to plant trees for a City approved restoration project.
According to Terry Picha, FBIW board member and our host, the plant potting was completed in 75 minutes which matched last year’s record time. This was the 9th annual Potting Party, wherein volunteers potted trees and shrubs that will ultimately be sold at the Birch Island Woods Plant Sale beginning May 7th through May 16. More information on the plant sale and a downloadable plant sale flyer can be found at www.fbiw.org main page.
Friends of Birch Island Woods also coordinated its annual litter pick up. Volunteers collected a winters worth of trash along Birch Island Road, Indian Chief Road and within the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. The area is pristine again with a viewshed that is enjoyable by foot or car.
April 15, 2010
Friends of Birch Island Woods Restoration Project
New this year is the first step in what will be an ongoing effort to restore the woods. Friends of Birch Island Woods, with the approval and under the direction of the City of Eden Prairie, conducted a restoration project in the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. FBIW provided the funds to purchase 35 Mesic forest trees/shrubs such as pin cherry, common chokecherry, white oak, basswood and American plum. This first planting went into the ground in the old apple orchard location at the intersection of Birch Island Road and Kara Drive. City of Eden Prairie staff arrived early on the afternoon of April 15th to auger the holes and position the stock for planting.
On April 17th, volunteers under the direction of FBIW vice-president Roger Person, were taught how to properly plant containerized trees. Volunteers then watered and placed wood chip mulch around each plant. FBIW also purchased and installed ooze tubes, a trickle watering method that has been around for a few years, to water the young stock. FBIW volunteers will monitor the tubes and City of Eden Prairie Park Maintenance has agreed to keep them filled. Finally, volunteers installed fencing to protect the young seedlings from browsing deer.
From start to finish, the restoration project took approximately seven hours to complete. FBIW is pleased to have partnered with the City and is looking forward to conducting future restoration projects.
Upon retiring as President and a Board Member of Friends of Birch Island Woods, founder Jeff Strate reflects on the decade-old mission that few thought would succeed.
In 1999, I began referring to a nameless swath of wetlands and trees in northern Eden Prairie as Birch Island Woods. This was a ploy to raise awareness that the lovely area was on the verge of being lost to development. A utilitarian For Sale sign had been posted on Edenvale Boulevard, taken down and then re-posted a number of months later. It turned out that Hennepin County was the owner of most of the parcels that formed the woods. Those and other far-flung county-owned properties (some were derelict commercial, industrial and residential lots) were going to be sold off because the county had no use for them. During the supercharged housing boom of the times, areas like Birch Island Woods could eagerly be bulldozed for McMansions, profits and an up-tick in municipal property tax revenues.
As a Minnesota Land Trust board member, I had learned that land conservation in urban areas could be very difficult. I had also observed a trick or two about community organizing as a television journalist and as a volunteer in Eden Prairie’s 1994 bonding referendum for the Big Woods and prairie bluffs along Riley Creek and the Glenshire outlot in my own part of town. So, I went to work and placed a few notices in “Birch Island Woods” about its likely fate.
A few folks retrieved my phone number from the trailside alerts and called with thoughts of their own. Some assumed the area was a DNR, county or city preserve and others figured it could be bought and saved by the likes of the Nature Conservancy or Pheasants Forever. Eventually, a gaggle of us gathered at Skyridge Business Center in Minnetonka to take realistic measure of the situation.
Few of us knew one another, but we shared an appreciation for a place where our kids could hang out with woodpeckers and where we could recharge values that were being bullied by cell phones and consumerism. Some of us had played or camped in the woods as children; others, like myself, simply hated losing to “progress” another green patch of our magnificent quilt. We organized and created a website.
The two-year campaign to save the county’s share of the woods and the more difficult quest to add four acres to the newly designated city conservation area, succeeded because a core of volunteers with a variety of skills and “lets-make-it-work” spirit positively engaged those who make land use and spending decisions.
Our efforts were buoyed by the support of hundreds of people who stopped by our table on the regional bike trail, potted shrubs and patronized our plant sales at the Picha Farm, laughed and soaked up history on our haunted woods walks, removed litter from the woods, signed petitions, attended hearings at City Hall, sent letters to newspapers and leaders, and worked to get out the “Yes” votes for one failed and one successful Eden Prairie Parks referendum.
The Birch Island Woods website chronicles our decade of setbacks and navigation through ranks of officials, conservation interests and cynics who viewed our quest, in a Minnesota Nice kind of way, a Quixotic long shot. Our mission didn’t fit comfortably into the land use blueprints of the Met Council and the City; it wasn’t a priority for DNR assistance; nor was it of interest to the Trust for Public Land and Three Rivers Park District. The green elite favored more glamorous land protection prospects in Wayzata, Minnetrista, Eagan and Chanhassen over our orphan woods.
In the beginning, our cause was marginalized as a NIMBY, tree-hugger issue in an affluent, fast growth suburb. But we kept our eye on the prize and had plan “b” and “c” ready on the hard drive when doors were shut. We came to understand that the Birch Island, Bent Creek and Glen Lake area was functioning as the kind of green corridor that conservation cognoscenti were making a big fuss over in other cities. With a large, laminated aerial photo and the Strate family minivan, we began taking officials “on safari” to see the sights – the small farm, Eden Wood Center’s retreat for special needs kids and its historic camp, the LRT corridor with the regional trial, the golf courses, the industrial area, the modest neighborhoods, and Birch Island Park, Lake and Woods. We began hosting hike and bike tours, co-sponsoring events with the Sierra Club, and speaking to community service groups.
Early support for the woods emerged from the likes of the Minnesota Land Trust, the Sierra Club, Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, Friendship Ventures, the Eden Prairie Lions, local Auduboners, our legislators, and eventually mayors, council members and county commissioners.
The adventure took us from driveway barbecues, neighborhood flyer drops and benefit plant sales all the way to the State Legislature. Thanks to the Eden Prairie News, Sun Current and regional media, the wider world learned about the woods. In 2003 the Friends were honored by the McKnight Foundation’s Embrace Open Space Campaign as a Champion of Open Space.
One of my early hopes – a promise really – that I shared with Mayor Jean Harris and Parks Director Bob Lambert -- was that the Friends would engage community groups and individuals to help the City care for the environmental health of the woods. Since the City began managing its new conservation area in 2002, more than 1000 volunteers have participated in organized buckthorn and garlic mustard pulls, building wood chip trails, removing litter, counting birds and native plants and helping kids learn what to look and listen for under a canopy of tall trees. The Friends have also helped other groups to get a handle on land and open space issues and prompted the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District to look at the fallen levels of Birch Island Lake. A district project is now restoring water flows to the lake that had been interrupted by development and the construction of Highway 62.
This caring-for-the-earth ethic was understood by our Dakota and Chippewa predecessors, my own Scandinavian ancestors, and not a few Minnesotans. It is an ethic more could embrace.
The woods is a keystone in what I contend is Eden Prairie’s most important arc of historic, rural and natural settings – one that cradles the human service programs at Eden Wood and the County Home School, the Glen Lake Golf Center and a network of trails. This role will become more important as population density increases and our community ages.
Upon my retirement as President and board member of Friends of Birch Island Woods, I am delighted that the Friends have begun planning with Parks officials to restore native plants and trees in the conservation area and will be advocating for City management of the large hill between the main trail and the railroad tracks. This part of the woods is owned by Twin Cities and Western Railroad and is suffering from habitat degradation and erosion.
The Friends will continue to need volunteers for its restoration and buckthorn initiatives and plant sales. As in the past, FBIW projects will be lit with neighborliness, fun and satisfaction. So keep in touch.
The small woods became a protected sanctuary in a suburb with an abundance of scenic open space because residents came to understand that the woods was important to the well-being of the whole. When they looked more closely, they discovered a legacy in its historic association with Native-American life, the transcontinental railroads, raspberry farming and Hennepin County’s remarkable response at Glen Lake nearly a century ago to the scourge of tuberculosis.
We know from a variety of surveys that Eden Prairie is considered one of the nation’s premier places to raise a family, run a business, or spend time in a park. During the last general election, we had the highest voter turnout in the state that had the highest voter turnout in the nation. Eden Prairie’s civic culture – lively and heated as it sometimes gets -- makes it possible for long-shot, grassoots campaigns like the woods to succeed. I’m reminded of that and smile every time I attend a city council meeting or see volunteers in Birch Island Woods clearing buckthorn or kids on bikes coursing along its main trail.
With many thanks,
Webmaster’s note: Jeff will continue to manage some of FBIW’s buckthorn and garlic mustard pulls.
The event concluded with a walking tour led by Jerry Bailey around the chain of lagoons, wetlands, shady groves and sculpture presentations that building clusters on the triangular, 12-acre Skyridge campus. Bailey spoke of the variety of birds that visit the preserve and the link between the natural, spiritual and business world. Skyridge is located about one half mile northeast of Birch island Woods on the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail. Jerry and Mary Jo Bailey are founding volunteers of Friends of Birch Island Woods. For more information call 952-933-2020
June 22, 2009
A new parking lot and paved trails were constructed in Birch Island Park near Eden Prairie Road under the direction of the City of Eden Prairie's Park department. Additionally, a new rainwater runoff pond was constructed by the Watershed District in the same area to filter and channel rainfall from larger swaths of residential areas into Birch Island Lake. Another rainwater run off pond that feeds into the lake, located near Edenvale Drive and Leslie Lane, was regarded and reconditioned.
Volunteer groups of scouts, churches, neighborhood groups and volunteer projects mounted by local companies continued to remove buckthorn and garlic mustard from Birch Island Woods Conservation Area and Eden Wood.
The Friends of Birch Island Woods weed wrench loaner program continued to grow at a slow, but steady rate. Several clusters of neighbors and homeowner associations took advantage of the free tools. Participants are encouraged to volunteer for an FBIW woodland restoration project or make a donation to Friends of Birch Island Woods.
Renovation work on the Glen Lake Children's Camp dormitory and landscaping approved by Eden Prairie Parks building inspector divisions and the State Historic Preservation Office was mostly completed. Eden Wood also saw volunteer scout groups build new campsites and a footbridge and work on beach improvements.
The Birch Island Woods Plant sale at the Picha Heritage Farm in May continued to expand in popularity and importance in the southwest suburbs. The plant sale generates lots of smiles and happy customers and raises money that will help Friends of Birch Island Woods help the City's stewardship of the woods and park.
The Glenshire wetland mitigation and native plant restoration project at Woodland Road, Sunshine Drive and Edenvale Boulevard looks better every year. Contractors working for the city continue to manage the area to rid it of non-native plants.
On the recreation side of the equation, renovation of Forest Hills, Edenvale and Prairie View parks, the expanded Community Center complex and a new baseball grandstand and field at Round Lake Park were also completed. Most of this work was paid for by the 2006 Parks referendum with significant contributions by the Eden Prairie Hockey Association and the Eden Prairie Baseball Association.
The City of Minnetonka continues its remarkable woodland and wetland restoration programs on public land and its educational efforts about buckthorn and garlic mustard for resident landowners. Minnetonka Mayor Jan Callison, one of the first supporters of Birch Island Woods won election to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners.
Citizen participation and interest in lake and stream restoration projects instigated by the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District seems to be at an all time high with projects on Mitchell Lake, Riley Lake, Rice Marsh Lake and Lake Susan. The Mitchell Lake Association is actively engaged in seeking grants for shoreline restoration projects.
University of Minnesota researcher Peter Sorensen's study of carp in Lakes Riley, Susan and Rice Marsh is being recognized continues to reveal data, which will lead to more effective management of the fish. The project is said to be the most ambitious study of carp behavior ever under taken.
In October, the Seminary Fen in Chanhassen was designated a MN DNR Scientific and Natural Area. The cold, calcareous wetland is one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. In December the MN DOT selected a route for a new, proposed Highway 41 crossing of the Minnesota River in Chaska that will not impact the Fen. That route will Connect HIghway 212 to Highway 169 along an alignment west of downtown Chaska that will follow much of Highway 42's existing right of way south of the river.
Brad Aho and Ron Case won re-election to the Eden Prairie City Council. Both have demonstrated an appreciation of the environmental challenges facing Eden Prairie and of protecting open spaces and Bent Creek Golf Course from development.
December 16, 2008
The tribute was organized by Friends of Birch Island Woods board members Vicky Miller, Jeff Strate and Geri Napuck and included a wide range of citizens representing various community groups. Among the speakers were former Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens, former Council Member Jan Mosman, Public Works Director Gene Dietz, State Senator David Hann, farmer Terry Picha, clean air advocates Les Ellis and Cynthia Ellis, buckthorn pull leader and political blogger Tommy Johnson, community leaders Kevin Schultz, Heather Olson, Betsy Adams and Ahmed Jama. Sending messages were developer Dan Herbst, city parks benefactor Barbara Kearwar, planning commissioner Ray Stoelting and historian, author Marie Wittenberg. University of Minnesota Professor Emeritus James Butcher spoke about his daughter’s impressive record of service.
During the council meeting proper, after the City’s 2009
budget was approved, Mayor Phil Young thanked outgoing
council member Butcher for her years of exemplary service.
Te council was in full agreement. Friends of Birch Island
Woods wishes Sherry Butcher the best of fortunes as she
transitions to a slightly more private life. In an email
communication to FBIW, Jeff Strate wrote, “We anticipate
that Ms. Butcher will continue to be an effective,
knowledgeable and passionate steward of Eden Prairie's
historic and natural legacies.”
November 15, 2008
5 sacks of litter, a lawn chair and heavy carpet remnants were collected for city pick up. Nearly an acre of woods was cleared of buckthorn and dressed with buckthorn trunks and leaves for erosion control. Many berry-producing buckthorns were pulled and stacked for later burning by city crews. Janet Blake and Ulrike Axen won the drawing for the Lakewinds Food Coop turkeys. Thanks also to Bill Baillie, John Justen, Tim Meegan, Jean White, Terry Picha, Kathy Picha and Vicky Miller for making the day an enjoyable success.
NEW FOOTBRIDGE ON BIRCH ISLAND LAKE TRAIL
The new footbridge (pictured below) should be appreciated by area hikers and exemplifies how volunteers can help City of Eden Prairie Parks.
October 28, 2008
The city has already felled some of the dead Red Oaks in Birch Island Park during a training session for work crews (See photo above). Forestry Technician Jeff Cordes says that other species of oak near the dead Red Oaks are not susceptible to Oak Wilt which is caused by a fungus that spreads from tree to tree via root systems.
Dutch Elm disease is another strain of fungus that is carried by Bark Beetles. Council Member Butcher has asked FBIW Secretary Vicky Miller to alert the City Parks department if the marked trees have not been removed by December.
Volunteers working under the guidance of Jeff Strate continue to remove buckthorn at Eden Wood and in the conservation area. In establishing a new campsite for special needs people Eden Wood, an Edina Eagle Scout candidate and his team removed a swath of large, mature buckthorn trees to open up a view of a wetland along the interpretative trail. An Eden Prairie Family and a Wooddale Church group pulled buckthorn in the central portion of the conservation in October. The Turkey Buckthorn Pull is scheduled for the conservation area on November 9th from noon to 3 p.m.
October 1, 2008
Most of the DNR, Carver County, Watershed District and Chanhassen officials who had spearheaded the nearly decade long initiative were on hand for the unveiling of a new sign. DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten, DNR Regional Commissioner Joe, Curcinka and Embrace Open Space’s Jenna Fletcher, Chaska teacher Dave Ress and others spoke about the importance of the fen and cooperation that led to the $1.3 million acquisition.
More land needs to be acquired to fully protect the fen. A coalition of concerned citizens including Chaska High school science students, the Sierra Club, the All Parks Alliance and East Chaska Citizens are opposing two of of the alternate routes for a new highway over the Minnesota River between Highway 169 and New Highway 212. Those two routes would impact the health of the fen and encroach on residential neighborhoods. For more information use the Save Seminary Fen links on this website’s home page.
September 23, 2008
Friends of Birch Island Woods President Jeff Strate provided the group with a brief history of Eden Wood Center, the Glen Lake Children’s Camp and the citizen component of the lake level project.
Strate said that of the environmental and conservation issues with which he had been associated, the repair of Birch Island Lake had put the broadest smile on his face. The process of getting the project going, studied, funded and operating took lots of patience, but functioned in the way that it was intended. Mr. Strate thanked the Watershed District and City of Eden Prairie officials and Mr. Obermeyer for their diligence and focus.
The group had begun the tour by viewing a bay of Northwest Anderson Lake from a Bloomington homeowner’s backyard opposite the former home site of Minnesota nature photographer-author Les Blacklock and his family. Northwest and Southwest Anderson Lakes are being temporarily emptied to kill off Curly Leaf Pond Weed, an invasive water plant that out competes native water plants. The plant will die off in the drawn down lake from hard freezing during winter. When the project is completed in a year or two, the lakes’ outlet to Nine Mile Creek will be re-dammed and their levels will rise naturally.
The group also looked at a short reach of the most northerly branch of Nine Mile Creek in Hopkins. For more than a century, the stream has been little more than a ditch flowing through industrial and residential areas from Mainstreet to 9th Avenue South near Westbrooke Way. Where needed, from Mainstreet southeast to U.S. Highway 169, the project will re-shape and stabilize the creek bank, rechannel and add stretches of riffles to allow the creek to meander naturally like it had before European settlement. A new runoff treatment pond near Highway 169 may also be constructed. Native plants will be sown throughout the project after heavy grading and soil dressing is completed.
The rowers as well as water skiers, anglers and swimmers will have a cleaner lake to enjoy with the implementation of the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District project to reduce algae blooms. The entire lake will be treated with alum. A large wetland in the Cardinal Creek neighborhood west of Interstate 494 is also being restored and will be fitted with a new hiking trail. The wetland is part of a flowage into Bryant Lake that begins in the Birch Island Lake and woods area.
The fall tour concluded with dinner, a question and answer session and an illuminating PowerPoint program about the Hopkins project.
July 1, 2008
Birch Island Woods supporter and EP Park’s Commissioner Rob Barrett is the cheery hunk on the monthly’s cover. Barrett’s new YouTube video series “Cooking for Dads” has become an unexpected hit on the Internet. Kunkel’s treatment shows Robb – an EP dad who can actually cook – on his rounds preparing for and producing the how-to-cook-it presentation.
OTHER BIRCH ISLAND NEWS: REPLACEMENT TREES
OTHER BIRCH ISLAND NEWS: BIG BUCK & GARLIC PULL AT
MAY 27, 2008
Wooddale Church dispatched a busload of volunteers to pull buckthorn and garlic mustard on Saturday May 17 and neighbors organized by the Shipp Family from Wedgeway Court (on the east side of Bent Creek Golf Course) pulled buck and garlic in the same area on Sunday May 18. Eagle Scout candidate Kory Kautz ran garlic mustard pulls in the woods on May 10, 11, 24 and 25. All volunteer projects are pre-approved by the Eden Prairie Parks Manager and lead by experienced or trained buckthorn and garlic mustard pull veterans.
FBIW buckthorn basher Jeff Strate helped organize and publicize a buckthorn pull at Edina’s complex of golf courses at Braemar on Saturday April 19. Braemar Men’s Club’s Marty Friede coordinated the golf course side of the event that welcomed members of the Edina High School golf team, volunteers from 4 different suburbs and 5 of Mr. Strate’s Edina High graduating class. An estimated 40 volunteers showed up to remove a large thicket. The FBIW weed wrench loaner program was put to good use at Pax Christie Catholic Community by a Troop 342 Eagle Scout candidate on Saturday May 10 and is new being taken advantage of by people who have taken BIW workshops or volunteered on pulls.
May 20, 2009
FBIW Secretary reports that native trees have been planted in BI Park where a contractor had bulldozed trees for the construction of a new rainwater infiltration pond and system along Eden Prairie Road. Among the trees are oaks, maples, and ironwoods native to Minnesota. (See next news items for more information.)
March 17, 2008
As of early March this year, that flow (at least some of it) is being collected by a system of collection tile pipes and underground bored pipe to the wetland and lake. That work is being accomplished by Rachel Contracting, LLC., an excavation company based in Osseo that specializes in environmental work. Nine Mile Creek WD Administrator Kevin Bigalke said told FBIW President Jeff Strate that he has had to alert Friendship Venture’s to move the dock high up the beach to accommodate the rising waters this spring and summer.
Nine Mile Creek Watershed District is also redirecting more rain water runoff from nearby neighborhoods to Birch Island Lake. That runoff will be cleaned of lawn care chemicals and other pollutants in a new infiltration pond in Birch Island Park just south of its new entrance on Eden Prairie Road and a reconditioned rainwater collection pond between Edenvale Boulevard and Leslie Lane. The City Parks department has also committed to construct some form of rainwater or infiltration swale to clean water flowing from the new Eden Prairie Road entry road and parking lot in Birch Island Park.
FEBRUARY 3, 2008
Mr. Bigalke reports that the District’s engineering consultant, Barr Engineering, Inc., will post full-time staff at the site to supervise the excavation work needed for the lake level restoration project until it is well underway. For related stories please see earlier news items below. People with questions about the project can call Mr. Bigalke at 952-835-2078
February 3, 2008
Individuals, families and organizations throughout town can join the ongoing Adopt-A-Street program with a call to the city’s Street Maintenance office at 952-949-8533.
Among the participants in the citywide Adopt-A-Street Program are Susan Anderson, David Beyer, Sherry Black, Cody Candland, Patti Jew. Linda & Dana Kloeckner, Kimberly Miller, Deb & Michael Speckman, Arbor Glen Homeowners Association, Boy Scout Troop 479, Boy Scout Troop 342, E.P. Lion's Club, E.P. Noon Rotary Club, GE Capital Fleet Services and Spoon Ridge Helping Hands.
FEB 3, 2008
Ms. Ruud (whose district includes Birch Island Woods) and Mr. Helland each won the Conservation Leadership Award from the Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, a non-partisan organization that tracks environmental voting in the Minnesota Legislature.
In a January 2008 press release, Conservation Minnesota
said “the 2007 state legislative session was one of the
best in the state’s history at a time of gridlock on other
issues.” Among the recipients this year are State Reps.
Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson), Dennis Ozment (R-Rosemount)
and Maria Ruud (DFL-Minnetonka).
The 2007 Minnesota legislative session committed to provide 27.5% of Minnesota’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025; reduce Minnesota’s global warming pollution 80% by 2050; protect Lake Superior from water diversion to other states and countries; create an affordable, convenient statewide electronics recycling program; institute stronger protections for Minnesota’s dwindling wetlands and work toward a constitutional amendment that allows voters to designate nearly $300 million annually for conservation and cultural heritage funding.
In a news release, Conservation Minnesota said of Mr. Helland: “It would be difficult to find a conservation or environment policy in Minnesota over the last three decades that John Helland has not had an integral role in shaping. He served as the primary research staff for the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee for over 35 years until his retirement in late 2007. His role as the nonpartisan legislative analyst specializing in environment and natural resource issues has been critical in ensuring sound and a workable environment policy.
During 2000 and 2001, Mr. Helland helped Representative Tom Workman, FBIW leader Jeff Strate and others understand the process of drafting bills which could provide State funding for the acquisition of the woods or provide the City of Eden Prairie with more time to negotiate with Hennepin County for acquisition of the woods.
Conservation Minnesota said of Representative Ruud: “Rep. Ruud passionately fought to ensure that Minnesota will do its part to reduce harmful global warming pollution,” said Conservation Minnesota. “She authored the Global Warming Mitigation Act and stood up to powerful interest groups and their efforts to weaken the bill.” Representative Ruud is currently authoring a capital improvement bonding bill for Eden Wood Center (see earlier news items).
Ron Schara’s “Minnesota Bound” television magazine (seen locally on KARE 11_TV) won an Excellence-in-Craft award in the “Outdoor Ethics/Take Pride in America” category for its 2006 story on Birch Island Woods. The segment originally aired before the City acquired an additional 4 acres for the conservation area. During repeats of the story this January, Ron Schara said that since the story first aired, Eden Prairie voters had approved that the money be raised to save the additional land. The honor came from the Outdoors Writers Association of America and was co-sponsored by Ducks Unlimited and Izaak Walton League of America
January 20, 2008
Prairie Restorations, Inc. workers, under direction of the City of Minnetonka, are clearing colonies of buckthorn in wooded and prairie areas along Purgatory Park’s main trails. A large colony of honeysuckle northwest of the central wetland and a thick mantle of young and old buckthorn on the steep-sided oak ridge are getting extra attention to enable ironwood, black cherry, hackberry and other native trees and plants to again thrive in the area. The thick mantle of buckthorn developed from a decades-old bed of seed hidden in the duff that has sprouted and grown since a buckthorn removal in 2001.
A bird thicket near the parking lot on the Excelsior Boulevard side that has already received restoration attention by volunteers (working with Natural Resources Restoration Specialist Janet Larson) is also being worked on by Prairie Restorations.
“Controlling buckthorn and honeysuckle requires more than cutting them down and painting herbicide on the stumps,” says Birch Island Woods buckthorn organizer Jeff Strate. “Ms. Larson and the contractor are clearly aware of the dynamics of Purgatory’s ecosystem,” and take into account what will happen to the cleared areas.” Ms. Larson is slated to lead the FBIW buckthorn control and habitat restoration seminar at Eden Prairie City Hall on February 21.
Click here for a fuller discussion of the Purgatory Park buckthorn project prepared by Ms. Larson for Minnetonka residents.
January 16, 2008
The non-permitted felling of trees near the site of a new rainwater runoff collection pond just east of Eden Prairie Road (south of the new parking area) was noted by area residents including Friends of Birch Island Woods Secretary Vicky Miller. Ms. Miller reported the encroachment to Parks Commissioner Geri Napuck who alerted City Parks Manger Stu Fox about the incident.
The pond construction is part of a larger project to improve the water and raise the levels of Birch Island Lake. Nine Mile Creek WD is also performing lake improvement projects at the northwest and southwest basins of Anderson Lakes and Bryant Lake.
Ms. Miller subsequently monitored a discussion of the matter during the January 7th Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission meeting. Ms. Napuck, the commission’s vice chair (who is also a Friends of BIW board member), put the issue on the panel’s agenda.
Ms. Miller reports, that Mr. Fox told the commission that the contractor, Rachel Construction, had indeed done work outside the scope of the project and will be required to restore the damage. Ms. Miller also reports that Parks Commissioner Joan Oko asked Mr. Fox what the city should be doing to make sure that non-permitted construction work is prevented in the future.
The current incident is the second major non-permitted construction work to occur in Birch Island Park in the past 14 months. In 2006 non-permitted grading and non-permitted renovation work was performed on the dormitory of the Glen Lake Children’s Camp in the Eden Wood section of the Park. The historic camp is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The restoration work resumed after all parties involved crafted a way of proceeding that would remedy any damages and would comply with regulations.
Ms. Miller wrote the FBIW board regarding the tree-cutting hat she is disappointed that the City has not been more diligent in making sure that construction contractors are fully aware of what they can and cannot do on city parklands; a sentiment shared by increasing numbers of taxpayers.
City Preservation Specialist John Gertz, who inspected the new pond site at least twice, notified Friends of BIW by email via Jeff Strate on January 8, 2008 that nearby archaeological sites had not been disturbed.
Nine Mile Creek WD Administrator Kevin Bigalke, in an email to Friends of BIW via Ms. Miller on January 10, 2008, confirmed that the contractor will be required to restore the trees that were not necessary to remove for the purposes of the project and that the plants used to restore the area will be native plant species.
November 30, 2007
State Senator Keith Langseth (DFL-Glyndon) led a degation of the Senate’s Capital Investment Committee to Eden Wood on November 30. City Manager Scott Neal, Friendship Venture’s George Ann Rumsey and Ed Stracke and others were on hand to welcome the group. The City of Eden Prairie is seeking $6.21 million in State bonding assistance to improve the Eden Wood Center that includes the historic Glen Lake Children’s Camp. In short order, the gathering was treated to a lively and informative summary of the needs and hopes for the City park facility by Mr. Neal and shown the master plan for the site by designer Jeff Schoenbauer of Brauer & Associates.
The City is seeking $6,210,000 from the State for a project that is projected to cost $7,970,000. The balance would be paid by Eden Prairie ($1,060,000) and Friendship Ventures ($700,000). The project would boost the over night capacity of Eden Wood to 100 special needs children and continue the renovation of historic structures in compliance with State Historical Office directives.
Three families with special needs children who use Eden Wood provided emotionally moving support for the good work provided at Eden Wood that serves families from around the state. John Gertz, the City’s preservation specialist took the group on a brief van tour of the campus to conclude the visit.
By the end of the day the committee had visited 29 sites in the metro area in just four days. They’ve already taken five tours in greater Minnesota and slated to take another tour of the metro area before the beginning of the 2008 Legislative session in February.
Also attending were Gary Stevens (EP Lions), Roger Person and Jeff Strate (Friends of BIW), Council Member Kathy Nelson, and Parks Division head Jay Lothammer and Parks Manager Stu Fox.
For more information click here for a pdf file of the City’s request for State bonding help for Eden Wood.
September 30, 2007
The project to control curly leaf pond weed by temporarily emptying Northwest and Southwest Anderson Lakes has been given the green light by the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District Board of Managers, the Three Rivers Park District, the City of Eden Prairie and, as required by law, other property owners on the lakes. The District and the City has hoped to begin the project this fall but decided to postpone the drawdown of the two lakes until August 2008.
September 8, 2007
“We've selected Birch Island Woods,” said Sierra Club State Director Scott Elkins, because it is a prime example of a successful, citizen-led effort to protect a high-quality area of natural land in an area where growth pressures are very strong.”
Friends of Birch Island Woods President Jeff Strate talked about the community-wide campaign to acquire Birch Island Woods for a City of Eden Prairie Conservation Area. On a short walk from Eden Wood Lodge to Glen Lake Children’s Camp Strate talked about the renovation of the nationally historic camp and the restoration of Birch Island Lake.
The Sierra Club and Friends of Birch Island Woods (FBIW) have come together over the past seven years for a variety of projects. FBIW hosted a segment of the Sierra Club’s 2000 Tour-de-Sprawl bike caravan from Hopkins to Birch Island Woods, Seminary Fen and Chaska, FBIW hosted a Sierra Club organized, regional conference on open space at Eden Wood in 2001, The Sierra Club worked with FBIW and local legislators to craft bills and amendments intended to help the City of Eden Prairie acquire the county portion of the woods during the 2000-2001 State Legislative Session; The Sierra Club nominated FBIW for the McKnight Foundation/Embrace Open Space Campaign’s Champion of Open Space Award in 2003 (FBIW won the honor); The Sierra Club was one of the co-sponsors of “Birch Island Woods Buckthorn Busting Day in 2005.
Jul 12, 2007
The owners of 18 hole Carriage Hills layout have also wanted to develop their land, but the City of Eagan wants the property to remain open space. The issue had peculated up to the Minnesota Supreme Court which, after clarifying certain legal issues, is now sending it back to District Court to determine if, under Minnesota law, continued use of the property as a golf course is a “reasonable use of the property” and whether holding or selling the property for investment purposes is a “reasonable use.”
In a July 12, 2007 email letter to Friends of the Eagan
Core Greenway, Eagan open space advocate John Ward
explained that the Supreme Court says that the City of
Egan has a rational basis for declining a request by the
Carriage Hills owner to amend its comprehensive plan to
enable development of the golf course. Mr. Ward says that
The Supreme Court also ruled that the City of Eagan will
have to compensate the property owner if the city’s denial
of the requested comprehensive plan amendment leaves the
owner without any reasonable use of the property and that
the city may be forced to acquire the property through
eminent domain if it wants to keep it as open space.
Mr. Cheleznik believes that in light of the unique history of the Edenvale Planned Unit Development (which includes Bent Creek), the City of Eden Prairie has a more than sufficient, rational basis to justify all of its previous actions that have rejected requests made by Bent Creek owners to rezone the course for development. He thinks that the City of Eden Prairie is in a stronger position than the City of Eagan regarding their somewhat parallel situations.
See earlier news items on Bent Creek for more background.
The intent is to make additional improvements to the Eden Wood facility in Birch Island Park next to Birch Island Woods. The Center (including the Glen Lake Children’s Camp that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is leased to Friendship Ventures for $1 dollar a year. The Annandale-based, non-profit agency operates the facility for people with special needs and as a conference center and retreat for the general public. In mid-June the historic, 1925 dorm of the GL Children’s Camp reopened to accept this summer’s special needs campers. Renovation work on the dorm had been red-tagged last fall when it was discovered by City officials that non-permitted grading and non-permitted removal of protected siding from the building had occurred. Renovation of nearby Birch Hall, which is also listed on the National Register, is expected to begin this fall. (See related news items below.)
Eden Prairie Parks Director Jay Lotthammer has told FBIW President Jeff Strate that Brauer and Associates, a land use and planning consultant has been hired to work with the City and Friendship Ventures and to develop a master plan for Eden Wood. Friends of Birch Island Woods, The Eden Prairie Lions and The Eden Prairie History Society will be among the community groups invited to help develop a master plan for the facility. The first of several preliminary meetings is expected to occur in late August.
The Eden Prairie News reported that Friendship Ventures and the City feel that a number of existing buildings at Eden Wood are substandard and need to be replaced or upgraded. The City says that it will be seeking around $6,210,000 in state boning money that would go to land acquisition, landscaping, lake access, design costs, construction of buildings and upgrades to buildings, utilities and the parking lot. That amount may be reduced or increased depending upon what makes the new master plan.
Because Eden Wood mostly provides benefits to non-Eden Prairie residents, Mr. Neal, the EP News reported, feels that a request for state bonding help in this matter has much merit.
THE SIGNS THEY ARE A CHANGING, PART I
“The fun, ironic twist about the ‘Save Birch Island
Woods’ sign is that we bolted it to anchor posts that had
been used for a Hennepin County “Land For Sale” sign back
in 1998 and 1999,” says Strate. Note: The City agreed to
buy the county land in December 2001 but finalization of
its purchase of 4.04 acres of private land for the
conservation area was just completed this March. Since
there was no longer any need for the sign, it was removed
and is being refashioned by neighborhood kids into a
June 10, 2007
COOL WATERS: Nine Mile Creek Watershed District’s approved projects to restore Birch Island Lake levels and to provide the stressed lake with effective rain water runoff treatment ponds will be put out for bid to private contractors over the summer. The work is now slated to begin in the fall or winter. Round Lake was re-opened on June 9th after being closed for three summers due to cloudy waters cased by nutrient rich runoff from surrounding neighborhoods and high levels of fecal coliform caused by geese. The two problems have been fixed. Note: Check the Eden Prairie News and Eden Prairie Sun Current for details.
TRAILS: Eagle Scout candidate Sam McCotter, who organized a large buckthorn pull in the woods last fall, returned with his team of volunteers in May to add fresh woodchips to the central trail loop in BIW Conservation Area. The new interpretative nature trail at Eden Wood that starts near the lodge is beginning its first full summer. The City Parks Division has opened up a circuit of trails in the Westgate Conservation Area which can be reached south of Valley View Road at the ends of Bittersweet Drive and Ontario Boulevard. The construction of the new city trail on Eden Prairie Road from Purgatory Creek north to the Crosstown Highway and Birch Island Park will begin this summer.
June 10, 2007
The Glencoe-based railroad company owns its own right-of-way from about the Highway 62 overpass to Appleton, the old Milwaukee Road’s mainline for its celebrated Hiawatha passenger service to Seattle and Tacoma. The Soo Line, which was acquired by the Canadian Pacific RR, operated trains on the route before the TC &W RR bought the right of way in 1999.
The only Eden Prairie business that currently uses TC&W RR is Midwest Asphalt which receives crushed rock aggregate from western Minnesota. Lyman Lumber in that wedge of Chanassen southwest of EP’s Twilight Trail and Dell RoaD is served by a TC&W RR spur. The railroad company carries mostly coal, grains (corn, wheat, barley), soybeans, sugar beet pulp, pellets, lumber and other forest products, canned vegetables, edible beans, molasses, DDGs, fertilizers, crushed rock and agricultural machinery.
Last year 2 to 4 trains per day (except Sundays) passed through Eden Prairie between Birch Island Woods Conservation Area and Eden Wood-Birch Island Lake, The railroad also skirts Duck Lake, EP High School athletic fields and several neighborhoods.
Railroad officials say that use of the line for commuter rail would need advanced planning at both the municipal and regional levels but that most of the infrastructure and land for double tracks is already in place.
Several years ago, the Met Council and Hennepin County decided to invest in studies and funding for transportation in the southwest suburbs towards light rail transit and buses.
The May 21, 2002 Birch Island Woods Conservation Area Management Plan recommended that the City acquire a use easement for the large hill between the conservation area and the tracks that is owned by the railroad company. Former parks director Bob Lambert has said that the hill (which is part of Birch Island Woods but not owned by the City) should be managed as part of the conservation area to prevent erosion and improve wildlife habitat and trail access to overlooks to the conservation area and Birch Island Lake from the crest of the hill.
For more information on LRT and public transit in the SW suburbs visit: http://www.southwesttransitway.org/
For the TC&W RR website visit http://www.tcwr.net/
MAY 28, 2007
With hundreds and hundreds of customers, more than 80 volunteers and great summer-like weather, the sixth edition of the Birch Island Woods Plant Sale at the Picha Heritage Farm became the best ever. The addition of 4 acres of land to the City’s Birch Island Woods Conservation Area in March provided this year’s benefit with a satisfying sense that much had been accomplished over the years.
As a result, the Picha Family has donated $3500.00 to the Birch Island Woods Fund. Moneys in the fund will be directed towards future, City-approved conservation projects in the woods and related programs and events.
“We had thought that we were fully prepared for the opening weekend,” said FBIW President Jeff Strate, “but we were nearly overwhelmed with the large crowds and thank the Eden Prairie Police, John Justen and Alex Strate, who on very short notice, directed traffic during the busiest times.”
Terry Picha’s new hybrid tomato, the “TP-14” sold out on Saturday May 11th, the second afternoon of the sale. The new variety had been written about in the Star Tribune’s home and Garden section the previous Wednesday and Picha was totally surprised by the demand and will stock more for the 2008 plant sale.
The Pichas will be selling the ripened TP-14 tomatoes at the Minneapolis Farmers Market beginning July 10th at Stalls #221 and #223. Home grown raspberries will be available at the farmers market about July 4th.
This year’s plant sale began last fall when the Picha family chose the seed, shrub and tree stock and continued midwinter as Terry, Kathy and Robb Picha began nurturing greenhouse seedlings into ready-for-the-garden flowers, herbs, annuals and vegetables. On Earth Day weekend in April, volunteers, including groups from Eden Prairie High School and Wooddale Church, potted bare-root trees and shrubs for the sale. Three weeks later others distributed flyers and posters, put up directional signs and during the sale welcomed patrons to the farm and loaded their plants into vehicles.
Friends of Birch Island Woods thanks Eden Prairie High School’s Students Learning in Community program, Master Gardeners Mona Inman and Judy Karasch, beekeeper Dewey Hassig, sign makers Dave Hamre and Tom Mittelstadt and especially plant sale organizer Vicky Miller. FBIW also thanks the City’s parks division for loaning plant racks to help customers stack their choices.
April 21, 2007
March 24, 2007
In a Friday March 23rd news release the City of Eden Prairie announced that Jay Lotthammer, the Parks Director of Brooklyn Park, a large suburb northwest of Minneapolis, will replace the legendary Lambert.
Bob Lambert spent his last Eden Prairie City Council meeting and a workshop on March 20th, engaged in final deliberations over the cost of a bundle of parks projects headlined by the renovation of the Eden Prairie Community Center with a new hockey rink. Also included in the passage is a new baseball field with a grandstand and new parking areas near Round Lake and upgraded access to and parking for Birch Island Park. After a year of what the Eden Prairie Sun Current noted was ongoing “sticker shock” in the process of determing the final bill for the projects, the Parks Commission recommended and the City Council authorized spending as much as $15.585 million. $6.5 million would be provided by the 2005 parks referendum, $1 million from the EP Hockey Association and other amounts from cash park fees, revenue bonds and the EP Baseball Association.
The community center renovation had long been a priority of Mr. Lambert who had postponed his retirement until the community center improvements were launched with approved bids. Mayor Young and the Council provided that authorization for the lion’s share of the projects. And a week and half earlier, the City and the Picha families closed on the $830,000 sale of 4.04 acres of land to successfully conclude a five-year, difficult initiative to expand the city’s smallest conservation area. (See news item below)
Although the Community Center will be remembered as the most important item of Mr. Lambert’s last council meeting – the EP Hockey Association presented Mayor Young with an oversized check for $1 million dollars for the new ice rink – a hearing on the draft of an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) had drawn a trio of community leaders to the council chambers who were well known to Mr. Lambert.
Mike Boland, Jeff Strate and Dean Edstrom were among those who had come to orally comment on the adequacy of an environmental review-in-progress of six possible new road routes south of Riley Creek between Dell Road and Eden Prairie Road. Mr. Boland an environmental and education advocate who championed the unsuccessful 2004 parks referendum; Mr. Strate of Friends of Birch Island Woods and other land conservation groups and former Council Member Edstrom and Rotarian had for years been independently engaged with Mr. Lambert on a variety of issues. And now they were weighing in on, if not agreeing, on an environmental review report that would affect development patterns between the Minnesota River bluffs and the steep-sided Riley Creek corridor. The corridor, an impressive component of the Eden Prairie park and trail system that Mr. Lambert and citizens had stitched together over three decades includes a rare big woods in the Riley Creek Conservation Area, the lower, spring-fed reach of the creek, Fredrick Miller Spring and the Prairie Bluff Conservation Area.
Mr. Strate concluded his comments on the EAW by holding up the cover of the 1993 “Natural Community Survey” to which he had just referenced. He noted that the first time he had met Bob Lambert was the first time that he himself had attended a council meeting. That 1993 session approved the survey as the basis for a 1994 land preservation referendum. After the meeting, said Strate, the two introduced themselves and Lambert gave Strate a copy of the report. Mr. Strate mused that now, 14 years later, he was referring to data from the same survey that Mr. Lambert had used to support the acquisition of the Riley Creek big woods and corridor. There may not be any poetry in this, surmised Strate, but it is something to note. Mr. Strate then thanked Mr. Lambert for being a great parks director.
For more on Bob Lambert check out the on-line and print editions of the Eden Prairie Sun Current and the Eden Prairie News.
March 15, 2007
March 10, 2007
A five-year long initiative to add a 4.04-acre parcel of land to the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area came to a successful conclusion in a downtown Minneapolis bank on Friday March 9, 2007. The City’s purchase of the remnant of an old farmstead that had been owned by two branches of the Picha family was completed, signed and closed. Terry Picha, one of the co-owners in attendance at the Friday closing, said that he had a “bitter-sweet” perspective on the transaction the following morning when he drove up to the small farm that he and his family will continue to operate. That farm sits on a hill overlooking Birch Island Road and the land that was sold; land that is mostly wooded but had hosted a farm house, outbuildings an apple orchard, livestock and memories. “We’ve owned that property for a long time, for my whole life,” he said, “and now the City owns it. But it will be part of the conservation area and that is the best use of that land.”
The City’s portion of the Birch Island Woods complex now totals about 36 acres. Approximately 5 isolated acres of the woods are owned by Twin City and Western Railroad and a detached parcel east of Indian Chief Road and another south of Edenvale Boulevard are owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority.
The $830,000 the city has paid for the parcel is mostly coming from money made available by voters for park land purchases from the November 2005 Eden Prairie Parks Referendum.
“This has been a long, difficult and unpredictable journey for the parties involved,” said FBIW President Jeff Strate. “But we all hung in there and made it work.” The 5-year long effort to save the Birch Island Road parcel he from development he has been telling people depended equally on the patience of the landowners, the work of Friends of Birch Island Woods and a city which kept its focus.
Failed attempts to get DNR matching grants and the May 2004 parks referendum passed; a lapsed purchase option and little hope of adapting the parcel for compatible horticultural uses were discouraging. But with voter approval to, among other things, acquire land in Eden Prairie’s November 2005 parks referendum, prospects for City ownership of the parcel began to brighten.
But the going remained slow as the City Parks Commission and staff and the City Council engaged in the process of identifying and ranking all of the City’s land acquisition needs for its parks, open space and trail system plan. The “Picha Parcel,” as it became known, competed with other parcels but remained at the top of the list. On January 18, 2006, the City Council authorized Parks Director Bob Lambert to begin negotiations with the Pichas for their Birch Island Road property. Over the next 13 months, the critical and complex minutia of any land transaction involving multiple owners and a public entity slowly progressed toward the January 9th closing.
The protection of the parcel from development will prevent ecological fragmentation of the woods, keep the BIW complex the only forested area in town that is not hemmed in on any side by houses and enable Terry and Kathy Picha to continue operating their small, 104-year old farm. It was understood that if large homes or town houses had been built on the parcel across the street from the farm that special assessments on the farm and possible objection by new residents to having a farm in their neighborhood would make it difficult for the farm to continue. The Picha family grows wholesale and retail flowers, raspberries, tomatoes and other vegetables.
“In making a solid case for expanding the conservation area, we were also making a case to keep a pocket of old Minnesota alive and well in Eden Prairie,” said Strate.
February 21, 2007
As expected, Eden Prairie Mayor Phil Young and the City Council unanimously approved the rezoning of Eden Prairie’s four golf courses from the “quasi-public open space” designation to the new “golf course” zoning category. The February 20th vote had been delayed two weeks to provide the City attorney time to introduce all pertinent documents related to the Bent Creek Course into the public record. Some of the owners of the Bent Creek property through their legal representatives have been opposing the action and have said that it would most likely prompt legal actions lesley use and agreements pertaining to the golf course since 1968.
Applause generated by attendant Save Bent Creek activists greeted the approval of the first reading and, moments later, the second reading.
Regardless of the guide plan and zoning change, the owners of Bent Creek Golf Course still retain the right to bring a development plan for their property to the city.
In a letter published by the Eden Prairie Sun Current and Eden Prairie News, Marcus Johnson, writing on behalf of the Friends of Birch Island Woods, thanked Save Bent Creek and the current and previous Eden Prairie City Councils for defending again the Edenvale Planned Unit Development Agreement with due diligence.
February 17, 2007
The purpose of the workshop was to lay the facts out on the table regarding restoration work that had been red-tagged and stopped in September. A plan for the renovation work to the camp’s dormitory and dining hall was approved by the City and the Minnesota State Historical Office and agreed to by Friendship Ventures before the work began early last summer. Friendship Ventures leases Eden Wood (which includes the Children’s Camp) from the City of Eden Prairie and has wanted to upgrade the two buildings for the kids and adults with special needs for whom it runs programs.
In September 2006, the project was “red-tagged” and halted when City and State officials discovered that work on the dorm included unauthorized landscaping, unauthorized construction of a new foundation and unauthorized removal of exterior siding and window materials. EP Building Inspector Kevin Schmeig said during the afternoon meeting that the work had also preceded without necessary building permits and that the work was not in conformance with submitted plans. It was also known that a required Nine Mile Creek Watershed District permit was never requested.
Representatives from the State and City told City Council members that the agreed to plan that had not been followed could, with some adjustments, be accomplished and that it could be possible to fix the damage.
By the end of the workshop, the consensus was that Friendship Ventures (meaning the organization’s executive leadership) was correct in saying that it should have done a much better job of managing the project. All parties during the afternoon session agreed to work more carefully and closely so that the camp can again serve Friendship Ventures’ clientele and are in compliance with the lease and the historic standards set for the camp.
Some, however, wondered why Friendship Venture’s executive leadership had recruited a number of its clientele and local benefactors including the Eden Prairie Lions to lobby council members with emails.
Prior to the February 6th workshop, as word of the emerging lobbying effort spread, an effort to put the Glen Lake Children’s’ Camp in perspective and to clarify what had gone wrong was taken up independently by members of relevant city commissions including the Parks Commission, the Heritage Preservation Commission and the Human Rights and Diversity Commission as well as members of the Eden Prairie and Minnetonka Historical Societies and Friends of Birch Island Woods. In a letter to the City, The Friends of BIW urged the city to determine why the damage had been caused and to seek a fair remedy. FBIW applauds and has promoted the exemplary human service programs of Friendship Ventures at Eden Wood as well as the historical integrity of the old camp.
“This situation is not about old buildings verses people with disabilities” said EP Lion and FBIW volunteer Tommy Johnson. “It’s about a tenant who broke a lease agreement with the City and that has absolutely nothing to with the special needs campers and their families. “No one is against disabled kids,” he said, “but there was an agreed to plan that would have served those kids.”
The pdf formatted memorandum covers agreements pertaining to, improvements to, plans for and work accomplished at Eden Wood from 1995 to the present.
Jan 23, 2007
The historic Glen Lake Children’s Camp in Eden Prairie that was damaged by un-permitted renovation work last summer, sets the stage for a February 6th informational meeting at Eden Prairie City Hall.
In his January 16th report to the City Council, Mayor Phil Young requested that City staff prepare a brief on Eden Wood and agreements between the City and Friendship Ventures, Inc. for review during a City Council workshop on February 6th. Part of the City-owned facility includes the Glen Lake Children’s Camp which during a renovation project last summer was altered and damaged without approvals or permits. The camp is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mayor Young stated that his request was prompted by a letter to him from Friendship Ventures which asked the City to consider altering the historic designation of the camp to facilitate its mission. The private, non-profit agency operates year-round, outdoors-oriented programs for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities at Eden Wood and at camps near Annandale and McGregor.
In response to Mr. Young’s request, Council member Sherry Butcher said that she had concerns about having the Council consider a request by an organization [Friendship Ventures] that had allowed destruction of Eden Prairie park property and committed serious violations of its contract with the City to protect and re-use the site. In response to Ms. Butcher, the Mayor said that the council needed to be updated on the Eden Wood situation and that the February 6th meeting would provide information and address the issues “
BACKGROUND: The Annandale-based agency has leased Eden Wood from the City since 1995 for no cost but is responsible for the upkeep of the facility and its 7.5-acre site which blends into wilderness-like Birch Island Park. Special needs programs, an associated travel service and outdoors team building programs (for the general public) operate at Eden Wood. Some Friendship Ventures staff live on site at the 1882 Holasek House. Eden Wood’s winterized cabins and conference center are available to the general public on a rental basis: community service, professional, educational, church and craft groups regularly hold meetings or retreats at Eden Wood. Friends of Birch Island Woods stages most of its buckthorn and open space seminars and hiking events there. With its historic structures and rustic, “up north” setting, Eden Wood is considered, by those who know about it, to be “Eden Prairie’s best kept secret.”
Eden Wood (6350 Indian Chief Road) lies east of Birch Island Park adjacent to Twin Cities & Western Railroad track and Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. The Glen Lake Children’s Camp was constructed in 1925 as an adjunct of the Glen Lake Tuberculosis Sanitarium. The camp’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places is in part due to it being emblematic of an important phase of the nation’s health and medical care history. Of the scores of camps like it that were built throughout the country during the first half of the 20th century, only the camp in Eden Prairie and one in New England are still standing. Glen Lake Children’s Camp (which is actually situated on Birch Island Lake) is all that remains of the nationally respected sanitarium that was located on a campus that now embraces Glen Lake Golf Course nearby in Minnetonka.
In the mid 1990’s, when Friendship Ventures took an interest in running programs at Eden Wood, it had wanted to demolish two of the original camp buildings - Birch Hall (dining) and a small garage - to make room for a proposed 15,000 square foot building. Because of the camp’s 1999 listing on the National Register of Historic Places, Friendship Ventures agreed (but not readily) to comply with the National Register standards that were set up to protect the camp’s architectural integrity. About the same time, private donations - spearheaded by the Lions Club of Eden Prairie - provided Eden Wood with a modern conference center closer to Indian Chief Road. Eden Wood was also connected to water and sewer by the City.
More recently, Friendship Ventures executives, their architect and the City, under advisement of the State Historical Preservation Office, began planning for the refitting of Birch Hall and the camp’s original dormitory so that they could better accommodate the intensive care required by campers with disabilities and yet retain their historic, architectural integrity.
(Note: In the year 2000, substandard roofing was replaced and structural repairs performed and roof deck insulation installed on the dorm. That $61,400 project was funded by a matching grant from the State that was administered through the Minnesota Historical Society and was compliant with National Register standards.)
Planning for the new, sensitive renovation work on Birch Hall and the dorm moved forward and the City Council authorized Friendship Ventures to seek a $79,300 State preservation matching grant for the makeover. By the spring of 2006, all seemed in order. The grant had been awarded, but was just part of an enormously successful Friendship Ventures fund raising effort which was said to be in the $800,000 to $1 million dollar range in pledged services, donated skilled labor, materials and contributions. On January 29th, Friendship Ventures’ Ed Stracke, reported that in-kind labor and materials given to the project so far are valued at about $150,000.
On May 5, 2006 Friendship Ventures held a ground-breaking ceremony for the renovation project. All seemed well. Four months later, no one was smiling.
While at Eden Wood on September 7th, City Manager Scott Neal, Heritage Preservation Specialist John Gertz, Council Member Sherry Butcher and Minnesota Historical Society Architect Mark Buechel unexpectedly witnessed the unauthorized and un-approved removal of window and siding material from the dormitory. They also saw again un-approved landscape grading and a walkway around the dorm.
Since October, officials have known that most of the renovation work at the Children’s Camp was done without necessary City and Nine Mile Creek Watershed District permits and say that an order to save re-useable window and siding materials was not properly tended too resulting in the loss of some re-useable material.
In a letter dated October 12, 2006 to the Friendship Venture’s architect for the Camp project (who Eden Prairie officials say is not a party to the violations), Mr. Buechel writes, “The majority of the work done to date does not follow the approved plans and scope of work. The majority of the work performed to date not only fails to meet the [U.S.] Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for rehabilitation, but also has seriously compromised the integrity of the building jeopardizing not only its contribution to the site but the entire National Register Listing of the property.”
In a January 29, 2007 email to Friends of Birch Island Woods President Jeff Strate Mr. Stracke wrote: “When the project [renovation work at the camp] is completed the two main structures on the outside will look more like they did in 1925 when they were originally constructed and they will be remodeled in a way that will help preserve them for another 80 years. But most important the structures will be fully functional and accessible for a group of people who have special medical needs which is why they were built in the first place."
LOOKING FOR A REMEDY: City officials and representatives of Friendship Ventures have had several discussions regarding the damage and about possible remedies prior to the November election. The February 6th workshop, involving the entire city council, pertinent commission chairs and staff and representatives of Friendship Ventures, will be the first meeting on Glen Lake Children’s Camp issues this year.
Vist the “Events” section of this website for meeting information
Jan 20, 2007
Birch Island Woods is located between Glen Lake and Bent Creek Golf Courses, about 300 feet south of the former and 900 feet north of the latter
In the future, if owners of Eden Prairie golf courses want to develop their properties, they’ll have a clearer path to follow with their proposals. They’d need to petition the city for a guide plan and a zoning change, which is pretty much what they’ve had to do all along. The difference now is that neither the city, residents or developers will have to bump about in the fog of the un-precise meaning of the “quasi-public open space” label. There never was a statutory “quasi-public open space” zone and the City, with the blessing of the Metropolitan Council, is remedying the inconsistency.
The major owners of Bent Creek Golf Course, however, through the voice of Bruce Malkerson, one of their legal representatives, claims that requiring Bent Creek to remain a golf course "encumbers" the land with a forced designation of open space, and condemns them to what the owners claim is a money-losing enterprise. Bent Creek owners want to sell the 105-acre links style golf course for development. Save Bent Creek organizers Steve Chelesnick, Victoria Rolf and others disagreed with a number of Mr. Malkerson’s claims. Mr. Malkerson purported that the “rezoning” of Bent Creek would be illegal and would prompt legal action against the city. For Lyn Jerde’s Eden Prairie Sun Current account of the Jan 16th hearing click here.
January 14, 2007
The study recommended the following strategies for land conservation initiatives:
January 14, 2007
December 16, 2006
In attendence were a few home owners from the Cardinal Creek neighborhood, Jeff Strate of Friends of Birch Island Woods and EP City Environmental Coordinator Leslie Stovring and Parks Manager Stu Fox.
The normal flow of ground water to Birch Island Lake from the north in Minnetonka was cut off during the late 1980’s when the base for the Crosstown highway was constructed. (See related news stories on this website ).
Barr Engineering consultants said that with the installation of tile pipe along the north side of the Crosstown Highway east of Eden Prairie road, ground water and surface water will be collected and conveyed approximately 1500 feet directly to Birch Island Lake by a 1 foot diameter pipe. That pipe will be bored underneath the large wetland that lies between the lake and the highway.
Construction of a new rainwater detention pond on the west side of Eden Prairie Road north of Kurtz Lane and the upgrade of the existing detention pond between Edenvale Boulevard, Leslie Lane and Doriann Court will also begin. The goal is to fully restore the clarity of Birch Island Lake and its suitability for fishing, swimming and boating.
The Birch Island Lake restoration project is part of a larger package of water improvement initiatives that include reducing the phosphorous levels and algal growth in Birch Island Lake, Bryant Lake and Northwest and Southwest Anderson Lakes.
December 6, 2006
The delay in applying the new zoning category to Bent Creek, Glen Lake, Olympic Hills and Beatherpath golf courses will wait until the City gets some perspective on the matter from the Metropolitan Council, the regional land use and planning entity.
Public hearings for the rezoning of the four courses courses had been re-scheduled for Tuesday January 16 - as was the final decision on the adoption of the ordinance creating the "golf course" classification.
Principal owner Sam Hertog’s legal representatives say that he will oppose re-classifying Bent Creek Golf Course into the new zoning designation. Mr. Hertzog’s ownership group wishes to sell Bent Creek for development. The City and various citizen groups contend that Bent Creek must remain a golf course because of Planned Unit Development agreements made in the early 1970’s. In making their case to keeping Bent Creek a golf course over the past year, golf club members and others point out that Mr. Hertzog can still sell the Bent Creek property at a fair market price to those who want to keep it operating as a golf course.
December 1, 2006
Groups from Eden Prairie High School, Central Middle School, the International School of Minnesota, Boy Scouts of America, Gustavus Adolphus College and Immanual Lutheran Church were among the organizations that helped this year. Individuals and family groups also contributed to Friends of Birch Island Woods buckthorn and garlic mustard programs. In May garlic mustard was pulled and left on the ground, but as the plant seeded, it was bagged and hauled away. The pulled buckthorn has been piled in specified areas for chipping or for safe burning this winter. The burns will be conducted by City appointed crews working under permit of the EP Fire Marshall.
City Street crews have recently trimmed branches that overhang Birch Island Road, Edenvale Boulevard and Indian Chief Road. The thickets of small trees and buckthorn that press in on the narrow shoulders of Indian Chief Road have leveled to provide better site lines and, apparently, a safer corridor for walkers.
Eagle Scout candidate Sam McCotter is the first to develop a project for the woods in 2007; restoration of wood chip trails. Mr. Cordes is really pleased with the progress and hopes that as many people as possible walk through the conservation area to see the cleared areas.
Nearly twice as many Eden Prairie and Minnetonka homeowners (including a home owners association) borrowed FBIW's weed wrenches to work their own properties. FBIW has the largest number of weed wrench loaners available in the sw suburbs thanks to loaners from Bill Satterness, EP Forestry Jeff Cordes, Janet Larson and Jeff Strate and a donation of three weed wrenches from Karen Rylander.
In reverse chronological order, here's is a list of those who helped fight the harmful, weed tree and the thick battlaions of garlic mustard. Assisting Mr. Strate on one or more of the pulls were FBIW volunteers Tommy Johnson, Bill Satterness, Greg Blakely, Vicky Miller, Beth Gilman, Rochell Eastman, Sue Neilsen, Alex Strate, Larry Peterson and Karen Rylander. Organized groups provided their own leaders under the direction of City Forestry Technician Jeff Cordes or FBIW's Jeff Strate and are mentioned below. Eden Wood center catered the larger pulls.
November 9, 2006
Maria Ruud (42A) and Erik Paulsen (42B) won re-election to their respective Minnesota House of Representative districts. David Haan won a vigorous challenge from Carol Bomben for the District 42 Senate Seat.
Friends of Birch Island Woods congratulates our soon to be new elected officials and thanks the other candidates for their active interest in Eden Prairie public service. For more on the election read accounts in the Eden Prairie News and the Eden Prairie Sun Current.
September 27, 2006
September 27, 2007
September 27, 2006
Terry Picha, who heads one of two sets of owners who are selling their 4-acre parcel on Birch Island Road to the City of Eden Prairie, reports that all parties are moving forward with the final process to conclude the sale. An other survey of the property is required and that should be completed by the end of October. The land will be folded into the BIW Conservation Area.
During its August 15 meeting, the Eden Prairie City Council unanimously voted to authorize the Parks staff to move to begin the final negotiations for the purchase of a 4-acre parcel owned by the Picha families. The property will be added to the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. “Friends of Birch Island Woods and the City have been pursuing this goal for about three years,” said FBIW President Jeff Strate. “This part of our journey has been like a roller coaster ride, one that occasionally stalled,” he said. "The Picha families have been patient and, over the long haul, the Parks Commission, City Council and staff have kept on the track."
According to EP Parks Director Bob Lambert, who spoke at the Council Meeting, the price for the property will be around the $830,000 mark; that's about where it was a year ago. A new appraisal for the property will be completed soon but it is anticipated by Mr. Lambert and one of the owners that the new appraisal will be similar to the previous appraisal.
The City will be using 2005 EP Parks Referendum dollars for the Picha land and will begin final negotiations when the new appraisal is completed.
The initiative to have the purchase of the Picha property serve as a kind of mitigation credit for the anticipated sale or renting of a part of Staring Lake Park will continue on a slower track but could save the City in the range of $250,000. The Staring Lake Park property was purchased with a Federal Land and Water Conservation (LAWCON) grant in the 1970's but the city is hoping to rent or sell the historic Cummins-Grill House which sits on it. If the City does not buy a qualifying piece of land for park purposes to make up for the sale of the Federally funded Staring property, it would have to return the grant money to the Federal government.
Mr. Lambert has told local newspapers and the City Council that the National Parks Service (a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior) has in fact approved the 4-acre Picha property as an appropriate “conversion” land buy for the City to mitigate the sale (or rental) of the Staring property. There are other complications.
This property is the site of the Cummins-Grill House which is on the National Register of Historic Places. In order to keep the house functional and protect its historic integrity with out using tax dollars, the City wants to sell or rent it. With adaptive re-use, the building could be used for a retail or restaurant operation or for offices.
Because of this historic status, the National Parks Service is requiring the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHIPO) to review and approve concept plans for the re-use of the Cummins-Grill house and its property before it will rule on whether the city will be required to return the grant money. Adaptive re-use would involve improvements to the interior of the structure and its yards and gardens as well as a new parking lot and driveway. “Any plan for this,” says Mr. Strate, and I am sure Council Member [Sherry] Butcher would strongly agree, should be compliant with the criteria for keeping Cummins-Grill on the National Register of Historic Places.”
But planning for adaptive re-use, has been complicated by Hennepin County’s plans to widen Pioneer Trail (County Road 1) which fronts the Cummins-Grill land opposite Flying Cloud Airport. In January, it was hoped by the City that everything would have been lined up for both the Birch Island Woods expansion and the Cummins-Grill property by this month. It is now clear that the Staring Lake Park side of the equation will take much longer.
August 16, 2006
Mr. Strate said that the Edenvale Conservation Group and Save Bent Creek and the City Council would want to be absolutely clear on the platting request for the Woodland Drive Property given its similar seeming status to Bent Creek and the outlots, the importance of pretecting open space in north central Eden Prairie and the complexity of issues associated with the Edenvale PUD. Council Member Ron Case agreed. City Attorney Ric Rossow said that had not yet had an opportunity to review the platting request and asked for additional time to do so. The hearing for the platting request was continued to August 1st.
During the August 1st portion of the hearing, Mr. Rossow reported (according to un-approved minutes of the hearing) that such development (the platting request for the Woodland outlot) would not negatively impact the City’s position regarding other open areas. Mr. Rossow was quoted as saying that although the outlot was originally dedicated as private open space, the plan [the PUD for Edenvale] changed over time as the development [of Edenvlale] changed from multi-family to single family residences. The presence of additional open space in yards made dedicating the outlot as open space unnecessary.
The Woodland Drive outlot, according to the unapproved minutes, was reclassified in 2001 as vacant residential land and has been taxed as such, and a court order has relieved the covenants of the homeowner’s association. In contrast, the use of the Bent Creek Golf Course area has been stable over time. Distinguishing and material factors separate the two situations, Mr. Rossow is recorded as saying in the unapproved minutes.
July 5. 2006
In her communication, Ms. Coomer reports that members of the club had recently been sent a letter from Bent Creek General Manager Michelle Russell announcing the reversal of the 2006 closing decision. The letter, says Ms. Coomer, also announced that, subject to financial and business conditions, the course will likely remain open in 2008 and 2009, but that the club house (with bar and restaurant services) will close during the off-season.
“This is great news,” wrote Ms. Coomer to Save Bent Creek volunteers, “however we all must stay involved and make our voices heard. It's easy to take a deep breath now, but we need to make sure that our green space stays as a golf course!”
“Watch-dogging for any attempts to change the City’s Comprehensive Guide Plan that would threaten open space, parks and golf courses and to uphold the PUD Agreement for Bent Creek is of the highest priority for those of us who live in north central Eden Prairie,” commented FBIW President Jeff Strate.
June 12, 2006
The City had said that it expected to conclude negotiations with representatives of the 4-acre parcel by early June, but no activity as of this writing is known by us. Eden Prairie Historic Preservation Specialist John Gertz says the the NPS has recommended that the City discuss the request with the State Historic Preservation Office and the MN DNR to resolve any possible issues regarding potential loss of the protection to the Cummins-Grill House and, persumably, its status on the National Register of Historic Places. On June 6, 2006, Mr. Gertz wrote to Friends of Birch Island Woods in an email letter that the City is “currently” scheduling a meeting with SHPO to discuss the impact to the Cummins property, which will result in a Memorandum of Agreement. Mr. Gertz also reported that he felt that the City’s request to “convert” Cummins property for Picha property “will very likely be approved; it's just a matter of going through the process and agreeing on current and future impacts to the Cummins site.” Queries to EP Parks Director Bob Lambert about the matter were not returned the week of June 6, but after the June 12 Birch Island Park neighborhood planning session at City Hall, Mr. Lambert suggested to Jeff Strate that the City appreciates the patience of the Picha families and that moving the purchase forward with or without LAWCON money is called for. The purchase option between the city and the Pichas reportedly expired on June 1.
FBIW Board Member Leslie Cameron, however, did receive email responses from Council Members Ron Case and Phil Young who replied that they still expected the transaction to be successful. Both have announced they will campaign to be Eden Prairie’s next mayor. Nancy Tyra-Lukens has announced she will be retiring from the city’s top elected position in January.
“With or without the LAWCON funds, parks referendum voters said “yes” to acquire open space and there is more than enough on hand,” said FBIW secretary Vicky Miller. “The Picha families have been more than patient, the City must buy the land now.”
(Note: The market value of the 4-acre parcel could be more than $830,000)
June 12, 2006
June 12, 2006
As of June 12 the apron of the newly graded play sit still waits to be sodded. A group of neighborhood residents will soon be requesting that a screen of buckthorn between Edenvale Boulevard and the City trail next to the play area be thinned out so activities in the park can be seen more clearly from the road.
June 13, 2006
June 4, 2006
The Wednesday May 3rd ground breaking ceremony for the renovation of historic Glen Lake Children’s Camp marked the midpoint of a carefully thought out effort to preserve a nugget of health care history and renovate it for current users - children with special needs. The 1925 camp is all that remains of the Glen Lake Tuberculosis Sanitarium that had been operated by Hennepin County when fresh air and sunshine were thought to have curative effects on patients. Of the hundreds tuberculosis camps that were built nationwide, only Glen Lake Children’s Camp survived demolition to continue to serve children.
The old camp’s dining hall and dormitory are being refitted to comply with modern health care standards and building codes in a way which will protect their listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The total cost of the renovation is estimated to be in the $800,000 to $1,000,000 range
The camp is now part of Eden Wood Center, a rustic and larger, year-round. outdoors oriented retreat serving special needs campers as well as team-building programs for local schools and other organizations who can rent cabins or the full-service conference center. Eden Wood is operated by Friendship Ventures which leases the site from the City of Eden Prairie.
.The Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council is donating approximately $400,000 in labor and materials; the Eden Prairie Lions and the International Lions, the Minnesota Historical Society and others have made major commitments to help fund the balance of the work.
See the November 28, 2005 news story on Eden Wood below for more information.
May 15, 2006
Charlie Benck was among 18 volunteers who assisted with the event over the weekend; he and his dad Ed worked the Sunday morning shift, loading containerized trees and shrubs and plants into cars and pickups and passing on information about the woods and the farm.
This year's plant sale features All America Selections hybrid annuals and vegetables, a large selection of heirloom tomatoes, a drawing for two spring gift baskets and buckthorn information. The sale's greenhouse is restocked each day. On Saturday May 20, a face painting artist will visit the sale. Click here for more information.
May 8, 2006
The Birch Island Woods buckthorn pull on Saturday May 15 was a smaller affair, but was none-the-less an enormous success. Blessed with a perfect spring morning and serenaded by a few woodpeckers and spring peepers (frogs) 24 of Nielson’s energetic and dedicated students donated several hours of hard labor. A number of parents and an assortment of other volunteers topped the participation number off at about 38.
Working in platoons equipped with Weed Wrenches and shovels, the pullers uprooted younger buck saplings and shrubs and knocked down and uprooted buckthorn trees as high as 17 feet. They worked in an area that has been targeted by the City’s forestry division for buckthorn clearance. That area is just south of and overlooks Indian Chief Road and stretches from the railroad tracks to the trail head area.
Some of the pullers also uprooted garlic mustard, an herbaceous invasive plant that can also choke out native plants and herbs. Garlic mustard is the only woodland plant that has a white flower at this time of the year; event leaders wanted to control it in the target area before the plant forms seeds. Assisting in the event were FBIW buckthorn volunteers Rochelle Eastman, Greg Blakely, Georgia Majerus, Larry Peterson, Jeff Strate and woodland restoration professional Janet Larson.
Visit the garlic mustard and buckthorn sections of this web site for more information.
May 8, 2006
The main entrance to the 28.3-acre park is located on the east side of Eden Prairie Road just south of Highway 62 and stretches eastward along an isthmus-that separates Birch Island Lake to the south and a large wetland to the north-to the Eden Wood retreat which is part of the park. Birch Island Woods is located east of the lake and with the park, the lake, the wetlands, Eden Wood and the Picha Heritage Farm forms an unexpected pocket of rural and wilderness-like settings. Last summer, Eden Prairie Magazine named Birch Island Park one of the best get-away-from-it-all places with in which to take a hike without leaving town.
Any improvements to Birch Island Park would presumably
occur near the Eden Prairie Road access and parking area
and will consider the ideas of residents who live south
and west of the Park and others. Citizen input, says Parks
Director Bob Lambert, would be the first phase in the
planning process. Birch Island Park arguably has the most
difficult and dangerous car, bike and pedestrian access of
any of Eden Prairie’s parks.
Last summer, the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District began the process of planning for the restoration of the levels of Birch Island Lake and the construction of a pond to clean rainwater run-off from adjacent neighborhoods (see The August 8, 2005 story below).
April 23, 2006
The crowd came to hear polar explorer Will Steger and WCCO meteorologist Paul Douglas talk about global climate change. Joining them were the Mayor, J. Drake Hamilton (ME3), Alycia Ashburn (CCC) and a number of environmental groups which had set up displays in a nearby community room. The forum’s message: immediate reduction of green house gas emissions must happen now and must happen world wide.
On Earth Day itself (April 22), 14 groups participated in the City of EP's Parks Clean Up Day tending to parks, conservation areas and roads through out town. Friends of Birch Island Woods gathered 42 people (including kids) to pot trees and shrubs at the Picha Farm in preparation for the Birch Island Woods Plant Sale. 14 additional FBIW volunteers picked up litter in and around the woods and along Edenvale Blvd and along the SW Regional Trail. Eden Prairie-based Writers Rising Up hosted a gathering at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum with celebrated national authors Carol Bly and Bill Holm. The writers group is associated with the Elizabeth Fry Ellet Interpretative Trail project in the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area in the south west corner of Eden Prairie.
Friends of Birch Island Woods announced the winners of its April litter pick up and Picha Farm Potting Party drawing for BIW Plant Sale Gift Certificates: $100 Gift Certificate- Curt Connaughty; $25 Gift Certificates- Jarell Larson-Mallo, Peg McKenney, Kevin Berg All volunteers received Birch Island Woods buttons
March 24, 2006
March 09, 2006
February 27, 2006
If approvals are obtained from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the National Parks Service and the State Historic Preservation Office, a portion of the cost of the “Picha parcel” would come from the federal LAWCON grant that was originally designated years ago to buy additional land for Staring Lake Park. The balance of the cost for the BI Woods addition would come from other sources including funds approved by voters in the November 2005 Park Referendum.
LAWCON (“Land and Water Conservation Fund”) grants - called LWCF grants by the National Park Service - are appropriated by congress and administered by the National Park Service through state departments of natural resources. Since 1965, 40,000 projects in 98% of the nation’s counties have received more than $3.6 billion in “LAWCON” grants. In the idiom of the National Park Service, these matching grants “are intended to create, acquire and maintain a nationwide legacy of high quality recreation areas and facilities.”
In an email to Friends of Birch Island Woods, Mr. Lambert said that LAWCON matching grants have helped the City purchase the first parcels for Staring Lake Park and notes that the City’s 1968 referendum for $550,000 was used for matching funds that eventually won LAWCON grants to acquire land for most of Round Lake Park. Other local LAWCON awards have helped Birch Island Park, Staring Lake Park, Anderson Lakes Regional Park, Bryant Lake Regional Park and Riley Lake Park, Tierney’s Woods in Bloomington, Big Willow Park in Minnetonka, Oak and Valley Park Trails in Hopkins and Lake Ann Park in Chanhassen. For more information on LAWCON (LWCF) grants, visit http://www.nps.gov/lwcf
Because the Cummins Grill House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the City also needs to get approval of the “conversion” request from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHIPO). The City intends to keep the Cummins Grill House listed on the National Register of Historic Places and to engage private sector investors in helping adapt it as a rental property for modern commercial or office use. City Preservation Specialist John Gertz says that the lifting of LAWCON restrictions on the Cummins Grill House and property would provide the City more flexibility in keeping the structure in good repair and useful, possibly as the home for the Eden Prairie Historical Society. Mr. Gertz noted that LAWCON grants are funds designated for park and recreational purposes not preservation purposes and the new legal status of the old homestead would be a more comfortable fit for the structure and its gardens. Click here for more on the Cummins Grill House.
Mr. Lambert told the Council that the Picha parcel must equal or exceed the value of the Cummins Grill homestead if it is to qualify for “conversion” for LAWCON status. An appraisal of each property is expected to demonstrate that that will be the case. Mr. Lambert said that he feels that all the required approvals for “the conversion” will be obtained.
Terry Picha, one of the owners of the Birch Island parcel, reports that in recent weeks Mr. Lambert has been discussing a purchase price with himself and Dwight Picha who represents other owner interests. Terry Picha hopes the sale will be completed during the summer.
In responding to a Friends of Birch Island Woods query the following day, Mr. Lambert explained that if the “LAWCON conversion” is approved, a small parking lot for the conservation area could be constructed in an appropriate location on the 4.04 acre parcel but that it would need to be linked to the main Birch Island Woods trail in a manner compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “Access for mobility challenged people to the main trail has been one of the priorities for the woods,” says Vicky Miller who served on the conservation area’s management plan task force and is a Friends of the Birch Island Woods board member. “Even as it stands today,” she said, “the woods is about the easiest wilderness-like area in town for people to walk through.”
Although not yet on the City’s agenda, FBIW and Friendship Ventures hope that access to the main trail in the north east part of the conservation area from Eden Wood Center can also be improved. Eden Wood, which has parking and includes the historic Glen Lake Children’s Camp, a year-round retreat for special needs children and a conference center operated by Friendship Ventures in Birch Island Park, could be connected to the woods via a pedestrian underpass beneath the Twin Cities and Western Railroad tracks. Friendship Ventures and FBIW anticipate that much of the funding for an underpass would come from private donations.
“With the expansion of the conservation area,” says Vicky Miller with a sigh of relief, “the Friends will be able to focus more on developing with the City and other groups a whole menu of neat, nature and people friendly projects.”
Note: FBIW’s first buckthorn workshop of 2006, “Buckthorn 101” is scheduled for Sunday March 19 at Eden Wood. See the Events section for details.
February 27, 2006
Save Bent Creek spokesperson Steve Chelesnik has told Friends of Birch Island Woods leader Jeff Strate that the refusal to sell to one or more groups interested in keeping Bent Creek operating as a golf course suggests that an owner-developer duo will eventually request the City Council to rezone much of the golf course for residential development and seek approval of a development plan.
“Any kind of a development proposal for Bent Creek would have to clear very major community, political and legal hurdles,” says Mr. Jeff Strate. On January 3, 2006, Eden Prairie City legal counsel Ric Rossow reported to the City Council that if and when a development proposal for Bent Creek is formally made to the City, the City would, given its guide plan, zoning and the prior development history of the Edenvale PUD, have solid legal grounds to deny such a request. (See the related January 9, 2006 news item below.) At the community level, Save Bent Creek, a coalition of club members and residents mostly living in the Howard Lane, King’s Forest, Golfview Drive and Fairway Woods neighborhoods, continues to see its list of pro-golf course/open space ranks grow.
"At some point," says Mr. Chelesnik, "we [Save Bent Creek] may need to rebut arguments likely to be made before the Council that it is financially better to increase the tax base than to save open space. The owner's representatives have, according to the Save Bent Creek grape vine, already contacted the Eden Prairie Taxpayer's Alliance to try to illicit their support for a development proposal on this basis. "Recent studies," notes Mr. Strate, “indicate that the assumed tax base benefits for city governments and school districts by developing local open spaces such as golf courses may be more the stuff of foggy, urban legend than reality." A recent analysis of the complex topic, The Economic Value of Open Space, is available as a download from the home page of this website.
The future of Bent Creek will in part be affected by State Court considerations of issues arising from development proposals of private golf courses in other parts of the Twin Cities metro area.. The two year campaign in Eagan to keep the Carriage Hills Golf Course a golf course went to the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Wednesday February 22nd. According to the Pioneer Press, a 3 judge panel will have to decide if a City's land-use plan trumps a private landowner's "development rights."
And on January 9, 2006, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that a City’s Comprehensive Guide Plan would trump a zoning designation if the two were inconsistent. That ruling was made in favor of a City of Mendota Heights appeal pertaining to a proposal to develop a small golf course in the St. Paul suburb. (For more see the January 14 news item below.)
January 18, 2006
If a negotiated price is agreed to by the City Council, the property would be folded into Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. On hand for last night's vote was Terry Picha and his daughter Tammy Picha and a pod of patient Friends of Birch Island Woods organizers including Vicky Miller, Larry Peterson, Leslie Cameron, Marcus Johnson, Jeff Strate and Allen Brookins-Brown.
Some 50 supporters including children had attended the Council Forum that had, two and one half hours earlier, preceded the City Council Meeting Speaking in favor of the action during this informal session was former MN Senator Ed Oliver (Deephaven), Minnetonka City Council Member Bob Ellingson and Macalester College student Rachel Harlos (Eden Prairie). Miss Harlos, a former student member of the Eden Prairie Human Rights and Diversity Commission, told why she thought the woods was so important and how much more she appreciated living in a city that valued open space. Former Senator Oliver and Mr. Ellingson thanked the City for acquiring the first 32 acres from Hennepin County and for wisely pursuing the expansion of the conservation area. Mr. Oliver, who is a board memberr of the Friends of the Mississippi River, recalled how he had five years earlier taken the issue of woods purchase funding to the Minnesota Senate with a series of bonding bills. Mr. Strate recounted that Senator Oliver and (then) Council Member Nancy Tyra-Lukens had been the first elected officials to take a mini van tour of the Birch Island/Glen Lake Area. Mr. Strate also noted that he and Katy Egan-Benck (who was at the meeting with her husband and son) had taken retired Minnetonka Mayor Karen Anderson and former Council Member Jan Callison (now Mayor) on walking tour of the woods, making them the first elected officials to tour the area by foot. Mr. Ellingson recalled that he had first discussed the then woods with Mr. Strate merely by chance at a Trust For Public Land conference held about six years ago at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge visitors center in Bloomington. Mr. Ellingson and his wife Carol Gram have regularly visited the woods, jogging or walking there from their Glen Lake home. Ironically, Mr. Strate and Mr. Lambert were panelists in different seminars at the conference which Mr. Ellingson had attended.
The half-acre Lake Riley parcel, which the Parks Commission also recommended buying if the Birch Island Road property could be acquired, had a tougher time of it. Mr. Young and Mr. Aho still think that the property is too expensive to buy for the little value it would bring to Lake Riley Park users. However, the City Council left a small opening for ultimate acquisition of that land after it knows more about the amounts and availability for its purchase of park dedication fees. Park dedication fees, sometimes called, "park cash fees" are set aside by developers for use by cities to develop park, trail and recreational infrastructures to meet the needs of new residents.
January 15, 2006 ON TUESDAY JANUARY 17, THE EP CITY
COUNCIL WILL CONSIDER A PARKS COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION TO
START NEGOTIATIONS FOR BIRCH ISLAND ROAD AND LAKE RILEY
"We think we have the Council's support on the Birch Island Road land," said Friends of Birch Island Woods leader Jeff Strate. "But one never knows until the vote." In November, Folks all over town voted for park improvements and open space," says FBIW organizer Vicky Miller. "But people who live within two miles of the woods may be burning out with City Hall" she said. "We've been there a lot since August regarding Bent Creek, woods, Industrial Drive and regional trail issues," "I hope we make another good show on Tuesday."
Friends of Birch Island Woods are scheduled to make a brief presentation to the Council at about 6:45 pm before the regular meeting begins. EP City Hall is at 8080 Mitchell Road, 1/3 mile south of Highway 5.
The Eden Prairie News reports in its January 12, 2006 edition that the 4-acre, Birch Island Road parcel could cost the city about $830,000 and the half-acre parcel on Lake Riley around $365,000. On a per- acre basis, that puts the Birch Island land at about $207,000 per-acre and the Lake Riley land at about $730,000 per-acre. the first 32 acres of the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area bought from Hennepin County cost approximately $630,000. "That's a hundred grand less than the per acre cost of the Lake Riley lot," says Strate.
January 14, 2006
Eden Prairie has not such inconsistency with its zoning and the guide plan regarding Bent Creek Golf Course. But this ruling in favor of a city's comprehensive guide plan over a city's zoning designation seems to be good news for the initiative to keep Bent Creek Golf Course from being developed. The 18-hole, private, link-style course along Valley View Road (and at its northern tip about 900 feet from Birch Island Woods) is designated in Eden Prairie's guide plan as "quasi-public land" and has never been zoned "residential." On January 3, 2006, Bent Creek's status in terms of Eden Prairie's guide plan and zoning was clarified by its legal counsel Ric Rossow. Mr Rossow also reported, in his opinion, that state and national case law supports city governments which choose not to change their guide plans for a development project. (Earlier stories on Bent Creek Golf Course can be found below.)
January 10, 2006
Approximately 45 Friends of Birch Island Woods supporters and others were on hand for the discussion. After hearing EP Park Director Bob Lambert define the task at hand: to prioritize possible park land buys in 2006, Commission Chair Rob Barrett called on Jeff Strate and Marcus Johnson to speak in support of the purchase of the Birch Island Road property. The commissioners and student commissioners had numerous questions of Mr. Lambert and Mr. Strate and good discussions amongst themselves.
To everyone's delight, Mr. Barrett invited others in the audience to speak. Among those were John Justen, Tami Rosenthal (former Edina resident now living in Minnetonka), Dave Meyer, Lee Storing, Rachel Harlos, Ray Daniels, Dave Spoor, Lois Hall, Doug McEvers and others who clearly made their various points with the commission. On hand also was Terry Picha (one of the land owners), Doug Schmidt (one of the charter members of the Eden Prairie Land Trust), former council member Jan Mosman, Bloomington Park Commissioner and buckthorn expert Janet Larson, Katy Egan-Benck (Audubon Society) and others.
Discussions about the half-acre parcel on Riley Lake were centered on the high price of the land ($420,000 asking price) and its incorporation into Riley Park for possible use as a picnic grounds. The parcel, it was noted, is adjacent to a smaller parcel owned and lived on by long-time Eden Prairie resident and historian Ernie Schuldheiss. Mr. Lambert, however, stressed that the eventual acquisition of both Lake Riley properties was important to the recreational function of the popular park, a point which generated some debate among the commissioners.
Applause broke out when Mr. Daniels reminded the commission that the parkland acquisition portion of the November referendum was understood by voters to be for open space acquisition not for uses such as a picnic area. Several Birch Island Woods supporters stressed the irreversible effect that not acquiring the 4-acres would have on the BIW Conservation Area and the city's park system as a whole. If it is lost, it is lost forever, they said. The Lake Riley land can not compare in urgency to the Birch Island Road land because that is a project that can be postponed. The commission's unanimous vote in support of its decision to rank the Birch Island property as more important to buy and make that part of its recommendation to the city council also generated appreciative applause. A fuller account of the meeting will be posted on this website in the near future and in the January 12 edition of the Eden Prairie News.
January 9, 2006
January 8, 2005
For nearly a month, city staff members have been sifting through more than 35 years of sequential editions of Eden Prairie's guide plan and developer agreements within a 1000-acre, planned unit development (PUD) known as "Edenvale" in north central Eden Prairie. Mr. Rossow reported that Bent Creek Golf Course (formerly called Edenvale Golf Course") is part of the Edenvale PUD and has consistently been zoned as "rural" and been guided as and understood by current and previous owners and area residents as "quasi-public land." Any hopeful developer of the 106-acre site, said Mr. Rossow, would need to get a re-zoning request approved by the City Council before moving forward. That could happen (a developer is reported to be engaged in normal, preliminary and informal discussions with city staff), but in reviewing the public record of Edenvale and the golf course, Mr. Rossow said that he finds that the City would have solid legal reasons to deny any such re-zoning request. Mr. Rossow also told the City Council and the many Save Bent Creek members who had filled the chamber, that having also reviewed relevant case law, it was his opinion that state and federal courts would back the City if it should ever deny a request for re-zoning of the Bent Creek Property.
In an email letter to fellow Save Bent Creek volunteers, Steve Chelesnik, an attorney with experience in land use and municipal law, called Tuesday's clarification "... a really significant victory for our side...."
The Edenvale PUD was referenced three years ago by the City and the Edenvale Conservation Group when one of more than twenty outlots owned by a defunct home owners association but guided and designated as open space, was put up for auction by Hennepin County as a tax forfeit parcel. That Edenvale Boulevard outlot was removed from the auction and is now owned by the City as part of its open space system. The city says it is in the process of acquiring the other outlots. (See news earlier news stories.)
Mr. Chelesnik feels that a denial for any request to-rezone Bent Creek for development is the overwhelmingly likely outcome and that he can not anticipate an event "that would materially change that scenario at this time." But, he also advises those who oppose development of the links style golf course to monitor any future events that may occur at City Hall.
A number of Save Bent Creek volunteers and club members are looking for ways of purchasing the golf course and club from the current owners. The private course is scheduled to close at the end of the 2006 golf season.
BIRCH ISLAND WOODS EXPANSION PROPERTY TO BE RANKED WITH OTHER POSSIBLE PARKLAND BUYS ON JANUARY 9.
The process of purchasing additional land for Eden Prairie's park and trail system involves developing a wish list of parcels, determining what properties have willing sellers, prioritizing those properties and then negotiating a price for the properties that the City says it wants to and can afford to purchase. "Official interest in the purchase of the 4-acre Picha Property on Birch Island Road has been high enough over the past two years to compel the city to twice seek DNR grant money to help pay for it," said FBIW leader Jeff Strate. "The woods expansion has also been a huge factor in getting the "yes" vote out during both the 2004 failed park referendum and the successful 2005 referendum."
"City officials made it clear that the woods was the number one priority for the land acquisition moneys in the referendum," says long-time Eden Prairie resident Ray Daniels. "Its time for them to keep their commitment. Let's have no back-tracking."
According to the December 22/23 edition of the Eden Prairie News. City Manager Scott Neal says that any land buy actions would be determined by deciding which properties are most important given the city’s limited resources and that the final determination would come up “later this spring.” Currently, a half-acre parcel on Lake Riley owned by Todd Jackson who lives in Victoria and the Birch Island Road parcel owned by two branches of the Picha family are among the properties being considered by the city. The EP Parks Commission is slated to rank the properties during its January 9 meeting at City Hall, 8080 Mitchell Road.
CITY OF EP TAKES NEXT STEPS IN POSSIBLE LAND ACQUISITIONS
Properties on Birch Island Road and Lake Riley which are again for sale by their respective owners and will again be looked at by the City of Eden Prairie for possible acquisition. During its December 13, 2005 meeting, the City Council authorized the parks staff to (in municipal legalese) "prepare a memorandum listing the parcels projected to be eventually acquired by the City for the park and open space system, listing the status of these parcels for the purpose of prioritizing parcels for acquisition; and furthermore, to authorize staff to negotiate with the property owners at 9291 Riley Lake Road and the Picha property [located on Birch Island Road] to determine the lowest possible price for those parcels at this time."
Parks Director Bob Lambert will prepare an updated version of the list of park land acquisition needs that was developed last year and approved on January 19, 2005. That wish list includes the half acre Lake Riley lot and 4.04-acre Picha land for consideration first by the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission - which will most likely rank the properties during its January 9th meeting - and soon afterward, the City Council.
The half acre Lake Riley property garnered all of the discussion during the council's Q & A time with Mr. Lambert. Council members Brad Aho and Phil Young wondered why it was even being considered. That property and a smaller adjacent property had been offered to the city by former owner Ernie Shuldheiss but were rejected by the City Council as being too costly for any advantages city ownership of the parcels might bring to Lake Riley Park. Mr. Lambert presented his view of why the half acre parcel, which is now under new ownership, is important to have for the park. The half acre property and Mr. Shuldheiss' smaller property (which is not for sale at this time) are surrounded on three sides by the park. No council member had questions about the Picha property which, if acquired, would be folded in to the Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. That land has ranked high on the City Council's list of park land additions for approximately two years.December 5, 2005
CITY RETURNS TO CONSIDERING LAND ACQUISITIONS
With the passage of Question 3 of the November 8, 2005 Eden Prairie Park Referendum which the City said had $1 million dollars earmarked for land acquisition (see news items below), City of Eden Prairie Parks director Bob Lambert has again been approached by land owners interested in selling their properties for inclusion into Eden Prairie’s Parks system. On November 21 the EP Parks Commission requested that City Staff re-evaluate the status of
and the parcels on its acquisition wish list that was submitted to the City Council on January 19, 2005. During that meeting Mr. Lambert informed the City Council that new owners of a small parcel on Lake Riley has informed him that they were ready to sell to the City. On Monday January 9, The Parks Commission intends to rank land acquisition priorities of those parcels and send its recommendations to the the Eden Prairie City Council, The Council will consider the commissions recommendation in selecting sites to be purchased.
In a November 21, 2005 letter to Mr. Lambert, the Friends of Birch Island Woods urged the city to re-open its negotiations with the two sets of owners of the 4-acre parcel on Birch Island Road. A purchase option agreed to by the City and the owners expired at the end of 2004. Terry Picha, who heads one set of owners and is a member of Friends of Birch Island Woods, has since told the FBIW Board of Directors that he met with Mr. Lambert on November 23 to discuss the property. Mr. Picha said that he told Mr. Lambert that it is very important to soon come to terms with the city for the sale of the property because the owners (which include his uncle Al Picha’s family) can not wait much longer. Terry Picha’s family has been a strong proponent of City ownership of the 4-acre parcel which the Friends of BIW and scores of community groups hope will become part of Birch Island Woods Conservation Area.
The City has twice applied for DNR Scenic and Natural Area matching grants for what it calls “The Picha Parcel” and has considered with FBIW a variety of ways to pay for the parcel. “If the 2004 EP Parks referendum had passed, the purchase of the property would have been underway by now,” says FBIW secretary Vicky Miller. We need to get this done and get it done quickly. The huge effort by Birch Island Woods allies to get the “YES” votes out for the recent referendum paid off” she adds. It’s time to move forward with the Pichas,” she said.
“The Birch Island area, including our property, has been on the city’s radar for a future park since the 1970’s when Marty Jessen was Eden Prairie’s Park Superintendent.,” says Terry Picha. Some of the area was obtained in stages from Hennepin County. In 1983, for example, the City acquired the 7 -acre Glen Lake Children’s Camp from Hennepin County for a dollar. The camp is now part of Birch Island Park and leased to Friendship Ventures a non-profit agency which serves children with special needs. Eden Prairie’s 1989 Park and Open Space Plan states that the county portion of the land which became known as Birch Island Woods refers to the area as one that could be purchased by the city. The area and the Picha Parcel commanded renewed City attention beginning in 1999 when FBIW formed. The agreement to buy the 32-acre county part of the woods was reached in December 2001. Both Picha families have been wonderfully patient in all this,” says Miller. “And I don’t want anyone to forget,” she adds, “that Terry’s father gifted all the land for Birch Island Road to the City.”
The Riley Lake parcel and the smaller parcel next to it (which is reportedly not for sale), is bordered by city park on two sides, the SW Regional Trail and a road on a third side. The City Council last year rejected an offer to buy it. Friends of Birch Island Woods leader Jeff Strate, says that the acquisition of that parcel will have no perceptable effect on Riley Park, boaters or other park users. The city owns the road to the boat ramp/parking lot. “In Minnesota, a house near a boat ramp is no more a worry than peach cobbler with a side of fresh cream. “Purchase of this parcel would be an expensive indulgence of questionable benefit,” he said.
Click hear to read Lyn Jerde’s Eden Prairie Sun Current article on the commission meeting.
December 5, 2005
It’s been happening to private suburban golf courses throughout the metro region and now it could happen to Bent Creek, a popular Eden Prairie Golf Course -- residential development.
Members of Bent Creek Golf Club have been told by the owners that after the 2006 season, they plan to develop much of the 110-acre, links style, 18-hole course. Bent Creek is located about 1/5 mile west of the Mitchell Road-Baker Road confluence on both sides of Valley View Road in north central Eden Prairie.
As of Monday December 6, no formal proposal had been submitted to the city’s community development department. Parties interested in developing the property have reportedly been talking with city planners about the course. Residents who live in Howard Lane and Kings’ Forest neighborhoods, Bent Creek members and community leaders have held three meetings to date and told the City Council during its November 22 and December 6 Forums that they want Bent Creek to remain a golf course, possibly one owned and operated by the city.
During the latter Forum, according to Lisa Rolf, after a brief presentation by Steve Chelesnik, Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens asked City Manager Scott Neal to assign city staff and the City's legal counsel to identify any issues pertaining to the use of the Bent Creek property for purposes other than as a golf course and report that information to the City Council. The City's attorney Ric Rosow advised that he would first consider how that task could be performed without prejudicing any public hearings on a development proposal for Bent Creek when and if one is formally presented to the City. The report on any legal encumbrances on Bent Creek could by ready as early as January which is after the City's budgeting process is complete.
FBIW leader Jeff Strate and Council Member Ron Case were present at two of the neighborhood meetings. Strate told both gatherings that the possible loss of the golf course was yet another in a series of challenges to North Central Eden Prairie. The open space activist mentioned the loss of the John Anderson property on Purgatory Creek, illegal encroachments onto Edevale’s natural outlots and Hennepin County land, the loss of Al Picha’s farm, the slow progress to expand Birch Island Woods Conservation Area and worries about the future of the SW Regional Trail and the industrail district among the nagging challenges. “No part of town has had to fight as much as we have had just to defend why we live here,” said Strate.
Click here to read Steve Chelesnik’s November 28, 2005 e-mail letter tot he EP City Council on behalf of homeowners, golfers and others who want Bent Creek to remain a golf.
For more information about the campaign to keep Bent Creek a golf course contact Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 28, 2005
Fund raising for the $1 million modernization of two historic camp buildings at the Eden Wood Center has garnered significant pledges of in kind services and cash totaling approximately $700,000. An estimated $300,000 more in commitments needs to be raised.
The announcement was made by Ed Stracke and Georgann Rumsey of Friendship Ventures during a November 28 luncheon at Eden Wood Lodge. Supporters of Eden Wood were on hand including representatives from the Minneapolis, Building and Construction Trades Council, Eden Prairie Lions, the Eden Prairie Heritage Preservation Commission and planning department, and Friends of Birch Island Woods.
The project will upgrade the interiors of two camp buildings that were part of the Glen Lake Children’s Camp that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The camp was built in 1925 as part of the Glen Lake Tuberculosis Sanitarium. There are only two such camps still standing of hundreds like them that were built around the country. The Glen Lake Children’s Camp unit at Eden Wood is the only one that still serves children and all that remains of the celebrated Glen Lake Sanitarium.
Speaking of the camp’s historic importance was Historic Preservation Commission Chair Betsy Adams and of Friendship Venture’s programs was Mary DeYoung whose son was born with disabilities. .
The restoration project will respect the historic
attributes and criteria for its national historic status
and enable Friendship Ventures to serve many more
children. The project is slated to begin in 2006 and be
completed in 2007. The rustic camp buildings over look
Birch Island Lake and within sight of Birch Island Woods.
The Eden Prairie Lions have pledged $50,000 will solicit support from other Lions Clubs and service organizations. he EP Lions have also received approval to seek a $75,000 grant from the Lions Club International Foundation (similar to the grant they received six years ago for Eden Wood’s new conference center).
The Minnesota Historical Society has approved a grant in the amount of $79,300 for the restoration and preservation of the dorm and dining hall.
EP VOTERS PASS ALL 3 PARKS REFERENDUM QUESTIONS, TURN DOWN SWIMMING IMPROVEMENTS AT COMMUNITY CENTER
A collective thumbs up for Question #3 (acquisition of park land and park improvements) bodes well for the protection of 4 acres of land along Birch Island Road
Reversing the defeat of Eden Prairie’s May 2004, single question, $22.5 million referendum, voters passed all but one of 4 questions of yesterday’s $16.67 million Park Bond Referendum. The city is now authorized to issue general obligation bonds totaling $13.34 million to pay for (a) the renovation of the Eden Prairie Community Center; (b) to acquire additional parkland (open space) and improve existing parks and (c) to improve and expand the City’s trail system. But a majority of voters nixed the proposed improvements to the Community Center's existing swimming pool and the addition of a zero-depth entry, warm water pool.
With the passage of Question #3 (parks improvement and land acquisition) it is anticipated that the City will resume its discussions with the two sets of owners of the 4-acre parcel on Birch Island Road to determine a way for the city to purchase of the land.
With little State financial support for local land conservation assistance programs over the past several sessions, Eden Prairie’s requests for help from the MN DNR’s Scenic and Natural Areas matching grant program have been denied, primarily for lack of State funds. Eden Prairie was among a number of cities and counties that the DNR has been unable to help. The failure of Eden Prairie’s, single question 2004 parks referendum (see earlier news items) was a disappointment to Terry Picha, a co-owner of the 4-acre parcel. Picha wants to see the parcel protected from development and feels that the November 8th vote as being really good for Eden Prairie, the woods and the west metro area. Friends of Birch Island Woods board member Roger Person agrees saying that the approval of the park improvement and land acquisition part of the vote shows that people really care.
A BIGGER VICTORY FOR OPEN SPACE IN WOODBURY
“It’s was a good day for open space protection in two of the metro area’s most robust and fastest growing suburbs," said Friends of Birch Island Woods President Jeff Strate.
EDEN PRAIRIE VOTE TOTALS
October 15 & 21, 2005
North Star Chapter/Sierra Club
Superior Tech Products, Minnesota
The Lawn Ranger, Eden Prairie/Glen Lake
Cub Scout Pack 597, Eden Prairie
Birch Island Woods Buckthorn Busting Day , Sat October
Walk, Friday October 21, 2005
By 6:30 pm this year, it was evident that we again were only being teased. By Vicky Miller’s estimate, more than 200 grown-ups and children took the two mile, round trip walk. All 180 scarecrow drawing registration slips at the sign-up table had been used, so Vicky figures that, yup, it had to be more than 200 people which is about 120 more than was expected. On Birch Island Road, cars were parked from near the railroad crossing to Harlan Drive and along Kara Drive and Picha Place. As planned groups were formed and lead by guides down the hill and into the woods for the trek to the Glen Lake Children’s Camp at Eden Wood.
Volunteers helpers included Vicky Miller and Evan Miller, Larry Peterson, Leslie Cameron, Carol and Alex and Jeff Strate, Kiki Koras, Benita, Justin and John Justin Family, Ray Daniels, Terry and Tammy Picha, Ron and Georgia Majerus, Vonnie Okerberg, Dave Spoor, Trish Helco.
This year the story tellers included Terry Picha (as himself) at the farm. Allen Brookins-Brown (the buckthorn demon), Cheryl Larson (the invisible dog walker), Jeff Strate (the hobo), violinists Julia Hilgeman, Jordan Koras and Kim Anderson (as themselves) were on the trail. Former Council Member Jan Mosman (as herself) told the story of the Holasek House and Council Member Ron Case (as himself) spoke about the Glen Lake Children’s Camp at Eden Wood.
Among the groups were a number of community leaders including School Board Candidate Jim Mortenson and Eden Prairie Foundation Ball organizer Kathie Case. But mostly it was parents and kids on a stroll through the dark woods guided by an occasional glowing pumpkin to be entertained, informed and humored by the story tellers and be enchanted by the lovely sanctuary. The woods served up some of its own characteristic enchantment as a large owl silently swept through the trees above one of the groups.
Because of the large turnout, it was difficult to cozy up to or (at one point) even see the campfire, but somehow 13 scarecrows were given away to 13 lucky kids. As the tank of hot cocoa was drained and the candy treats ran out, the Eden Prairie String Academy trio performed an encore from the deck of Birch Hall. As families walked or were shuttled by car back to Birch Island Road, those who remained at the campfire could see moon light dancing on the rippled surface of Birch Island Lake below the camp and through the dark, silhouetted oaks.
October 11, 2005
Part of the group's mission has kicked in with published analyses of the referendum. Click here for commentaries by Park Commission Chair Rob Barrett, by EP Council Member Phil Young and by Ron Case and his wife Kathie Case.
The City held an informational Town Meeting on the
referendum on October 11 at Eden Prairie City Hall.
October 10, 2005
August 8, 2005
Watershed District Manager Corrine Lynch and City of Eden Prairie Environmental Coordinator Leslie Stovring say that the plan is to restore surface and groundwater flow using underground tile pipes and a long, 12” pipe from the Crosstown Highway between Eden Prairie Road and Glen Lake Boulevard to the lake. Approvals for the project could take more than a year; once in place, it is hoped that the lake level would begin slowly rising
The problem and the proposed solution are laid out in a July 2005 report prepared for 9MCWD by consultant, Barr Engineering. Birch Island Lake Water Level Investigation summarizes a number of studies of surface and underground water flowage within the Birch Island Lake watershed since 1992 and compares annual levels of Shady Oak, Glen, Lone and Birch Island lakes since 1964.
During the late 1980’s dry conditions caused the levels of these lakes to decline; when normal rains returned, only Birch Island Lake remained low. Surface and underground water flows to Birch Island Lake had begun to be altered in 1985 when Hennepin County began dumping 35 feet of granular fill along a stretch of the proposed Highway 62 alignment through the wetland north of the lake. The granular fill, referred to as “surcharge,” compacts the oozy, organic, bottom silt and peat of a wetland providing a stable sub-base for the road.
In this situation, the report notes, the surcharging made a connection to a sand aquifer beneath the organic silt. Underground water had flowed through the sand southwards into the wetland and then the lake but the road fill is now wicking both the underground flow and rainwater runoff eastwards within the highway embankment. The report says that “the hydraulic connection between Birch Island Lake and the drainage area upstream of the roadway embankment is no longer functioning. The watershed area north of [Highway] 62 is no longer contributing surface and groundwater to Birch Island Lake.”
The Nine Mile Creek Watershed District Board of Managers is recommending that the underground and surface flow of water from the north of the Crosstown to the south side be re-established with a “pipe bypass system.” This would require the installation of a 12-inch diameter pipe (cross culvert) through the roadway embankment from the pond north of the highway with an “upstream” invert elevation lower than an existing pipe. This new pipe would extend south all the way through the wetland directly into Birch Island Lake. A new drain tile system parallel to the roadway would help intercept groundwater flow and direct it to the pipe.
Barr Engineering estimates that once the project is
completed. Birch Island Lake’s level will rise from six
inches to one foot per year during normal climatic
conditions. The plan has been added to the City of Eden
Prairie’s petition to the Nine Mile Creek Watershed
District for water quality improvement projects at Bryant,
Smetana, Birch Island and Anderson Lakes. That plan for BI
Lake includes requests for funding for a new rainwater
runoff treatment pond northwest of the lake and the
upgrading of an existing runoff pond. The City Council is
expected to consider the petition as early as August 16.
If approved, the petition, would be sent to the watershed
district for for its approval. Of the estimated $650,000
total cost of the Birch Island Lake projects, $225,000
would go to restoring its level. Most of the costs would
be absorbed by the Watershed District.
The recent study’s conclusions are based on data in part obtained by measuring wells called piezometers which enable hydrologists to determine changing underground water levels and direction of flow. Four wells were installed in 1994, two along each side of the highway where the granular fill had been packed. In August 2003, two additional piezometers were installed close to one another at different depths with different aquifer structures on the south edge of the road embankment on the eastern side of the wetland.
Data recording devices were installed in the newer piezometers from June 24, 2004 through August 16, 2004 to record water levels in each well at one-minute intervals. The data from four rainfall events during that period indicated that the aquifer created by the granular fill and the pre-existing natural aquifer reacted immediately and the same to rainfalls further indicating that they in fact are connected.
August 6, 2005
PAC’s position bodes well for businesses in the Opus, Golden Triangle and Eden Prairie Center sectors as well as Trails With Out Rails and ave opposed use of the corridor occupied by the trail by buses and LRT. The trail is owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) but managed and maintained by Three Rivers Park District.
The current Southwest AA Study is a continuation of an earlier study and is expected to be completed in September 2006.
The Hiawatha LRT Effect
Sponsored by The Friends of Birch Island Woods. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.