Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway

Guest Editorial

Eagan ThisWeek
Saturday, April 17, 2004

"The Time is Now to Preserve Eagan's Environmental Legacy"

by David Brunet, Susan Gauer and Donald Holmes

The local citizens group Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway appreciates the diligence of the Eagan City Council. As residents of a beautiful city endowed with an abundance of trees, lakes and a rolling terrain, we may think green space naturally occurs in suburbs. It doesn't, and we have our local officials to thank for helping preserve a significant corridor of contiguous open space near our city center.

Two members of the Friends group recently visited Patrick Eagan Park with an area newcomer. The newcomer was amazed that a natural oasis like the park could even exist here. The park did not have a suburban character; to the visitor, it felt like she was experiencing a woods beside a small town. Just as Central Park provides a critical respite in Manhattan, Patrick Eagan Park offers Eagan residents the chance to escape and renew without having to leave the city.

Eagan presently has a special opportunity to expand this natural area. Three owners of property abutting Patrick Eagan Park wish to have their land become more than simply candidates for additional development. These property owners would like to give future generations a bit of what was handed down to them?a place in the woods for families to stroll, for children to play, and for individuals to discover the richness of simplicity.

The Eagan Core Greenway, with the distinctive Caponi Art Park at its center and historic McCarthy farm on its northern border, holds tremendous promise for becoming a true urban keepsake. In fact, the McKnight Foundation has named the Eagan Core Greenway one of the Twin Cities' Top-Ten [Urban] Treasures. When completed, this greenway corridor will represent more than 500 acres along a two-mile length of open space extending to the 2,000-acre Lebanon Hills Regional Park on Eagan's southern border.

Preserving land is our shared value. In 2002, 57% of Dakota County voters chose to modestly increase their taxes in order to protect county farmland and natural areas. In the City of Eagan's own citizen survey conducted the same year, 81% of respondents said preserving green space was important to them. In response to these sentiments, the Eagan City Council has passed no less than 10 resolutions in support of the Eagan Core Greenway, in part or in whole. Moreover, one of the stated goals of the current City Council is to preserve additional green space, with particular attention to the Eagan Core Greenway.

After two years of work by the Eagan City Council, the non-profit Trust for Public Land, the Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway, Dakota County and the Minnesota DNR, we are very close to celebrating our first success?the expansion of Patrick Eagan Park. The City of Eagan is paying $180,000 of the $900,000 total cost for just under 10 acres of land, the Anderson parcel, near the entrance to the park on Lexington Avenue between Diffley and Wescott Roads. The alternative is at least two dozen large homes that would loom over the park and the nearby Eagan Art House.

To those familiar with current land prices, 10 acres of rolling land adjacent to a nature preserve for this price might sound too good to be true. This remarkable deal is only possible because of partnerships with programs that include the Dakota County Farmland & Natural Areas program (which resulted from the county referendum) and the State of Minnesota's Metro Greenways and Natural & Scenic Areas programs. While Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway remains optimistic that we may soon be realizing a significant expansion of Patrick Eagan Park, we also recognize that "crunch time" is upon us and some funding will go away if not used by June of this year.

Land does not automatically become preserved in growing cities. Eagan today benefits from the actions of a group of early citizens concerned about the changing character of the Township of Eagan. These citizens promoted and passed a park referendum in May of 1971. This referendum raised the money needed for our many active playfields as well as three nature parks?Blackhawk Park, Thomas Lake Park and Patrick Eagan Park.

Just as residents of Eagan did their part to protect land 30 years ago, it is now our turn to preserve Eagan's environmental legacy. Today the Eagan Core Greenway represents a place to mingle with nature and a grand promise for the future. We are confident that Mayor Geagan and the Eagan City Council will seize the opportunity to permanently protect these essential parcels within the Eagan Core Greenway, parcels that would otherwise remain seriously threatened, and with them, our community's precious sanctuary.

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