Friends of Patrick Eagan Park

Letter to Eagan City Council

"Friends" Review Accomplishments of Past Year, Goals for Near Future
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Mayor Geagan and the Eagan City Council
Eagan City Hall
3830 Pilot Knob Road
Eagan, MN 55122

February 26, 2003

Dear Mayor Geagan and Members of the Eagan City Council,

For the past year, Friends of Patrick Eagan Park (FOPEP) has demonstrated its ability as a volunteer citizens' group, to educate the public, organize its resources, and facilitate the preservation and expansion of the Eagan Core Greenway. We've accomplished these goals through the promotion of citizen awareness, the submission of grant applications, and creative partnering with key regional agencies.

To date, we have overcome significant challenges. Yet, in addressing each of them, FOPEP has respected proper procedures in a manner that has forged allies rather than enemies. Our quest has been and will continue to be to provide cooperative support and constructive information founded on facts.

From the beginning, FOPEP strove hard to pursue the most widely beneficial path, for example, by requesting that the City Council conduct its own open space survey, even though Dakota County's own survey indicated that open space was a citizen priority. As a result of our advocacy, we learned that 82% of Eagan residents held that open space is an important or somewhat important issue for city leadership to address.

Recently, FOPEP has been questioned as to why our group chose to focus on the Anderson parcel for our first preservation effort. We offer this practical response:

  1. Why not pursue the McCarthy Property? --- For the past 18 months, Mr. McCarthy's property has been the subject of a lawsuit. We understood that until the court made its ruling, any interference from outside parties could lead to further lawsuits from the developer. Furthermore, Mr. McCarthy instructed all parties to wait until the court made a decision before furthering discussions.

  2. Why not the Caponi Property? --- As a citizen group, we realized the Caponi property and its proposed subdivision represents a complex equation. With Macalester College and potentially the McKnight Foundation involved, we understood that this would be an intricate negotiation process, hardly a straightforward initial project for local groups like FOPEP. We are still under the assumption that Mr. Caponi's tax-exempt status requires his nonprofit foundation to repurchase the property back from the Caponis in order to secure the long-term use. We understand that Mr. Caponi must form a new board to accomplish this transaction. As an active group, we have recruited three competent and dedicated volunteers who are local citizens interested in contributing to the new board and we remain willing to assist Mr. Caponi and the Board as much as we are able.

  3. Why the Anderson Parcel? --- Friends of Patrick Park Eagan Park recognizes the scope of our land acquisition experience. For that reason, and those listed above, we chose a smaller, less complex property, without the intricate and convoluted partnering processes that the Caponi and McCarthy properties appear to require. Our members realized that the Anderson parcel was unencumbered. Thus, the simplest piece to pursue at this time. As the Caponi negotiations continue, the McCarthy lawsuit settles, and Dakota County organizes applications for referendum dollars, this small, but valuable greenway piece, met our abilities and selection criteria.

In addition, Friends of Patrick Eagan Park views these efforts to secure the Anderson parcel as a special opportunity to:

  1. Establish long-term partners at the State, County, and local levels, and

  2. Demonstrate to future prospective "investors" that we have mastered the process of securing such critical acquisition funding.

At this point, our largest concern is that the City will consider our first attempt as an "either--or" scenario; that is, if we focus our energy on the Anderson parcel, we will be unable to successfully partner to secure the McCarthy or Caponi properties in the future. This perspective is shortsighted and limiting. Were this viewpoint espoused, the long-term process of "exhausting possibilities" within the Eagan Core Greenway would be harmed, if not derailed. We believe that the effective relationships established by our group would be forever tarnished should such an "either--or" perspective be permitted poison the process.

We therefore ask that City Council and City Staff acknowledge the intensive year-long effort made by FOPEP, and avoid turning down grants & partnering opportunities, and, in general, avoid sending a message to Dakota County that would limit further acquisition requests for the key parcels surrounding Patrick Eagan Park.

So what has Friends of Patrick Eagan Park accomplished in the last year?

  1. FOPEP lobbied for two grants for the Eagan Core Greenway:

    • The Metro Greenways Program awarded an environmental study grant and has been matched by the city. FOPEP coordinated an arrangement with the Dakota County SWCD to ensure the dollars are spent wisely;
    • The Metro Greenways' Work Group has recommended a $100,000 acquisition grant to be applied to the Anderson property.

  2. FOPEP achieved regional recognition for the Eagan Core Greenway by having the McKnight Foundation's "Embrace Open Space" Campaign showcase the Eagan Core Greenway as one of the Twin Cities "Top Ten [Natural] Treasures" with Patrick Eagan Park representing its "crown jewel."

  3. FOPEP invited the Sierra Club's North Star Chapter to commence its fall bicycle tour and presentation series (called "The Tour de Sprawl---the Search for Open Space and Community") at Patrick Eagan Park, obtaining additional positive publicity for the distinct features of both the Park and the Greenway.

  4. FOPEP encouraged the Eagan Parks Commission and the Eagan City Council to pass resolutions acknowledging the importance of the Eagan Core Greenway to the community and to the environment.

  5. FOPEP requested Dakota County Commissioner Nancy Schouweiler to provide due diligence by being an active member in this ongoing process. She recently spoke at the Metro Greenway's grant presentation and at the Eagan Parks Commission meeting. Commissioner Schouweiler's testimony on how the Anderson property meets several important County Referendum selection criteria may have swayed some members of the Parks Commission to support the initiative.

  6. FOPEP advocated that the Eagan Advisory Parks Commission recommend that the City Council move forward with an appraisal of the Anderson parcel, then submit an application for the DNR's Natural & Scenic Areas grant and match the Metro Greenways grant of $100,000 through the parks' dedication fund [currently up to $500,000 is allotted for land acquisitions].

  7. Upon Council approval, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) has agreed to coordinate and
    1. pay for the appraisal,
    2. place an option on the property,
    3. complete a survey, and
    4. conduct any environmental studies needed for the Anderson acquisition.

    We hope you will agree the incredible partnerships we have made are invaluable to ultimately realizing all the possibilities within the Eagan Core Greenway. As we continue to gain experience and prove that our citizen volunteer group is an effective, valuable, partnering resource, we look forward to addressing the more complex parcels within the Eagan Core Greenway.

    Therefore, Friends of Patrick Eagan Park enthusiastically requests your continued support to achieve all the possibilities within Eagan's Core Greenway by approving the Parks Commission recommendations.

    Thank you for your time and cooperation.

    On behalf of all the Friends of Patrick Eagan Park,

    The Steering Committee
    Friends of Patrick Eagan Park

    cc: City Administrator Tom Hedges
          City Parks Director Ken Vraa


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