Grants help grow metro parks and trails

Date: Thursday, August 13, 2020

Six butterflies on tall purple flowers.The Metropolitan Council has awarded nearly $900,000 to Washington and Ramsey counties and the Three Rivers Park District to buy property for regional parks and open space.

Council officials say the investment reflects the region’s commitment to grow the region’s network of parks and trails, preserve natural resources, and encourage the use of regional parks among all residents.

The approved purchases include two small parcels for existing regional park land in Rogers and White Bear Township, and a larger parcel in Cottage Grove to help develop a new regional park on Grey Cloud Island.

  • Crow-Hassan Park Reserve in the Three Rivers Park District: A grant of up to $326,625 will help the park district acquire almost an acre of property in the City of Rogers. The property is within the boundary of the park reserve. The district will restore the site to its natural state and add it to the existing natural resource features in the reserve. The park reserve is in northwest Hennepin County. As one of the most diverse restored prairies in the state, it has more than 840 acres restored and more than 100 types of wildflowers.

  • “This parcel is a great addition to Grey Cloud Island Regional Park. It will connect three parcels along the inland channel of the Mississippi River as we continue to grow this park for the future. This inland channel is also a part of the Mississippi River Valley wildfowl flyway and is an important component or link within the Mississippi River corridor network.”

    Sharon M. Price
    Property Acquisition Manager
    Washington County Department of Public Works

    Grey Cloud Island Regional Park in Washington County: A grant of up to $261,525 will help the county acquire a 41-acre property in Cottage Grove. Washington County is working to purchase property for the park, which is not yet open to the public. The county plans to restore the site to its native state, which will help protect the Mississippi River and enhance the resources available in this future regional park.

  • Bald Eagle-Otter Lake Regional Park in Ramsey County: A grant of up to $291,960 will help the county acquire a 0.6-acre site in White Bear Township for the regional park. A structure will be removed, and the site will be restored to oak woods. The regional park includes Bald Eagle Lake, Otter Lake, and Tamarack Nature Center and totals 885 acres. In addition to the lakes, the park contains mesic woods, oak woodlands, red maple woods, prairies, a variety of wetlands, and the unique tamarack and shrub swamps.

Partnerships are key to celebrated parks network

The regional system of parks and trails features nearly 400 miles of trails, 44 regional parks, 12 park reserves, 49 regional trails, and eight special recreation features, including the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Minnehaha Regional Park, Lebanon Hills in Dakota County, Noerenberg Gardens on Lake Minnetonka, and Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista.

“We think of the regional network of parks and trails as the equivalent of state parks and trails, but within the boundaries of the seven-county metro area,” said Parks Unit Manager Emmett Mullin. “Ten park ‘implementing’ agencies own and operate regional parks and trails, rather than the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.”

The park agencies are Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties, the cities of Bloomington and Saint Paul, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and Three Rivers Park District.

The Met Council provides long-range planning, investment, and coordination.

The Council awards grants from the Park Acquisition Opportunity Fund. The fund is composed of dollars from the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and Council bonds. The grants can contribute up to 75% of the total cost of an acquisition within the boundaries of the planned regional park system. The other 25% is matched by the park agency.

A person jogging on a gravel path.

Residents love regional parks

Regional parks and trails are popular with residents. The number of visits to regional parks and trails in the metro area reached an all-time high in 2019 of 63.3 million — a 6.3% increase over 2018.

Due to the unusual circumstances around COVID-19, the Met Council does not plan to produce comparable 2020 parks use estimates. Regional parks are experiencing heavy use, however. A May 2020 transportation survey found significant increases in rates of outdoor exercise and recreation. Nearly half of respondents said they had recently used a park or trail for recreation or exercise.

“Parks and open spaces are especially important to health and well-being as we see our way through this pandemic,” said Chair Charlie Zelle. “Parks offer a way to get out of the house, stretch our limbs and get our blood flowing. Or, to seek quiet and refuge and turn our attention to nature and the tranquility of the natural environment.

“That’s the beauty of our natural amenities,” said Zelle.  “Whether it’s peace of mind or a vigorous workout, parks offer something for everyone.”

Finding the park you want to visit

Our Regional Parks Map and Guide helps identify regional parks and park activities. A state website, Minnesota Great Outdoors, helps residents find amenities at state and regional parks and trails, including dog parks, ski and bike trails, swimming pools, fishing holes, campgrounds and more.

More about adding land and features to the regional parks system

Posted In: Parks