Public Hearing Held for Controversial Lebanon Hills Park Plan

Updated: 12/17/2013 6:49 AM
Created: 12/16/2013 2:58 PM
By: Megan Stewart

A public hearing on a controversial proposed master plan for Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan is being held Monday evening.

The 20-year master plan calls for $31 million to improve facilities, restore environmental areas and enhance the park’s recreational areas.

Roughly half of the $31 million is allocated toward restoring savannas, prairies and forests, reducing invasive species and improving water quality. It also sets aside $6.2 million for potential land acquisition.

The remaining $15 million is aimed at improving the recreational amenities by adding year-round camper cabins and expanding picnic areas. It also outlines the addition of 6 miles of unpaved trails, which would bring the total for the 2,000 acre park to 46 miles.

But, the part of the plan that is stirring up controversy centers on a proposed 6.5 mile paved trail.

The paved trail would connect the different recreation areas of Lebanon Hills and the other parks in the greenway system. A Dakota County Parks System Plan, which encompasses all of the county's parks, was passed in 2008 that declared Lebanon Hills would be the hub.

While, the exact route of the trail has been decided, Dakota County Parks Director Steve Sullivan says they’ll look for ways to minimize the environmental impact within the park.

However, Holly Jenkins said the county is putting more emphasis on development rather than restoration. Jenkins co-founded Wilderness in the City after learning of the new plan at a county board meeting last year.  

"Lebanon Hills is a unique place," Jenkins said. "You can't find this type of wilderness anywhere else in the metro. Promote what you have."

"I would rather have them not spend the money to develop it and leave it alone than have them build a paved trail," Jenkins said. "The construction is never what anyone expects, and you can't go back after its done."

Jenkins said the $15.5 million for resource protection and management in the proposed plan is insufficient when $6.2 million of that is set aside to purchase land that might not be for sale.

The master plan was released in November and is in the middle of the 60-day comment period which ends Jan. 18, 2014.  Monday’s public hearing is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Western Service Center on Galaxie Avenue in Apple Valley.

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