An updated Master Plan for Lebanon Hills was adopted by the Dakota County Board of Commissioners and the Metropolitan Council in 2015. As the Plan is implemented in years ahead, preservation of natural resources and maintaining the park’s unique character will continue to provide metro area residents and visitors with a premier destination for a genuine sense of wilderness in the heart of urban sprawl.
Parks and Trails Legacy Fund – TAKE ACTION
Minnesota citizens approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008 by voting to increase the state’s sales tax.
Most voters cited reasons such as clean water and preserving nature as their primary reasons for voting “yes”.
Parks and Trails (P&T) Legacy Fund receives 14.25% of the sales tax revenue, and a portion of that (40%) funnels through the Metropolitan Council for Regional Parks and Trails, such as Lebanon Hills.
The most recent P&T funding request from Met Council (FY2016-17) submitted to the Legislature included:
46% ($16.1 Million) for NEW Development
37% ($14.1 million) to Expand/Replace Existing Infrastructure
< 3% ($1 million) for manage and restore natural landscapes
NOTE: The next round of funding requests is expected to be released in October, and will be submitted to the Legislature early next year.
Projects to date include paved trail construction through valuable natural areas, including an ecologically sensitive Scientific and Natural Area; the use of explosives, against the DNRs recommendation, along the Mississippi River bluffs; 200-ft. wide clearance of previously un-fragmented forests.
In the meantime, natural resources in metro regional parks are degraded and stressed as evidenced by poor water quality and the prolific spread of buckthorn and other invasive plants. This neglect threatens the future of metro forests, prairies, and wetlands. The result is low-quality natural places for us to enjoy and wildlife habitat that doesn’t support many species of birds and other wildlife.
For Lebanon Hills — The Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved the 2015 Master Plan update including a very controversial paved bike corridor end to end through the park. This same Board of Commissioners approved eminent domain and extensive construction through Spring Lake Park Reserve…for a bike trail. (NOTE: This November, four of the seven commissioner seats are up for election.)
If Dakota County Commissioners choose to implement the controversial bike trail through Lebanon Hills, it will likely be funded using Legacy dollars, unless there is a change in the current spending trend.
Currently Being Debated
The Met Council requires that 10% be used to acquire new land.
- Met Council is now considering requiring another 10% to be used for connecting people to the outdoors.
- They have not clearly defined what that means, and could be interpreted by park agencies as build more stuff to connect people to parks.
To consider: If park agencies are required to spend more on ‘connecting people’ does that mean even less going toward natural resources?
TAKE ACTION — Here’s what you can do:
Contact your Met Council Representative and tell them: VOTE NO to Parks and Trails Legacy spending requirements for Connecting People without specific definition.
Contact your Legislators and tell them: I support “A Legacy of Nature” — and not a Legacy of more stuff to take care of.
Suggested Additional Comment:
Natural resources in the metro regional parks are degraded and stressed as evidenced by poor water quality and the prolific spread of buckthorn and other invasive plants. This neglect threatens the future of the metro forests, prairies, and wetlands. The result is low-quality natural places for us to enjoy and wildlife habitat that doesn’t support many species of birds and other wildlife.
There are other sources of funding available for paved trails and built infrastructure if so desired; for our wildlife and natural resources, the people of Minnesota voted for the Legacy Fund. It’s time for you to start using the Legacy Funds as they were intended.
Stay Informed and Tell Others!
Wilderness in the City will continue to monitor the use and funding requests of Parks and Trails Legacy spending, especially in the metro area, and let you know how you can take action.
FOCUS ON EQUITY AND NATURE
The Metropolitan Council recently adopted “The Equity Toolkit” which will be applied to approximately $25 million in annual fund requests for investments in regional parks and trails, ensuring that equity is part of the deliberations as investments are made in regional parks.
According to Dr. Gail Christopher, an international leader on issues involving health equity — “We know that experiences in nature help child development on all levels. It helps children physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We know that nature can be a nice counter to exposure to adverse experiences…When you consider the disproportionate level of exposure to adversity, trauma and stress that children of low-income families and children of color experience, they deserve to have that balancing force in their lives and to have that resource to help ensure healthy development.” [Read Complete Interview]
When considering equity issues for Lebanon Hills and other regional parks, Wilderness in the City urges the Met Council, Dakota County, and all park implementing agencies, to recognize that high quality natural settings are as beneficial, if not more so, then expensive built amenities throughout our park system.
UPDATE: Primary Election Results
The following candidates will move on to the Nov. 8 election:
- District 3: Tom Egan (incumbent) and Janine Hudson
- District 4: Joe Atkins and Holly Jenkins
TAKE ACTION! Vote on or before August 9 – Primary
Parks and Natural Resources Questionnaire
Wilderness in the City sent a questionnaire to each commissioner candidate that focused on their parks and natural resource management position. Below are their responses.
The following candidates for District 3 & 4 will be on the August 9 Primary ballot. The top two will move on to the November election.
The following candidates for District 5 & 7 will be on the November 8 ballot:
District 5 — Burnsville
Dave Giles, no response
Liz Workman (incumbent), no response
District 7 — Apple Valley and portions of Rosemount
Chris Gerlach (incumbent), no response
Donald Post Questionnaire
Elections 2016 – Dakota County Commissioners
TAKE ACTION! Vote on or before August 9 – Primary
Four of the seven Dakota County Commissioner seats are on the ballot this November; two of these (districts 3 & 4) will also be included on the August 9 ballot for the primary election.
This is the first Dakota County Commissioner election since the Lebanon Hills Master Plan update was approved in 2015 by the current Commissioners on a 5-2 vote despite overwhelming public opposition.
Going forward, how that Plan is implemented, including possibly the controversial paved bikeway through the park, will be determined by elected commissioners—they have discretion on funding for development, natural resources, and other pertinent areas of park management.
The current Board of Commissioners:
- Approved a 2016 Parks budget including more than $16 million for new greenway bike trail development vs. $500,000 for natural resources.
- Since 2001 has not approved adequate funding or resources to reverse the downward trend of natural resources in Lebanon Hills, or other Forever Wild parks.
Dakota County residents:
- “Protect lakes, streams, wetlands from pollution” ranked higher than “Development of new recreation bike trails”. (Dakota County 2013 residential survey)
- The importance rating for protecting and managing high-quality natural areas increased in 2016 compared to 2013, with 88% of respondents stating “essential or very important”. (Dakota County 2016 residential survey)
Learn more about the Candidates
Wilderness in the City has sent a questionnaire to each commissioner candidate, including incumbents, which focuses on their position for parks and natural resource management. We will report responses on our website on or before July 29.
August 9 (primary) will determine which two candidates from both Districts 3 & 4 will be on Nov. 8 ballot:
District 3 — Portions of Eagan and Mendota Heights
District 4 — Portions of Eagan, Inver Grove Heights, and Rosemount
The following candidates for District 5 & 7 will be on the November 8 ballot:
District 5 — Burnsville
Dave Giles — N/A
Liz Workman (incumbent) — N/A
District 7 — Apple Valley and portions of Rosemount
Chris Gerlach (incumbent) — N/A
Donald Post — N/A
Make Your Voice Heard!
Find Your District and Polling Place — Click Here
Early/Absentee Voting is currently underway: Vote now at your City Hall, or apply for absentee ballot online at www.mnvotes.org and click on “Other Ways to Vote”.
The Future of Natural Resources in Dakota County
Dakota County is in the process of developing a new Natural Resource Management System Plan, that will guide natural resources management of its parks, conservation easements and greenway corridors.
Join Dakota County staff at a public meeting and help shape the future of natural resources!
Monday, June 13, 6–8 p.m.
Dakota County Western Service Center
14955 Galaxie Ave., Apple Valley
Attendance is Encouraged * Join the Discussion * Bring a Friend!
Natural Resource Volunteer Opportunities at Lebanon Hills
Dakota County Parks, along with Wilderness in the City and Conservation Minnesota, hosts monthly Natural Resource Work Night at Lebanon Hills.
Volunteer work nights are a fun way to support Lebanon Hills and build a community of stewards! We hope you will join us for any or all of the upcoming Natural Resource Volunteer Work Nights.
SAVE THE DATES!
•Wed., June 22, 6-8pm
•Thurs., July 14, 6-8pm
•Wed., Aug. 10, 6-8pm
•Thurs., Sept. 8, 6-8pm
To register and for additional information, click here, or contact Garrett Zaffke, Dakota County Volunteer Coordinator, 651-438-4635 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open House Scheduled for Lebanon Hills Construction Projects
Wed., June 1, 5-7pm — Dakota County Western Service Center (Galaxie Library Building), 14955 Galaxie Ave., Apple Valley
Multiple construction projects (listed below) based on the 2015 Master Plan have been scheduled for completion by September 2017.
To help preserve the wilderness character of Lebanon Hills, we want citizens be involved during planning and design phase of development projects, and not just after the fact.
We encourage all who have an opinion about the future of Lebanon Hills to share your concerns and suggestions as decisions are being made.
1. McDonough Lake — Paved 8-foot-wide, multi-use bike trail around McDonough Lake to be kept free of snow/ice, graded to 5% or less, and retaining walls built as needed. Click here for project map.
2. Holland Lake — Switchback designed paved trail, 5% grade or less, from the parking lot to the existing fishing pier. Click here for project map.
NOTE: For Lake Trail projects, it is unknown how many trees will be removed, whether or not chemicals will be used to keep free of snow/ice, or what steps will be taken to prevent negative impacts to lakes. Unanswered question: Could a permeable surface, such as porous asphalt, be used to help protect water quality?
3. Portage Lake Shelter (the “A-frame”) — Replacement or reconstruction to provide a safe park feature and program area with limited site disruption.
4. Bridge Pond Bridge (the “crooked bridge”) Replacement — County staff is working with city officials and architectural consultants to design and replace the existing structure. “The new bridge will be constructed to County standards with Cor-Ten steel and concrete decking.” Click here for project blueprint.
NOTE: For the A-frame and Bridge projects, it is unknown if design details wil compliment the park’s unique wilderness character, or if they will be designed to standards established at so many other parks.
5. Wheaton Pond Access (south of the campground) — new features will include a nature play area, parking, sun shelter, toilet enclosure, wading beach area, fishing/canoe access, boat rental area, outdoor classroom area and fire ring. Click here for project map.
6. Mountain Bike Trailhead — additional off street parking, event and program space, picnic tables, expanded concrete pad around picnic shelter, turf/prairie establishment. Click here for project map.
(source: Dakota County Parks website, 4/26/16)
Here’s what you can do!
- Attend the Open House — (NEW DATE): Wed., June 1, 5-7pm, Western Service Center (Galaxie Library Bldg.), 14955 Galaxie Ave., Apple Valley
- Submit comments online: Josh Kinney, Senior Project Manager, email@example.com and copy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tell others about this issue.
Post Date 4/24/2016
2016 Natural Resource Stewardship Volunteer Projects
Lebanon Hills Garlic Mustard Pull and Challenge
- Tuesday, May 3, 6 – 8pm
- Thursday, May 5, 6 – 8pm
- Saturday, May 14, 9 – 11am
Kick off the 2016 Natural Resource Volunteer season and attend one of these training sessions for brief instruction followed by field time.
After training, you are encouraged to participate in the Second Annual Garlic Mustard Challenge.
Information and Registration or call Garrett Zaffke, Dakota County Volunteer Coordinator, at 651-438-4635.
Summer & Fall Lebanon Hills Volunteer Work Nights
Wilderness in the City supports monthly natural resource projects in Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Join us for any or all of the following natural resource work nights:
Thursday, June 9, 6 – 8pm
Thursday, July 14, 6 – 8pm
Wednesday, Aug 10, 6 – 8pm
Thursday, Sept 8, 6 – 8pm
September – Buckthorn training and Second Annual BUCKTHORN BUST!
Click for more Information and Registration or call Garrett Zaffke, Dakota County Volunteer Coordinator, at 651-438-4635.
Issue Update (posted 4/27/16)
Citizens attended meetings and submitted comments opposing this request, most citing that there should be an opportunity for the general public to be involved in a meaningful process during design phase prior to approval of funding for construction.
Concerns were expressed over recent park projects involving extensive construction and irreversible negative impacts to natural resources, especially at Spring Lake Park Reserve where construction funding was approved first, and public involvement after the fact had no impact.
Regardless, the Met Council’s Community Development Committee unanimously approved Dakota County’s request on March 21. At this meeting, the Dakota County Parks Director stated that there would be opportunity for public input during the design phase for these projects.
Thank you to those who took time to attend meetings and submit comments. A consistent record of public input will help to make a difference in the future of Lebanon Hills.
Post Date 3/4/2016
Decision Pending – Make Your Voice Heard!
Dakota County Parks is requesting that the Metropolitan Council approve a change to the scope of an existing grant agreement that would allow for funding of three development projects at Lebanon Hills Regional Park, based on the controversial 2015 Master Plan. This issue will be considered on Mon., March 21, at the Met Council Community Development Committee meeting.
- The original grant was received in 2011 for a 3.6-mile seasonal use trail with an aggregate surface, and was based on the 2001 Master Plan which had broad public support.
- This project was never implemented, and the unspent grant balance is $641,820.42.
- Dakota County now would like to use those funds for projects based on the 2015 Master Plan, which the public overwhelmingly opposed.
If approved, the grant funding would allow for design, engineering, construction and construction administration for the following projects at Lebanon Hills Regional Park:
- ADA-compliant paved loop trail and site improvements around McDonough Lake.
- ADA-compliant paved trail and site improvements from the Holland Trailhead facility to an existing ADA fishing pier on Holland Lake
- Parking and site improvements at the West Trailhead [mountain bike] facility.
The 2040 Regional Park Policy Plan states (on page 82):
“The regional park implementing agency [Dakota County] must provide an opportunity for the general public and agencies affected by the particular park or trail to participate in the process to amend a master plan or the final design/engineering phase of a facility prior to funding its construction.”
The projects listed in the amended scope of the grant have not undergone a final design/engineering phase. Therefore, construction impacts are not known and there has been no opportunity for public participation.
The scope of the project should be amended to only allow for planning and design work. Funding for construction and construction administration should not be considered until the general public has had an opportunity to participate in the final design/engineering phase of these projects.
If the pending request is approved, the Dakota County Board will have complete discretion over construction of three projects in Lebanon Hills, and public involvement will have little or no impact,
This is evidenced by recent park projects, especially at Spring Lake Park Reserve where excessive construction, negative impacts to natural resources, and costs have all greatly exceeded the intent of that park’s Master Plan. In this case, construction funding was approved first, and public involvement after the fact had no impact.
At Lebanon Hills, we want citizens to be involved during the planning and design phase of development projects prior to the approval of funds for construction. Projects deemed necessary should have broad public support and assurance that negative impacts to the natural resources in the park will be minimal.
PUBLIC PROCESS TO DATE
This Dakota County request was on the agenda for the March 1, 2016, meeting of the Metropolitan Council’s Parks and Open Space Commission (MPOSC). The first and only notice to the public occurred when the agenda was posted online just a few days before the meeting.
- Some citizens became aware of the request and submitted comments opposing the requested amendment change, in order to allow the public an opportunity to participate in the design of these projects.
- Despite receiving these comments, it was reported at the meeting that there was no known opposition;
- Met council staff presented this item to MPOSC members, and the council concluded the request meets criteria and should be approved.
- Two representatives from Wilderness in the City attended the meeting and argued that the request does not meet criteria for public involvement prior to funding for construction and, therefore, and should not be approved.
Following discussion, the final vote was split — half voting in favor of the request, and half voting against it.
The request now moves to the Met Council’s Community Development Committee, without a recommendation from the MPOSC, for their meeting scheduled on Monday, March 21, at 4pm.
Community members should have the opportunity to participate in a meaningful public process as decisions are made regarding implementation of the controversial 2015 Lebanon Hills Master Plan.
Support our efforts and take action!
Before March 21, contact the decision makers at Met Council and your elected legislators (who provide funding for regional parks) and tell them:
“Business Item No. 2016-50 should not be approved. Criteria have not been met to provide an opportunity for the general public to participate in the final design/engineering phase prior to funding its construction. Funding allocated to past projects, prior to public involvement, has led to costly and excessive construction projects with significantly negative impacts to natural resources, especially at Spring Lake Park Reserve.”
Submit Comments to the Metropolitan Council
- Metropolitan Council, 651-602-1500, email@example.com
- Emmett Mullin, 651-602-1360, Regional Parks Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gary Cunningham, 612-259-6568, Community Development Committee Chair, email@example.com
- Steven Chavez, 612-670-8952, Dakota County Met Council Member, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wendy Wulff, 952-484-3353, Dakota County Council Member, email@example.com
Copy Your Elected Legislators
Attend the Public Meeting – Mon., Mar. 21, 4pm
Community Development Committee, Metropolitan Council, 390 Robert Street N., St. Paul 651-602-1000
Share this information with others!
The LEED designed Lebanon Hills Visitor Center shown in the first photo below was part of the 2001 Master Plan which included meaningful citizen participation. Phase 2 development, shown in the second photo, was planned and constructed with minimal public involvement, surrounded all four sides of the visitor center with manicured lawn and concrete paths (salted in winter).
Central Greenway Connectivity Study
Dakota County Open House
Tues., Feb. 16, 5-8pm
Rosemount Community Center
13885 S. Robert Trail, Rosemount
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
The controversial Connector Trail was originally proposed as the Hub of Dakota County’s planned greenway network. That designation was changed in the adopted Master Plan, which states that “The Connector is not part of the Greenway network.”
Greenway bike trails designed for higher speed recreation and bicycle commuting functions are expected to connect to Lebanon Hills, but not through the park. This decision should result in less impact to the park’s natural resource base and also less conflict with park visitors.
OUTSTANDING ISSUE TO WATCH
The Dakota County Board has not yet approved a change to realign greenway trails around Lebanon Hills, but they did approve a study to be conducted to evaluate and designate trails around Lebanon Hills for bicycle transportation connectivity.
This “Central Greenway Connectivity Study” is currently underway. The open house is scheduled for the public to review and provide input on the trail alignment alternatives and other draft recommendations. Information will also be available regarding the Rich Valley Greenway Trail, a new regional trail planned to connect to Lebanon Hills.
Representatives from Dakota County’s Planning Department will be available at this Open House.
Wilderness in the City strongly supports realignment of greenway trail connections to be made around the outside of Lebanon Hills. To eliminate the potential for the proposed connector trail to serve as a hub of the greenway and Lebanon Hills from becoming a thoroughfare, greenway trails outside the park should not be directly linked to the proposed connector trail.
A grateful thank you for your support during 2015
With your help we have influenced decisions which will help to preserve Lebanon Hills and its unique wilderness character for future generations…but there is more for us to do!
Wilderness in the City Newsletter
To keep you informed of issues relating to Lebanon Hills Regional Park: Newsletter
- A brief Recap of the Adoption of Controversial 2015 Master Plan
- Connector Trail Status
- What’s Planned in 2016
- Natural Resource Stewardship
- Upcoming Events: Feb. 4 and Feb. 16
Lebanon Hills Pipeline Forum & Film Event
Thursday, February 4
6:30pm Informational Forum; 7pm Movie Showing
Lebanon Hills Visitor Center, 860 Cliff Rd., Eagan 55123
Clean Water Action, together with Wilderness in the City, will host a 30-minute informational forum regarding a new natural gas pipeline proposed through Lebanon Hills.
Following the forum, all are welcome to stay for a viewing of the award winning film Elemental. The film tells the story of three individuals united by their deep connection with nature and driven to confront some of the most pressing ecological challenges of our time.
Admission is free, but registration is appreciated.
To register, go to www.cleanwateraction.org/LebanonHills
or contact Wendy Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org, 612-627-1511.
See below for additional information about the pipeline project and what you can do to take action.
Proposed by Northern Natural Gas Company (NNG)
NNG is planning to install a new 20-inch-diameter pipeline through Lebanon Hills in order to meet the needs of Northern States Power Co. for their Black Dog Generating Station. The new line is planned approximately 25-feet adjacent to an existing NNG pipeline which was installed decades before Lebanon Hills was designated as a regional park.
- Trees will need to be removed within the existing easement, temporary workspaces, and as needed along the access roads.
- NNG owns a 60-foot wide easement along their existing pipeline. A wider temporary easement is expected for construction of a second line; it is unknown at this time if a wider permanent easement will be sought.
- Ongoing maintenance includes clearing the pipeline(s) right of way, including trees and woody plant material. Width of the permanent clearance corridor for two parallel pipelines is undefined at this time.
An alternative option, which is not actively being considered by NNG, would be to install the pipeline along roadways around the park.
The project is in the preliminary planning, or pre-filing, phase — the precise details have not yet been finalized and a formal application has not been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The purpose of the pre-filing review is to encourage involvement by interested stakeholders — you can make a difference now by providing the FERC with your specific comments or concerns about this project.
It is expected that NNG will submit its formal approval request by June 2016, and construction would take place during 2017.
Your Input Is Valuable!
Submit comments before Feb. 15 regarding your concerns about the potential environmental impact and the value Lebanon Hills has in our community. Ask that the new pipeline avoid Lebanon Hills. NOTE: As new details are reported by NNG, additional comments may be submitted.
On your comment, be sure to reference: Cedar Station Upgrade, Docket No. PF15-32-000
Suggested Comment to submit with your personal message: “I am concerned about the negative impacts a new pipeline will have on Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Removal of trees, disruption of soil, and continued clearance for ongoing maintenance will irreversibly harm plant life, water bodies and wildlife habitats. The existing pipeline, which was installed decades before Lebanon Hills became a beloved regional park, is not justification for addition of a second line which will degrade the aesthetic integrity of this unique and valuable park. I urge you to explore alternative routes for this new pipeline to avoid Lebanon Hills.
1. File Comments Electronically — Go to www.ferc.gov , click on link called “Documents and Filings” and then “eComment”
2. Submit Written Comments to:
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426
3. Attend the Feb. 4 Lebanon Hills Pipeline Forum and Film Event.
4. Share this information with others.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
Information in previous posts on this page can be found on these pages under HOME