Lebanon Hills Regional Park

In 2015, an updated Master Plan for Lebanon Hills was adopted by the Dakota County Board of Commissioners and the Metropolitan Council.   The Plan defines three categories for funding and implementation:  Natural Resources, Development and Acquisition.

Posted 10/24/15

Updates In This Post

Natural Resource Update
Development Update (Connector Trail)
Community Outreach Update
Other Park News

UPDATE – Natural Resources, A Top Priority

Hundreds of public comments submitted during the master planning process emphasized natural resources as a top priority of citizens. The 2015 Master Plan also identifies natural resources as a top priority. In response, Dakota County has:

  • Begun widespread management of buckthorn and other invasive species in Lebanon Hills.
  • Increased the number of full-time natural resource staff.
  • Re-established natural resource volunteer opportunities.

Monthly Natural Resource Volunteer Events

Wilderness in the City encourages members and supporters to participate in natural resource volunteer events in Lebanon Hills. They help restore and preserve the park as well as build a community of stewards for future generations. For more information contact us at wildernessinthecity@gmail.com

Dakota County park staff, in collaboration with Wilderness in the City, has established a monthly natural resource volunteer program.  Since May, we have supported five volunteer events focused on invasive plant removal and prairie seed collecting. The 2016 Natural Resource Volunteer calendar of events will be listed in early spring. Opportunities for group events are available.

volunteer event banner

Natural Resource Volunteer Events at Lebanon Hills Regional park

Buckthorn Management in Lebanon Hills

Wilderness in the City strongly supports the continuation of efforts begun by Dakota County to address buckthorn on a long-term basis.

Management of buckthorn is critical to the long-term preservation of Lebanon Hills.  Initial efforts to manage this highly invasive shrub have begun, including cutting and removing brush and treating stumps to help prevent re-growth. Long-term benefits of buckthorn management include:

  • Regeneration of native trees and plants that are critical to the long-term health of the park.
  • Improved water quality and wildlife habitats.
  • Improved visitor experience in a high-quality natural setting.

Buckthorn is an aggressive shrub.  Seed banks survive up to five years, and untreated stumps can regenerate growth within one season.  Ongoing management efforts are critical to prevent buckthorn proliferation.  Learn more about buckthorn from the Minnesota DNR.

UPDATE – Development, Connector Trail Status

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 to become a main artery through the park, greenway trails should be physically separated from the connector trail.

The connector trail, the most controversial element of the 2015 Master Plan, was originally proposed as the hub for Dakota County’s planned greenway trail network.

On March 10, 2015, in a 6-1 vote, the Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that the greenway is to come to the park but not through the park.  Commissioner Chris Gerlach was the only Commissioner who voted against this resolution.  Language in the plan was revised, and the adopted 2015 Master Plan now states:

  • “The Connector is not part of the Greenway network.” (Plan summary)
  • “Dakota County greenways that will connect to Lebanon Hills are planned to include paved trails, and will bring people to, but not through the park.” (p. 147)
  • “The paved Connector Trail is not to serve as a segment of the Greenway system…Greenway connections will be made around the outside of the park.” (p. 184)

The Board’s decision to keep the greenway trail network outside of the park should result in less impact to the park’s natural resources.

  • Greenway trail networks are like highway systems for commuting bicyclists, providing a transportation alternative network. Trails also provide for recreation use.
  • Greenway trail standards include criteria to accommodate 20-mph bike speeds.  In woodlands, this results in significant tree clearance for sightlines and curve radius.

Outstanding Trail Issue to Watch

As shown below, the county’s greenway network currently shows the connector trail within the park as a main artery of the greenway network directly linking with several trails outside the park.  The connector trail status was revised in the adopted Master Plan to state that the connector is not part of the greenway network.  The Dakota County Board has not yet approved a change to realign greenway trails around Lebanon Hills.

GreenwayNetwork to Lebanon Hills

Dakota County Board Physical Development Committee Meeting, July 21, 2015

At their July 28, 2015 board meeting, Dakota County Commissioners authorized a contract with consulting firm Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc., (HKGI) to evaluate and designate trails around Lebanon Hills for bicycle transportation connectivity.

  • This evaluation is scheduled to be completed in summer of 2016.
  • Project updates and open houses are expected to be scheduled.
  • Alignment options will be brought before the County Board, discussed with city staff and elected officials, and made available for public review and comment.

UPDATE: Community Outreach

Wilderness in the City is dedicated to promoting Lebanon Hills as a unique destination park to residents across the metro region.

Eagan Streets Alive, Sept. 2015

Booth Display 9-15

Wilderness in the City booth display at Eagan Streets Alive

We had a great time talking with the many people who stopped by our booth to learn about Lebanon Hills.  A special thanks to the young park enthusiasts who helped decorate our booth with “leaf prints”!  It was inspiring to hear the strong community support for natural resource improvements being made at Lebanon Hills.

Outdoor Adventure Expo, Nov 20-22

We are looking forward to once again participating in Midwest Mountaineering’s Outdoor Adventure Expo, Fri., Nov. 20 – Sun., Nov. 22 at Midwest Mountaineering, 309 Cedar Ave. So., Mpls. Join thousands of outdoor enthusiasts for a weekend of free programs, exhibitor booths, and mingling with others!  Stop by our booth and let us know your favorite thing about Lebanon Hills.  Come to our presentation “Winter in Lebanon Hills” on Sun., Nov. 22, at 2:15pm.

UPDATE: Other Park News

More Visitors Enjoying Lebanon Hills

The latest data from Met Council reports that visits to Lebanon Hills increased 14.5% during 2014.   Lebanon Hills continues to grow as the most popular destination in Dakota County’s regional parks system!

  • Estimated visits totaled 616,000 in 2014 compared to 538,000 in 2013 and 544,200 in 2012.
  • Visits to Lebanon Hills were greater than the total visits made to all other Dakota County Regional Parks and trails, which combined totaled 495,600.
  • Dakota County’s overall visits increased by 7.11%, compared to the entire metropolitan regional parks and trails system, which increased 3.3%.

Source:  Metropolitan Council, Annual Use Estimate of the Metropolitan Regional Parks System for 2014.  (July 2015) 

These estimated use figures are used by Met Council to calculate the regional park implementing agency’s (such as Dakota County) share of Capital Improvement Program dollars, Parks and Trails Legacy Fund dollars, and Operations/Maintenance dollars. The Met Council does not determine why increases occur.

Dakota County Parks Visitor Services Survey

Dakota County is preparing a Parks Visitor Services Strategic Operations Plan in part to develop an understanding of public expectations for recreation and services. At their July 18, 2015 Physical Development Committee meeting, Dakota County Commissioners authorized a contract with PROS consulting for planning and research services for the Parks Visitor Services Strategic Operations Plan.

  • The consultant will conduct research and public engagement to evaluate demand for park services.
  • As part of their research, a survey is being mailed to 5,000 randomly-sampled households residents in October.
  • It is expected that one-third of the surveys will be completed and returned, for a database of 1,700 surveys.
  • Cost of survey = $30,400. An analysis and report are expected by end of year.

The survey is with regard to the Dakota County Park System as a whole, and is not specific to Lebanon Hills.  The park system includes three regional parks (Lebanon Hills, Whitetail Woods, Lake Byllesby), two regional park reserves (Spring Lake, Meisville Ravine), two regional trails (Big Rivers, Mississippi River), and Thompson County Park.

During the Lebanon Hills Master Planning Process, the county received an unprecedented number of individual comments regarding Lebanon Hills.  It is unclear if these comments will be considered by the recently hired consultant team or staff as part of their research to evaluate demand for park services.

Previous Posts

Information in previous posts on this page can be found on our Previous Posts pages.