2015 Lebanon Hills Master Plan
On January 26, 2015, the 2015 Draft Master Plan for Lebanon Hills Regional Park was released for a 30-day public comment period. Of 690 comments received, 97% were opposed this draft plan as reported in the Star Tribune.
Despite this outpouring of opposition from across the metro region, on March 17,
Dakota County Commissioners adopted the 2015 Master Plan for Lebanon Hills Regional Park with revisions.
Dakota County’s vision conflicts with the public’s long-held vision of Lebanon Hills as a unique destination offering a genuine sense of wilderness.
The most controversial element of The Plan is to construct a six-mile, multi-use trail through the park, paved with asphalt and kept free of snow and ice. Here’s what this means to the park:
- Bulldoze through the hills to create a five-percent grade for biking and other uses.
- Six-miles of existing woodlands and prairies will be destroyed and wildlife habitat will be fragmented.
- Existing trailheads will be expanded, adding more buildings, parking lots and pavement.
The Metropolitan Council (Met Council) is currently reviewing this controversial $28-million plan.
- The Plan must be adopted by the Met Council to be eligible for funding.
- Public meetings will be scheduled and are expected in July and August.
- The Lebanon Hills Master Plan will be reviewed based on the requirements outlined in the 2030 Regional Park Policy Plan
If the Met Council approves the Master Plan for Lebanon Hills, Dakota County Board of Commissioners will be able to implement projects at their discretion.
What will happen to Lebanon Hills?
Spring Lake Park Reserve — A Trail Project
- A trail project was recently implemented at Spring Lake Park Reserve along the Mississippi River near Hastings.
- With Dakota County Board approval, the actual implementation of this trail project in 2015 is notably different than what is stated in the park’s 2003 Master Plan.
- Learn more about this project.
If you oppose Dakota County’s new Plan for Lebanon Hills, here’s what you can to help save this wilderness in the city.
- Share your views on this issue with your Metropolitan Council Member —
Find your Met Council District
Contact your Met Council Member
- Submit comments directly to the Metropolitan Council —
AND copy to: firstname.lastname@example.org [Jan Youngquist, Regional Parks Manager]
Write: Metropolitan Council Public Information, 390 Robert St. N., St. Paul, MN 55101
Suggested comment to submit with personal message — including your name and address:
- I do not support the submitted plan; Lebanon Hills should remain a unique destination which complements the regional park system.
- The Board disregarded 97 percent of public input, and two of its own Commissioners;
- Send the master plan back to Dakota County for meaningful citizen engagement.
- Attend Public Meetings at Metropolitan Council —
Allow additional time for parking; For more information, call Met Council at 651-602-1000.
Dates/locations are subject to change. If that happens, Wilderness in the City will post schedule changes on our website.
Tues., July 7, 4pm – Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission
390 Robert Street N., St. Paul
- This 9-member citizen commission is expected to recommend whether or not Met Council should adopt the Master Plan.
- Public comments will be allowed and will be limited to 3-5 minutes.
Mon., July 20, 4pm – Community Development Committee
390 Robert St., N., St. Paul
- Committee consists of 9 Met Council Members, including both Dakota County representatives Steven Chavez and Wendy Wulff.
- This group is expected to recommend whether or not Met Council should adopt the Lebanon Hills Master Plan.
- Public comments are expected to be allowed.
Wed., August 12, 4pm – Metropolitan Council
390 Robert St., N., St. Paul
- The full 17-member Met Council will make a final decision whether to adopt the master plan or send it back to Dakota County.
Public comments are expected to be allowed.
- Stay Informed —
- Join our email list: email@example.com
- Like us on Facebook: Lebanon Hills – Wilderness in the City
- Follow us on Twitter: @wildlebanonhill
- Contact your State Legislators —
If approved, funding will come from State funds, including Legacy Amendment dollars. Tell your elected State Legislators how you feel about Dakota County spending taxpayers money for development in Lebanon Hills.
- Tell your friends, family and co-workers about this issue!
Lebanon Hills Master Plan – Next Steps
Even though elected Dakota County Commissioners adopted the controversial Lebanon Hills development plan despite overwhelming public opposition, this is not a done deal. Public input to date will be valuable and more will be needed as we move forward in this process.
Your continued involvement will make a difference in the future of Lebanon Hills.
Brief Overview of Next Steps
- The Master Plan will be submitted to Met Council for review.
- Plans must be approved by Met Council in order to be eligible for funding.
- There will be opportunites to submit comments and attend Met Council public meetings.
- Wilderness in the City will continue to monitor this process and provide information when the master plan has been submitted to Met Council and what you can do to take action.
- If the plan moves forward, project implementation will be at the discretion of the county.
- Funding opportunities will partly determine what projects are implemented.
- Much of the funding will come from the State, including Legacy funds.
- If you are opposed to taxpayers money going toward development in Lebanon Hills, let your elected State Senators and Representatives hear from you.
- To find your Legislator: Minnesota Legislators by District
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Inform others that this is not over and invite them to join Wilderness in the City.
- Ask organizations or clubs you are involved with if Wilderness in the City can provide an update at a future meeting.
- Become a supporting member! All donations are tax-deductible. Thank you for your support.
Natural Resource Volunteer Opportunities
Wilderness in the City is pleased to work with Dakota County park staff to help assure natural resources stewardship efforts are ongoing and successful.
Garlic Mustard Challenge
Join Dakota County Parks and Wilderness in the City to remove this invasive species from Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Help with restoration efforts and visit with others who share a common interest in preserving natural areas!
- Tuesday, May 12, 6-8pm and/or Thursday, May 14, 6-8pm
- Pre-registration is required.
- To learn more and register: Garlic Mustard Challenge
To learn more about this aggressive invasive plant: Garlic Mustard Information
Lebanon Hills Master Plan Approved – Our Review
3/17 Board Meeting Highlights
Lebanon Hills Master Plan approved 5-2
Voting YES: Gerlach, Workman, Holberg, Slavik, Gaylord
Voting NO: Egan, Schouweiler
There were 17 citizens who provided comments, followed by Board discussion.
Commissioner Schouweiler: “I can’t believe that out of the 650+ comments there were only 22 that were for the plan…What happened to representative government?”
Commissioner Egan: “There is no passion for the paved trail at all…I’ve never been in a position like this before in all my 30+ years of public service, I have never had 97% of people opposing something and yet it going forward as strongly as it is here with no passion at all…”
Commissioner Workman: “It’s no surprise I support a paved trail…when the time comes to implement or construct a trail, there is going to be a very public process…” [NOTE: No discussion or motion made regarding how that process will be any different that the master plan public process to date.]
Commissioner Gerlach: I am supportive of a paved trail…I think public opinion has been heeded…to say the Board isn’t listening to public input I think is unfair.”
Commissioner Slavik: Motion made to reduce trail width from 10′ to 8′; motion passed.
Motion made to remove the word “bikeway” and insert the word “trail” with regard to the connector. Motion passed.
“I think it would be appropriate…to address within the design standards so that we don’t do what happened at Spring Lake Park Reserve…that doesn’t necessarily have to put something in the master plan.” [NOTE: No motion was made to revise language in the plan which would eliminate potential for the same construction currently underway at Spring Lake Park Reserve.]
Commissioner Gaylord: “I hope that they [staff] understand that to see 150′ swath being cut through when they’re making an 8′, 10′, 12′ trail is just absolutely bizarre.” [NOTE: No motion was made to change the design standards or limit the construction corridor for the connector.]
Commissioner Holberg: No comment or discussion — voted yes to adopt plan.
1. Connector Trail and Greenway Regional Bike Network
- Originally planned as part of the greenway network designed for higher speeds, language was revised to “The Connector Trail will be designed to promote in-park recreational use rather than transportation…”
- Commissioners did not revise language to clearly distinguish design standards for a recreation trail differently than a greenway trail, leaving conflicting language in the plan.
- Design standards are defined to meet criteria for various funding opportunities, including federal funds being sought for other greenway trails requiring wide clearance.
- If built, concerns remain regarding safety, impact to natural resources, conflicts with recreational uses and financial constraints.
Unanswered: Why wasn’t all conflicting language in the plan eliminated to clearly remove potential for the park to be used as a thoroughfare? Since the Connector Trail is no longer considered part of the greenway network, why not consider other options to improve accessibility?
2. Cost Underestimates
- Estimate for initial cost of 6-mile connector trail is low compared to other recently adopted trail plans. Uncertain what initial cost will be.
- No estimate, or source of funding, has been provided for increased annual maintenance and eventual replacement.
Unanswered: How will the county pay for increased annual maintenance of new infrastructure? How will increased expenses impact other park services including stewardship, programs, staffing?
3. Natural Resources
- Natural resources are considered a top priority, but the plan does not define guidelines for accountability or long-term performance metrics.
- Funding priorities will be at the discretion of the County Board.
- Since 2001, the county has not provided adequate funding for the existing infrastructure and natural resource stewardship in Lebanon Hills.
Unanswered: To help assure natural resource goals are achieved, why not include funding/implementation guidelines and define performance metrics per precedent established in the 2001 master plan?
Coming Up Next
- Staff will submit the master plan to Met Council for review and comment.
- The plan will first be reviewed by various committees for compliance with Met Council policies before entering into a series of public meetings.
- We will monitor progress and let you know when and how to take action.
- Continue to tell others about this issue and ask them to join Wilderness in the City
Thank you to all who attended meetings, submitted comments, made phone calls, informed others, wrote letters to editors and helped in many additional ways.
Although five commissioners voted in favor of a 6-mile paved multi-use trail, your involvement made a difference in the final vote. We acknowledge the leadership and appreciate the position taken by Commissioners Egan and Schouweiler, both who voted no. In addition, the plan was changed to include that greenway connections will be made around the outside of the park.
Comments received to date are included in the public record and will be valuable during the next steps in this process. Thank you for your continued support to preserve the wilderness character of Lebanon Hills.
3/10 Dakota County Committee Meeting – Our Review
Wilderness in the City thanks Commissioner’s Schouweiler and Egan for their recognition of all the public comments and acknowledge their leadership in keeping paved greenway trails out of Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
Revised Master Plan With Modifications Approved
The 2015 Revised Lebanon Hills Regional Park Master Plan with Modifications (following) was approved by a 5-2 vote
NO: Schouweiler, Egan
Voting YES: Gerlach, Workman, Slavik, Holberg, Gaylord
Connector Trail Modifications
- A 10′ wide, paved Connector Trail was approved by a 4-3 vote.
Voting NO: Schouweiler, Egan, Gerlach
Voting YES: Workman, Slavik, Holberg, Gaylord
Commissioner discussion showed support for this trail to provide accessibility and to be constructed as a low-speed, multi-use, recreational trail.
- Remove language specifying the Connector Trail be for bike speeds generally no more than 20mph was approved unanimously.
Commissioner discussion showed support to remove the high-speed, wide-clearance, commuter bike trail specifications.
The exact design specification changes are not yet defined.
Greenway Regional Bike Network Modification
- Greenway trails will connect to but not through the park was approved by a 6-1 vote.
Voting NO: Gerlach
Voting YES: Schouweiler, Egan, Workman, Slavik, Holberg, Gaylord
Staff is directed to look at County Greenway Plans to keep bikeways designed for speeds up to 20mph outside of the park.
Additional Plan Modifications
The Board of Commissioners also passed these plan modifications:
- Remove lighting for ski trails
- Remove camper cabins
- Elevate management of invasive species, including buckthorn, to high priority tier one project list
- Remove Camp Sacajawea project until study for relocation is completed.
Thank you to all who submitted comments, contacted commissioners, wrote letters to editors, and told others. Your actions helped determine the future of Lebanon Hills.
Public Comments Record
The county has provided the public comments as part of a large PDF document. The comments are on pages 319-480.
Wilderness in the City’s Comment to Dakota County
“Preserving the natural qualities, character, and sense of place that are the intrinsic values of Lebanon Hills Regional Park, while still providing opportunities for human use, is the ultimate success of any of the park’s master plans.
…Dakota County’s revised plan conflicts with the philosophy of past Lebanon Hills Master Plans and is contrary to the intrinsic values and character of the park. For this and other reasons that follow, our organization does not support the revised plan and we urge Dakota County Commissioners not to adopt it….”
Read our complete comment to Dakota County on the revised draft plan.
Sierra Club Opposes Trail Plan
“We are concerned that the scale of new trails and trail surfaces proposed in the revised Lebanon Hills Master Plan may fundamentally change the park experience, and that it may reduce rather than increase access to species and habitat diversity by reducing that diversity itself. We therefore believe Legacy Fund Dollars should not fund such outcomes in this case.” Read the complete Sierra Club Comments Lebanon Hills.
Eagan Core Greenway Opposes Trail Plan
“Just because a county can amass and spend tens of millions of dollars in public funds for the development of an unparalleled urban nature preserve does not mean it is prudent to do so.”
Friends of Eagan Core Greenway oppose trail plan