Lebanon Hills Regional Park

 2015 Lebanon Hills Master Plan

Posted 9/23/15

To the many hundreds who have written letters, made phone calls, attended public meetings, informed others…we extend a sincere thank you. 

Even though the Master Plan was adopted, your efforts were not wasted — you have made a difference.  In the past two years, changes include:

  • Widespread management of buckthorn and other invasive species is underway.
  • The number of full-time natural resource staff has increased.
  • Volunteer opportunities are now available, with natural resource stewardship events scheduled on a regular basis.

Moving Forward

Wilderness in the City is dedicated to preserving natural urban areas.  Through advocacy, stewardship and outreach, we will continue to support restoration and preservation of Lebanon Hills for future generations of people and wildlife.

Advocacy:  Continue to meet with and follow actions taken by Dakota County and State representatives, and inform you when decisions are pending and how you can take action.

Stewardship:  Work with the park staff to help assure natural resources remain a top priority.  We encourage all to participate in volunteer events to help restore and preserve the park, and to build a community of stewards for future generations.

Outreach:  Through community outreach, we will work to promote this unique park to residents across the metro region.

Thank you for your continued support!

Recap from Metropolitan Council Meetings

The Metropolitan Council (Met Council) formally adopted the controversial 2015 Lebanon Hills Regional Park Master Plan by unanimous vote at their Aug. 24 meeting.

The role of the Met Council was to adopt the Master Plan if it was in compliance with their policies.

Wilderness in the City defined two areas where the Master Plan is not in compliance including:  “Be protective of the environment/ecology of the site and not negatively impact its natural resources” and “Citizen Participation” in the planning process.  These two areas of inconsistency were never addressed or responded to by the Met Council.

Additional public comments received by the Met Council included 154 opposed and 3 in support.

What This Means

The Plan is now eligible for implementation and funding.

Implementation, including development and natural resource stewardship, is at the discretion of elected Dakota County Commissioners.

Funding sources for development projects including the 6-mile paved multi-use bikeway, include County taxes, State and Met Council bonds, Legacy Amendment (parks and trails) funds, and Federal grants.  Funding approval for State bonds and Legacy dollars will be at the discretion of elected State Legislators.

Connector Trail – Additional Information

In March 2015, the Dakota County Board adopted the Master Plan with revised language that surrounding greenways should lead to the park but not through the park.

  • “The Connector Trail is not part of the greenway network.” (2015 LHRP Master Plan Summary, p. x)
  • “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.” (2015 LHRP Master Plan, p. 147)

A consultant has been hired to evaluate and designate trails around Lebanon Hills for bicycle transportation connectivity.  This study is expected to be completed in summer 2016.  During this process, there will be opportunity for public review and input.

The Board’s decision not to allow greenway trails through the park is a change that could result in less impact to the park’s natural resource base.

  • A greenway bike trail is intended to serve both a recreation function and a transportation function for commuting bicyclists.
  • For recent greenway trail projects, Dakota County has met state and federal requirements to accommodate 20-mph bike speeds, including wide clearance for sightlines and curve radius.
  • An 8-ft. wide recreation-only trail would require less clearance for sightlines and curve radius.

Funding sources may require specific criteria for design standard.  It will be critical that funding does not dictate design standards which could result in excessive construction for the Connector Trail.  Wilderness in the City will monitor funding requests and post information on how to provide input.

Previous Posts

Posted 7/6/15

The Lebanon Hills agenda item originally scheduled for the July 7 Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission has been postponed.  This meeting is now expected on Tues., Aug. 4, 4pm.

A revised schedule for all three public meetings will be posted as soon as available.

Posted 6/20/15

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.

Conflicting Visions:

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.

What’s Next:

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 —

Email:  public.info@metc.state.mn.us
AND copy to:  jan.youngquist@metc.state.mn.us  [Jan Youngquist, Regional Parks Manager]
Call:  651-602-1500
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. 

 (Revised 7/6/15)  Tues., August 4, 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.

(Revised 7/6/15) To Be Announced – 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.

(Revised 7/6/15)  To Be Announced – 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 —

  1. Join our email list: wildernessinthecity@gmail.com
  2. Like us on Facebook: Lebanon Hills – Wilderness in the City
  3. 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.

Find Your State Legislator

Tell your friends, family and co-workers about this issue!

Previous Posts

Lebanon Hills Master Plan – Next Steps

Posted 4/28/15

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

 ​Metropolitan Council​

  • 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. 

State Legislators

  • 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 


  1. Inform others that this is not over and invite them to join Wilderness in the City.
  2. Ask organizations or clubs you are involved with if Wilderness in the City can provide an update at a future meeting.
  3. 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


Posted 3/23/15

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.

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.

Link to view Board Meeting Video
Link to PDF of approved Lebanon Hills Master Plan
Link to read Public Comments

Unanswered Questions/Conflicts

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

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.

Posted 3/11/15

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

  1.  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.
  2. 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.

3 construction photos copy

Public Comments

Thank You

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