Lebanon Hills Regional Park Focus

Proposed Development Plan

Dakota County is in the process of updating its master plan for Lebanon Hills Regional Park with a controversial Development Plan. After the 60 day public comment period ended in January 2014, the County Commissioners redirected the process to a Citizen Advisory Panel. The panel has until December 31, 2014 to review the park plans and advise the County Board.

Urgent Action Required — Public Comment Period Closes Thurs. 10/30 at 5pm 

12:20pm:  ALERT - there is reported trouble with Met Council’s email address shown below. You may have to type it in rather than copy and paste.

Met Council and Lebanon Hills

Lebanon Hills is part of the metro area Regional Parks System, which is overseen by the Met Council.  Met Council is a significant source of funding for regional parks, including the allocation of Parks and Trails Legacy Amendment Funds.

Changes to Met Council’s Regional Parks Policy Plan could have an impact on the controversial development proposed at Lebanon Hills.

Met Council’s Regional Parks Policy Plan is Currently Being Updated

Wilderness in the City’s Board of Directors has identified two areas of concern (summarized below) directly relating to Lebanon Hills.  The attached document provides more in depth information on these issues.

 1.  Integration of Parks Policy with Transportation Policy
  • Policy plan lacks distinction between trails serving a transportation function (bicycle commuting) and trails serving a recreation function
  • Policy opens our parks to having road-like commuter trails built through them
  • Transportation trails have greater environmental impact and higher annual expenses then trails designed for recreation only.

Suggestion for Comment (option to copy and paste for your public comment):  To avoid conflict of natural resource based regional parks from becoming extensions of the transportation system, the policy plan needs to distinguish between trails intended for a transportation function (commuting bicyclists) and trails intended for recreation uses.  Within park boundaries, trails should serve a recreation function.  Outside park boundaries, multi-function trails can be accommodated.

2.  Lack of Accountability for Parks and Trails Legacy Funds for Natural Resources
  • Long-term funding imbalance between built infrastructure and natural resources
  • Funding for natural resources is available but there are no requirements to invest in this area
  • This money will be further strained in order to accommodate new development leaving considerably fewer funds for taking care of Natural Resources

Suggestion for Comment (option to copy and past for your public comment):  Parks and Trails Legacy funding is available for natural resource stewardship, yet it is not being sought after in balance with capital development.  The long term result will be a decline in the quality of our park’s natural resources.  The draft policy plan must include a requirement that 20% of parks and Trails Legacy appropriations must be used to “Take Care of What We Have” for natural resources apart from development.


We encourage all who have an opinion to submit comments to Met Council. 
Public Comment period closes on Thurs, Oct. 30, at 5pm.
Phone:  651-602-1500
Email:  public.info@metc.state.mn.us
12:20pm:  ALERT - there has been trouble with this email address so we removed the link. You may have to type it in rather than copy and paste.

More Information

Wilderness in the City Met Council Parks & Trails Policy In-Depth Information
Met Council Parks & Trails:  Raintry Salk, 651-602-1669, or Jan Youngquist, 651-602-1029
Met Council Draft Regional Parks System Policy Plan (118 pages, 3.5 MB pdf)



Summary of Citizen Advisory Panel Meetings 4-7

Dodge Nature Center person dodge nature center cleared

Dakota County’s construction clearance for the North Urban Regional Trail through Dodge Nature Center. This is the same size and type of trial proposed through Lebanon Hills Regional Park. 
Meeting 4 – Natural Resource Restoration
Meetings 5, 6, & 7 – Trails Overview
Meeting Format
Meeting Schedule

Natural Resource Restoration (meeting 4)

WHAT THEY SAY:  Approximately $650,000 per year is projected for Stewardship Spending in Lebanon Hills beginning in 2015. ~ paid consultant to panel members, 7/17/14.

Nat Res spending graph

WHAT THEY DO:  Projected Natural Resource spending for the entire Dakota County park system is $511,000 per year from 2015-2018, 4.6% of the total park budget.  ~ Proposed 2015-2019 Parks and Greenways [Trails] Budget

Reality Check:The County has proposed less stewardship spending for the entire park system then what they projected for Lebanon Hills alone.

More Information:  The 2001 plan established firm guidelines — “As decisions are made regarding implementation and funding strategies, all four implementation categories [ecological stewardship, water resources, acquisition, development] will be of equal priority.” ( 2001 Master Plan, p. S.6)  Even with these guidelines, the County spent 4 times more on development then on ecological stewardship.

By comparison, the draft 2013 development plan has no guidelines for funding and implementation of natural resource projects relative to development projects.  That means there is no accountability for the county to prioritize funding or implementation of natural resource stewardship.

Alternate Suggestion: To assure natural resources are given adequate consideration in years ahead, all master plan updates should include the implementation categories and priorities which were established and approved in the 2001 master plan.

Trails Overview (Meetings 5, 6, 7)

Connector Trail Comparison:  proposed 2013 Corridor through the middle of park with No Build option. ~ paid consultant to panel members, 8/21/14

1. Environmental Sensitivity:  Both options rated equally as “Best”. 
Reality Check: Proposed 2013 Connector Trail30′ to 80′ wide clearance of woodlands and prairies for 6.5 miles (24 to 63 acres); undisclosed amounts of cut and fill for grading;  building of retaining walls and additional support structures; snow/ice removal through park’s ecological systems.
2. Cost:  Both options rated equally as “Best”.
Reality Check:   $3,373,500 estimated cost for Connector Trail (2013 Draft Development Plan, p. 166).  Estimated annual expense for maintenance and eventual replacement has not been provided.  Dakota County will be responsible for the undisclosed ongoing annual expenses.

Why the County needs a Connector Trail in the park:

WHAT THEY SAY:  Paved trails will offer more recreational opportunities and allow better access for the elderly, mobility disabled, and moms with strollers.

WHAT THEY DO:  Plan a commuter road-like trail for bike speeds up to 20mph.

Reality Check:  Dakota County is “opportunistic” with regard to funding.  Money sources for trails include State and Federal transportation funds.  ~ Steve Sullivan, Dakota County Parks Director, to panel members (9/25/14)

  • Regional Bike Trails are eligible for State and Federal Transportation Funds if they meet strict criteria.
  • Criteria include:  10-12′ wide asphalt with additional width for curves; 2′ mowed zone on either side;  additional clearance for sight-lines of 150′;  5% grade; free of snow and ice; intended for transportation and recreation.
  • 2013 proposed Connector Trail meets the criteria for transportation funding.
  • Lebanon Hills is envisioned as the Hub of Dakota County’s planned regional trail network.

More Information:  Trails planned for recreation-only have no strict criteria which allows for greater flexibility when designing trails for all abilities, less environmental impact, and lower annual costs.

  • 2001 connector trail: Planned as a recreation trail to connect park amenities;  designed to keep in character with the park.
  • 2013 connector trail: Planned as part of the county’s Regional Trail Network for bike speeds up to 20mph;  designed to meet criteria for transportation funding.

Alternate Suggestion:  Trails designed for bicycle commuting speeds of 20 mph should connect to, but not be constructed through, Lebanon Hills.  Trails within Lebanon Hills should accommodate only passive recreation, not transportation.


  • Paid consultants present different parts of the plan and ask for comments, the same format as the public open houses.
  • The plan has not been changed in response to previous public comments.
  • The panel is not charged with anything more than making comments.
  • The final decision is up to the Board of Commissioners — your elected representatives.

Our Goal Remains – Meaningful Citizen Involvement in creating the master plan update prior to its adoption.


Citizen Panel Meetings

November LHRP Citizen Advisory Panel meeting #9
Thursday, 11/13, 6pm, Location TBD

- Agenda: Recreational Use Areas and Connector Trail
- Meeting is open to the public. There is no opportunity for comments.

Final Meetings Schedule

  • Thurs, 11/13 — Recreational Use Areas and Connector Trail
  • One more meeting is being added , yet to be scheduled.

Citizen Panel Posts – all our meeting agenda, recap, and summary posts:
7/11/14 – After three panel meetings, our evaluation of the process
7/11/14 – Notice of fourth panel meeting & agenda
6/15/14 – Recap of second panel meeting
6/10/14 – Notice of second panel meeting & agenda
6/5/14 – Recap of first panel meeting
4/30/14 – Notice of panel facilitator hiring
4/9/14 – Advisory panel appointments by County Commissioners