Lebanon Hills Regional Park

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.     

Posted 1/26/2016

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

Posted 1/14/2016

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

PipelineOpenHouse (2)     PipelineOpenHouseA (2)
Photos on display at pipeline Open House on Oct. 26, 2015. 

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 wheath@cleanwateraction.org, 612-627-1511.

See below for additional information about the pipeline project and what you can do to take action.
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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.

PipelineMap (2)

  • 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.

Project Status

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

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Posted 12/9/2015

Dakota County Board – Action Pending (details below)

On Tues., Dec., 15, 2015, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve the 2016 County Budget including funding for Parks and Trails. 

At this time, 2% of the budget is allocated to Natural Resources and 70% to greenway bike trail development.  Additional funding is allocated to acquisition (19%), grant matches (2%), maintenance (2%), park development (3%) and planning (2%). 

Natural Resource Accountability

In the past 2001 Master Plan, Natural Resources was a top priority:

“Although human use issues will continue to be of interest to citizens of the region, these pale in comparison to the important decisions that need to be made to preserve the natural systems in this park for future generations to enjoy.  Lacking a strong commitment to reverse the current ecological trends facing the park, its long-term prospects are much more suspect.  Today is indeed the time to take action and begin the slow, but all-important, process of long-term stewardship of these wonderful resources.” 

Implementation and funding of the 2001 Master Plan did not successfully reverse the downward trend of natural resources, and the proposed parks budget for 2016 may allow that trend to continue.  

The 2015 Master Plan states:

“Invasive species have degraded the park’s ecosystems and are preventing regeneration of native red oaks.  As the park’s oaks decline, other less desirable species, primarily buckthorn, will become dominant.  Buckthorn is well-established in the park and is the major threat.  It out-competes native vegetation, reduces wildlife diversity, causes erosion and contributes to declining water quality.” (2015 Master Plan, p. 64)

Natural Resource Restoration at Lebanon Hills

Largely due to public input, restoration efforts at Lebanon Hills have increased since 2014.

Restoration and management are long-term commitments, requiring intensive efforts up-front that can be costly.  Of equal important is funding for follow-up over the long term to ensure success.

The 2015 Master Plan estimates initial restoration costs between $3,000 per acre (prairies and savannas) to $5,000 per acre (forests, lakeshores and wetlands) over 5-7 years or longer.  In a presentation to the Citizen Advisory Panel for Lebanon Hills, the County’s ecological consultant stated that roughly $650,000 per year was projected for stewardship spending at Lebanon Hills.

Draft 2016-2020 Dakota County Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

Dakota County Board of Commissioners is in the process of approving the 2016-2020 Capital Improvement Program.  For 2016, $23.4 million is proposed for Parks and Trails including:

  • $511,000 (2%) for system-wide Natural Resources
  • $16,416,211 (70%) for Greenway Bike Trail Development

Additional Park CIP details are shown below.

For further consideration:  At their Dec. 1 Physical Development Committee meeting, staff requested Board direction on the County’s Environmental Legacy Fund, which includes a $37 million balance.  At this time, the Board has not yet committed these funds for the public record.

Dakota County Board – Action Pending

Tues., Dec., 15, 9am – Board of Commissioners Meeting — Third Floor, Government Center in Hastings, 1590 Hwy. 55 

Expected Action:  Adoption of the 2016 Dakota County Budget, including $23.5 million for Dakota County Parks and Trails.

  • Staff may present options to the Board for additional natural resource priorities at Lebanon Hills if the Board approves increased funding.
  • The Board may provide direction on use of the Environmental Legacy Fund.

Wilderness in the City strongly supports an increase in the County’s commitment to funding for natural resources, which would:

  1. Assure that staff has resources needed for best practice and long-term management of invasive species where restoration efforts at Lebanon Hills have started,
  2. Allow staff to continue making progress for additional acres restored in Lebanon Hills and throughout the park system.
  3. Provide for more balanced spending to better meet citizens expectations.

Comments on this issue can be submitted to the Board of Commissioners at:  board@co.dakota.mn.us

This meeting is open to the public.  Call 651-438-4418 for additional information.

Additional Park CIP Details

2016 Parks and Greenways CIP, $23,549,560

  • Acquisition (19.46%)  $4,583,333
  • Grant Match (2.34%)  $550,000
  • Greenway Dev (69.71%)  $16,416,211
  • Maintenance (1.61%)  $378,000
  • Natural Resources (2.34%)  $551,000
  • Park Development (3.04%)  $716,016
  • Planning (1.51%)  $355,000

What’s Planned at Lebanon Hills 

Natural Resource Projects - several years to completion

  • Buckthorn Management started (700 acres – County funded)
  • Buck Pond Restoration (175 acres — grant funded)
  • Tamarac Bog (23 acres – grant funded)
  • Star Pond (116 acres – pending grant approval)

Park Development Projects – 2016 (design/engineering) and 2017 (construction)

  • ADA-compliant paved trail around McDonough Lake
  • ADA-compliant paved trail at Holland Lake Trailhead to pier
  • Upkeep to deteriorated trail bridge at Bridge Pond
  • Upkeep to deteriorated A-frame building at Portage Lake
  • Facility Improvements at West Trailhead (Mountain Bike Trailhead) and Wheaton Pond (Campground)

Wilderness in the City will stay engaged as these projects are implemented, and will notify you when there is opportunity for public involvement.

 

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.