Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Lebanon Hills Master Plan Approved – Our Review

Posted 3/23/15

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

Posted 2/25/15

2015 Lebanon Hills Revised Development Master Plan

Our single page 2015 Draft Plan Summary of elements from the draft plan including:

  • Natural Resources:  Since 2001, Dakota County has not committed adequate funding to assure successful restoration in Lebanon Hills. The 2015 draft plan will allow this trend to continue.
  • Connector Trail:  Revised plan emphasizes recreational use, but design criteria did not change:  6 miles; at least 10′ wide asphalt; free of snow/ice; wide construction clearance; grading terrain to 5% requiring cut/fill and structural support;  site lines recommended for bike speeds up to 20mph.
  • Additional Capital Development:  Dakota County Commissioners have not gone on record to state how they will adequately fund increases for annual expenses at Lebanon Hills while also adequately funding pertinent park services such as natural resource stewardship, staffing, marketing and programming.

The complete 224-page Lebanon Hills Revised Development Master Plan (PDF). It is also available at the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center and at all Dakota County library branches.  An open house is not expected to be scheduled.

Lebanon Hills in the Media

​Everyone loses if Lebanon Hills plan approved, Star Tribune (2/17/15)
Lebanon Hills park plan faces second round of scrutiny, Star Tribune (2/3/15)
More to Maintain, Pioneer Press (2/5/15)
Aging Trails and Maintenance Costs
, Star Tribune (1/30/15)
“As trail costs grow, some are worried about the impact on parks, which often rely on the same funding sources …. At a recent Dakota County meeting, residents railed against the addition of a paved trail through Lebanon Hills Regional Park, …saying trail maintenance costs seem unsustainable… “There’s so much at the park that needs to be rejuvenated, cared for and maintained,” said Anne Koutnik, of Eagan. Dakota County plans to spend $32.3 million developing greenway trails over the next five years, but just $2.1 million on all parks and trails maintenance.”

Sun Thisweek Newspaper
Friends of Eagan Core Greenway oppose trail plan (2/19/15)
Wrong path for Lebanon Hills (2/19/15)
Lebanon Hills should come before greenway (2/19/15)
Don’t add more pavement to Lebanon Hills (2/19/15)
Preserve Lebanon Hills Wilderness (2/12/15)
Unintended Consequences (2/12/15)
The right questions for Lebanon Hills (2/12/15)
County seeks comment on Lebanon Hills (2/11/15)
To be or not to be Forever Wild, (2/5/15)
Pot calling the kettle black (2/5/15)
Trail to nowhere ( 1/29/15)
Panel was effective, (1/29/15)
Development plan off course (1/22/15)
Lebanon Hills Master Plan ‘Mis’ Plan (1/15/15)
Citizen Panel missed opportunity, 1/5/15)

 

2/1/15

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 include a Citizen Advisory Panel. The panel had until December 31, 2014 to review and comment on specific elements of the 2014 draft plan. On 1/13/15 the Dakota County Board directed county staff to revise the draft plan and put it open for public comment. The County Board is expected to vote on the plan in March 2015.

Revised 2015 Master Plan

The complete 224-page revised draft plan is available online, at the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center and at all Dakota County library branches.  An open house is not expected to be scheduled.

  • The revisions are based on the citizen panel final report, which was the result of an 8-month long, roughly $200,000 process.
  • “Meeting agendas were set and dominated by staff and by the County’s paid consultants…the panel was never presented with a comprehensive picture of the financial implications of various Plan elements…it became difficult to fully embrace Plan elements without knowing how their costs would affect park operations long-term or what their true cost would be to the taxpayers of Dakota County.”  [panel member representing district 3, p. 46, Citizen Panel Final Report]
  • “The panel was created and proceedings controlled in a manner that would enable Dakota County to change the direction Lebanon Hills was heading…” [Minority Report submitted to County Board, panel member appointed at-large]

What’s in the Revised Draft Plan

“Inability to complete the paved, bike able trail through Lebanon Hills would undermine the quality of the greenway network concept…” (p. 186)

Connector Trail
  • 10-ft paved trail with 2-ft clear zones on either side
  • Year round, multi-use, graded for ADA-compliance
  • Snow removal and ice control
  • Hazard tree removal and pruning for adequate clear zone
Development at every trailhead, including:
  • Building expansions
  • New picnic shelters / restrooms
  • Driveways and asphalt road
  • New and expanded parking lots
Financials
Implementation Guidelines

Current 2001 Master Plan – “…taking a balanced approach to implementation was found to offer the highest potential toward ensuring that both cultural and ecological values are realized.  Under this approach, ecological, water resource, and physical development concerns will be of equal priority as decisions are made regarding implementation strategies, funding packages, and maintenance and operations budget allocations. (p. 6.9, 2001 Master Plan)

Proposed 2015 Draft Plan – No defined implementation guidelines.
  • If approved, the county has complete discretion over what projects will be implemented.
  • There is no accountability to any particular project category, including natural resources.
  • Even with balanced guidelines approved in the 2001 plan, spending on development was the largest spending category, with more than triple the amount invested in ecological stewardship.

Where to Find the 2015 Draft Plan

The complete 224-page revised draft plan is available online, at the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center and at all Dakota County library branches.  An open house is not expected to be scheduled.

 

Recap of 1/13 Dakota County Board Committee Meeting

The Dakota County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the Lebanon Hills Citizen Panel Final Report and direct staff to revise the controversial draft plan, per staff recommendations, some of which are:

  • The preferred Connector surface is bituminous asphalt and the preferred width is 10 feet.
  • Lebanon Hills should provide basic recreation that County residents seek elsewhere now, e.g., easy walking, jogging, ADA-accessible trails, recreation biking for all ages and abilities.
  • Redesign the middle park soft trails as multi-use (shared horse- hike).
  • Share horse trails in the southeast park area with hikers (high priority).

Minority Report Submitted

A Minority Report was submitted to the Board of Commissioners by panel member, Holly Jenkins. “The Citizen Advisory Panel was not established to participate in the process of updating the 2001 Master Plan…the Panel was created and proceedings controlled in a manner that would enable Dakota County to change the direction Lebanon Hills was heading…”

What’s Next?

  • Staff will revise the controversial draft plan, followed by a 30-day public review and comment period.
  • Wilderness in the City will send notice as soon as revised draft plan is available.
  • Commissioners will consider final plan adoption in March 2015.

What You Can Do

Dakota County Board of Commissioners retains full authority and discretion to adopt the development master plan as it deems appropriate. Comments are valuable for public record and the future of Lebanon Hills.  

  1. Submit comments to:  board@co.dakota.mn.us AND CC:  planning@co.dakota.mn.us  Online comments must be received by planning department to be included in public record.
  2. Submit comments to Individual Commissioners  NOTE:  New Commissioner for LAKEVILLE residents.
  3. Comment directly to the Board at their 1/20 meeting.
  4. CONTINUE TO INFORM OTHERS.
1/8/15

Lebanon Hills Controversy in the Press

Lebanon-hills-park-master-mis-plan, Sun Thisweek, 1/15/15
Lebanon Hills Missed Opportunity
, Sun Thisweek, 1/8/15

Final Citizen Panel Report

A final report will be submitted to the Board of Commissioners by end of year.

The Citizen Panel was directed to review and comment on certain elements of the 2014 draft development plan and report to the county board on consensus basis the results of the Panel’s review and comment.

The board will consider these comments but is not obligated to adopt any consensus recommendations reported by the panel or to give panel recommendations any particular weight relative to other information provided to them from other members of the public, organization, entities and its own staff and consultants.

The County Board, your elected representatives, retains full authority and discretion to adopt the plan.

12/5/14

Citizen Panel Influence

The Lebanon Hills Citizen Panel operational guidelines state that the Dakota County Board retains full authority and discretion to adopt the master plan, and is not obligated to give panel recommendations any particular weight relative to other information provided to the board from its own staff and consultants or other members of the public.

11/7/14

Support Our Work

Click the image to give to Wilderness in the City.
Give to the Max day is Thursday, November 13, but you can ‘beat the rush’ by making a scheduled gift today. Give it a try! We hope you’ll feel good knowing that you are supporting our work to preserve urban natural spaces like Lebanon Hills Regional Park.  All donations are tax deductible.

10/21/14

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

WHAT THEY SAY:
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.

MEETING FORMAT

  • 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.

10/29/14

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