The "gem of Eagan," as some citizens call a 110-acre park the city is considering as a site for a golf course, has a new, vocal proponent: the Sierra Club.
The North Star chapter recently voted to add Patrick Eagan Park to its Top 10 list of Endangered Green Spaces in the state. With the support of a local Audubon Society chapter and active citizens' groups in Eagan, those who oppose developing a golf course at the park now may have added weight in the debate.
"This park is not something that should be destroyed, it is something that can be treasured and valued every day of the year," said Sharon Stephens, Sierra Club chapter chair of the legal and sprawl and land use committees. The natural hardwood forest at the park needs to be protected, she said. The Sierra Club has a strong record of successfully protecting wildlife areas in the state. The organization is fighting to save Spirit Mountain Recreational Area in Duluth from being developed into a golf course. The Duluth City Council voted Monday to deny work permits to develop the area. No details are known yet about what the proposed golf course in Eagan would look like or how much it would cost to build because it's still early in the process.
The about 250-acre site under study includes Patrick Eagan Park and privately owned land generally west of Lexington Avenue and north of Diffley Road. It's unknown at this point how much of the park could be used for the golf course, but the mayor has said it won't be the entire park. City officials have said the public could benefit from a championship golf course. The idea arose after the city and other partners completed a survey of area businesses. The Eagan Golf Course Exploratory Committee, comprised of about 60 citizens, started studying the idea last summer. They're expected to make a recommendation to City Council in February. The Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter president recently wrote a letter to Eagan Mayor Pat Awada, stating the chapter's opposition to disrupting the park.
"There are places in the park where a quiet soul can be transported a hundred miles from the city in just moments," wrote president Douglas Mayo. "It is difficult to understand how the city of Eagan could propose to destroy this unique asset ..."
A fourth golf course in Eagan isn't warranted and the park should be a nature reserve, said Lauren Florine, a leader in the Save Patrick Eagan Park Organization.
"If Pat Awada wanted to build the Eiffel Tower in Eagan, would we let her?" Florine asked. "That's clearly what she's trying to do here because there's not an interest in a new golf course."
Awada countered: "The interest is community-wide and what I hear from people is that there are many who are in favor of a golf course." No decision has been made about whether a golf course will be built and if it is, where it will be located, the mayor said. "It's a community task force looking at the issue," Awada said. "If the council wanted the golf course and was dead set on it, it would have made that decision itself six months ago rather than bring the issue to the community to debate."
Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at email@example.com or (651) 228-5262.