The Eagan Core Greenway, a proposed 300-acre swath of open land with Patrick Eagan Park as its centerpiece, now has more finances to back up the visions of those who champion it.
Earlier this month the Minnesota DNR’s Metro Greenways Program awarded an $8,000 grant to do some of the planning needed to lay the foundation for the greenway.
"Given this year's budget, it took a little longer to secure, but the Eagan Core Greenway concept is just the kind of project that the Metro Greenways Program was intended to support," said Al Singer, Metro Greenways coordinator.
The purpose of the grant is to assist in planning and developing the Eagan Core Greenway initiative, Singer said.
The grant is to be matched by the city of Eagan. Application for the grant was a collaborative effort between Eagan-based Friends of Patrick Eagan Park, the Trust for Public Land, and the Sierra Club's local North Star Chapter.
The "greenway" would be a protected corridor of more than 300 acres that are now largely undeveloped, and would extend from Patrick Eagan Park to Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
The greenway also would include land north and east of the park, along with Caponi Art Park to the south, several city parks, including the Lexington-Diffley Athletic Fields, Goat Hill Park, Walnut Hill Park, Trapp Farm Park, and wetlands and private property between Trapp Farm Park and Lebanon Hills.
"We are delighted and excited about this opportunity," said Jack Conrad, an Eagan resident who is one of the organizers of Friends of Patrick Eagan Park. "We see this as a special opportunity. For those of us who care about Eagan parks and green space, this is a very positive thing."
The area surrounding and including Patrick Eagan Park was identified as a potential location for a municipal golf course earlier this year before a citizens task force decided the option wasn’t financially feasible.
A new "Embrace Open Space" campaign by the Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation recently selected Patrick Eagan Park and the Eagan Core Greenway as one 10 "Twin Cities Treasures." The treasures identified in the campaign are open spaces that the Foundation said should be protected.
The Trust for Public Land has initiated discussions with interested landowners, city staff, and park commissioners to acquire and conserve these properties and other greenway sites.
The metro greenways program provides grants to proposals that "have high overall ecological significance, involve willing donors/sellers, be supported by interested parties (nearby residents, local community, elected officials) and not exceed the funding limits of the program."
The potential site must have a natural resource management plan that is jointly developed between the applicant and the DNR.
"Ultimately, the Eagan Core Greenway will represent an important permanent open space of never developed or softly developed land designated to enhance local citizens' quality of life as well as the regional ecosystem," Conrad said.
Conrad said the effort with the Eagan Core Greenway is just one step in a run of positive developments when it comes to environmental issues in Dakota County.
From the decision not to use Patrick Eagan Park as a golf course, through the greenway effort and to Dakota County open space levy referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot, Conrad said it’s been a good year so far.
He also pointed to Eagan residents’ support for preserving open space as evidenced by 57 percent of respondents in a recent city survey who said they would be willing to pay more in taxes for open space and parks.
While that same survey also showed that residents preferred a plan that preserved scattered parcels of open space rather than in one area, Conrad said that's an "either/or" question wasn’t fair.
"If you are going to ask Eagan residents if they want open space preserved across the city or in one spot, of course you know what they are going to answer," he said. "But with this we already have parties willing to help out and provide the seed money to make this a reality."
For more information on Friends of Patrick Eagan Park visit www.friendsofpatrickeaganpark.org