Ever since the city of Eagan began exploring the idea of a championship golf course in Patrick Eagan Park, groups like Friends of Patrick Eagan Park have been looking for ways to premanently protect the undeveloped area. Even after the Eagan Golf Course Committee found that the idea would not be feasible, efforts to protect the space continued on.
Now the effort has gotten a boost from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which recently awarded the city of Eagan $8,000 through its Metro Greenways Program to help develop an Eagan Core Greenway.
The grant will be matched by the city of Eagan.
The goal of the Eagan Core Greenway initiative is to recognize and preserve more than 400 acres of mostly undeveloped land, including 102-acre Patrick Eagan Park. The greenway would span roughly two miles from the park through Caponi Art Park to Lebanon Hills Regional Park, and would encompass Patrick McCarthy's land and a series of city parks. Friends of Patrick Eagan Park calls the area a contiguous ecosystem and wildlife corridor.
The Eagan Core Greenway recently got attention when it was designated one of the Twin Cities top 10 treasures by the McKnight Foundation's Embrace Open Space campaign, which called Patrick Eagan Park the city's "crown jewel." The year long campaign aims to promote awareness of threatened open spaces in the Twin Cities.
"The Embrace open Space campaign is an effort to get people talking about how we want our region to look in the next few years, as well as 20 years from now when we will have more than half a million new residents," said Rip Rapson, president of the McKnight Foundation. "We hope that protecting open spaces becomes a community priority, one that is seen as an enhancement of economic development, not a barrier."
DNR Metro Greenways coordinator Al Singer said that the grant will be used to help plan and develop a core greenway in Eagan.
"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 intended to support," he said.
According to the DNR, the Metro Greenways Program helps local units of government and citizens more effectively incorporate nature into their communities. In the last four years, the program has awarded nearly $1 million in matching grants to help communities manage and preserve their natural areas.
Several groups that have taken an interest in the Eagan Core Greenway area collectively applied for the grant, including the Sierra Club's local North Star Chapter, the Trust for Public Land and Friends of Patrick Eagan Park.
"This is a really exciting prospect," said Jack Conrad, a member of Friends of Patrick Eagan Park. "We will do everything we can to keep it moving forward."
Conrad said the threat of a golf course on park land last year really opened people's eyes.
"That really energized people. We are going to remain vigilant because we had a rude awakening last year," he said.
Conrad said 80 percent of the Eagan Core Greenway land is already there, but two significant parcels have not yet been secured: the Anderson property and the Patrick McCarthy property, both of which are in the vicinity of Patrick Eagan Park.
While the grant money won't be enough to buy land, Conrad said it will be good seed money to allow for planning and decisions to take place. And with all of the groups interested in protecting this land, the money could eventually have a multiplying effect, he said, so that the city itself wouldn't need to contribute more than seed money if necessary.
"It's important for us to come together as a commmunity and preserve this valuable land," he said. "This (grant) is a really significant statement they're making. They understand the importance this holds not only for our community but for the region."
For more information on the Eagan Core Greenway, log on to www.friendsofpatrickeaganpark.org.