At a real estate closing that was decades in the making, the preservation of Eagan's Caponi Art Park and Learning Center became a done deal Tuesday.
To their relief, Anthony and Cheryl Caponi signed off on the $5.4 million deal with the city, Dakota County and the nonprofit Caponi Art Park Board that oversees the couple's 60-acre art park.
"We've been at this so long that I have to get used to believing it," said retired Macalester College art professor Anthony Caponi. "We still need to pay off some of the bills, but the hard part is over. "I know the excitement will become more evident as we become more accustomed to it," he said after leaving an Apple Valley title company's office.
Caponi, 83, has been working on the park he has lined with stone pathways and sculptures for more than 30 years. The art park, on Diffley Road, holds classes and an artist-in-residence program and runs a concert series at its outdoor stage.
Local preservationists have helped protect the land, partly because it lies in the middle of Eagan's Core Greenway, an expanse of forest and green space that stretches from Patrick Eagan Park to Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
"We are very grateful to the Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway, who knocked door-to-door to enlist support," Caponi said.
The Eagan City Council this month took the final steps in its years-long bid to protect the property, unanimously approving eight governmental agreements and conservation easements.
The Caponis transferred 30 acres to the city and the remaining 30 acres to the Art Park Board in a preservation deal that has been financed by a host of nonprofits and government entities.
Contributions include $1.6 million from Eagan and Dakota County, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grants of $500,000 and the land the Caponis donated, valued at more than $1.2 million.
The Art Park Board took out a mortgage of nearly $1.9 million.
The Trust for Public Land - a national nonprofit organization that helps local groups purchase and conserve land - purchased 30 acres from the Caponis and then had that property deeded to the city of Eagan. The trust also helped coordinate the transaction, raised grant money and ran an environmental assessment and survey on the land.
"First and foremost, this is the culmination of (Caponi's) life's work," said Trust for Public Land project manager Bob McGillivray. "We're very happy. It's been a long process for everybody."