HJ/EDHerald Journal, Feb. 20, 2006

Carver park proposal meets objections from landowners

By Dave Cox
Staff Writer

Carver County’s plan to develop future parks and conservation lands in the Crow River area has met with strong opposition from local landowners.

At issue are the rights of property owners and the preservation of natural resources.

The conflict began when the county presented proposals for a forest preserve, and a greenway and trail project between Watertown and Mayer along the Crow River.

The concept includes an option that could create a regional trail system by connecting Mayer and the former Dakota Rail line with Watertown and the Luce Line Trail.

In response to the proposals, landowners along the south fork of the Crow River have circulated a petition stating that they are opposed to the land they own being mapped, designated, or identified in any manner as a regional park, regional reserve, or regional trail. The petition also states that the property owners are opposed to any process that could lead to condemnation or loss of any of their private property rights.

Resident comments at Wednesday’s Watertown Chamber of Commerce meeting included concerns that inclusion in an area designated as a regional park would reduce the market value of their property.

In a report presented at local meetings, Carver County Parks Director Martin Walsh stated that the county’s goal is to work with volunteer landowners and form partnerships with agencies and landowners.

Walsh stated that the county has no intention of using eminent domain to take property away from landowners.

Implementation of the concepts would also involve long-term planning at the local government level.

The county began the discussion with an open house in November 2004.

A steering committee was formed to guide discussions related to the concept.

The county is looking for ways to preserve natural resources in the Crow River area.

In his report, Walsh cited a 2004 survey that showed that 87 percent of respondents supported Carver County acquiring areas such as lake shore, woodland, prairie, rivers and streams for open space and parks.

Walsh also cited 1997 and 2001 county surveys that indicated that 96 percent of respondents supported management of remaining wooded and natural habitat areas in the county to preserve their value.

In the same surveys, 80 percent of the respondents supported the use of public money to purchase and preserve these areas.

Three concepts

In his report, Walsh outlined three concept plans.

One of the proposals involves a greenway and trail concept. This would include a buffer area, a regional trail, and canoe/watercraft launch facilities.

Goals of this concept include preservation of vegetation and wildlife within five miles of green corridor along a natural river, and providing a buffer zone for the river to filter storm water.

This concept would also provide a buffer zone between the river and development, and space for recreational activities.

Another proposal involves a forest feature concept that could include several hundred acres of floodplain and upland forest habitat.

This would also include an area of river shoreline.

The goal of the forest feature concept is to preserve a large forested area, to preserve wildlife, and to preserve a stretch of river shoreline.

Another goal of this concept is to provide recreational opportunities such as hiking, biking, boating, as well as camping, nature observation, and outdoor education.

The third concept plan would combine the goals of the greenway and forest feature concepts to provide a more comprehensive approach to resource management.

Walsh noted that failure to plan reduces opportunities, and that Carver County is among the fastest growing counties in Minnesota.

What’s next?

Future plans include a public open house to be scheduled in April.

The county is seeking input to find ways to preserve resources and provide recreational opportunities.

Walsh stated that the county’s goal is to work on areas of common interest.

Of particular interest is the preservation of views and natural resources that are under threat.

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