The possibility of a new park along the river in Stillwater, with nearly a mile of riverfront, took another step forward this week with the approval of a grant request by the Washington County board. Washington County is seeking state funding to help buy the property. As previously reported, neither the Minnesota DNR or the National Park Service are interested or able to buy the land.
The Pioneer Press reported that While Washington County is helping secure funding, the city of Stillwater would be the ultimate owners and manager of the park. The request for state conservation funds would match county money and other sources for acquisition and creation of park facilities:
The site would be restored to its natural state and is envisioned as a “nature park with passive recreational uses,” the proposal said. It could serve as a rest area or access spot for the future Brown’s Creek State Trail and as a new public access point to the St. Croix River.
“I think the combination of trail and riverfront on the north end of downtown works well together,” said Bill Turnblad, Stillwater’s community development director.
If the property becomes city-owned, it would create a nearly two-mile stretch of public riverfront, and would offer a more rustic spot to walk along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, Turnblad said.
“If the Aiple property were restored … it would feel like you’re in a non-urbanized area, like you’re in the woods,” Turnblad said. “That’s not the case in the rest of our riverfront area, most of that is pretty well manicured.”
The site also would allow for shore fishing, which isn’t common along the river due to high bluffs, Harper said.
In addition to preserving the land and opening it up to the public, the property is also strategically located at the Stillwater terminus of the new Brown’s Creek Trail, which will ultimately connect to St. Paul via the Gateway State Trail.
The Aiple family has agreed to work with the county before putting it on the market for possible development. According to Washington County, “This is the largest private holding of land along the St. Croix River within the City of Stillwater and is one of the longest stretches of St. Croix River frontage remaining in single ownership in Washington County.”
Map showing approximate location:
View Aiple Property Park Potential in a larger map