More than two decades since its inception, St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park will almost be complete in the near future. The purchase of 102 acres on the park’s northern edge will allow for development of a new group campground, day use area, and a sandy beach on the river.
The Washington County board of commissioners approved the purchase at a meeting this week. The Metropolitan Council will provide 75 percent of the funding, with the county’s voter-approved Land and Water Protection Fund supplying the rest.
“This purchase would just about complete the entirety of the St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park,” said Sharon Price, acquisition planner.
Acquiring the parcel will add about 1,000 feet of protected shoreline to the St. Croix Bluffs, which already includes approximately 4,000 feet of shoreline.
In 1996, the county acquired the former Ceridian Corp. employee park and began work on a master plan for the site. The plan, released in 2002, set park boundaries including private property the county hoped to acquire in the future.
At a total cost of $2.9 million, the new acquisition almost completes that goal. The county will purchase it from the Rowe Trust, which initiated the sale.
“The area we are recommending to purchase is critical to any vision we have for the park system,” Price told the county board.
Once the new parcel has been purchased, there will be only 20 acres left in private ownership within the master plan’s boundaries. That land has an occupied farmstead on it, and is not a priority for acquisition nor essential to planned park facilities.
“I really endorse this, I think it would be a great addition to the park,” said commissioner Wayne Johnson, who represents the district where the park is located. “I really look forward to going over there.”
St. Croix Bluffs is currently 579 acres in size. The 2002 master plan points out that this is not large enough to achieve a “critical mass,” and that adding land and facilities would “greatly enhance” its ability to provide for recreation and green space.
The parcel to be purchased includes primarily farm fields and forests. It presents opportunities for ecological restoration, including planting native prairie vegetation, and managing invasive species for healthy woodlands.
“Although there are some significant ecological issues that must be addressed, the land area that the park encompasses is truly impressive and an important respite from the ever encroaching development occurring in this region,” the 2002 Master Plan reads.
Providing wildlife habitat is a key goal besides recreation facilities, and the diverse landscapes of the park and the new parcel will help achieve it.
While owned and operated by Washington County, St. Croix Bluffs is part of the metro area’s Regional Park System, which is overseen by the Metropolitan Council. Funding comes from government bonds, the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, the Land and Legacy Fund, and interest earnings.
With the Met Council funding $2.1 million of the purchase, the county will pay $737,000 from its Land and Water Legacy Program. In 2006, voters approved 61 to 39 percent a tax increase to pay for the program, which costs property-owners approximately $12 per $100,000 in property value for 10 years.