475 Acres On MN’s Vermillion River Protected

November 28, 2005: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced that, through a collaborative effort, a stretch of one of the best of the remaining trout streams in the Twin Cities region has been protected. The nonprofit land conservation group acquired a 475-acre parcel along the Vermillion River from James and Laura Miles and conveyed it to the State of Minnesota. This $2.4 million acquisition was made possible by the commitment of the Miles Family to sell the property below its market value.

“This was my father’s vision,” said Henry Miles. “He wanted this historic farm to be returned to nature. My family wishes to thank the public and TPL for helping make this vision a reality.”

The land will be available to the public in the future as a State Aquatic and Wildlife Management Area open for public hunting and fishing. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will manage and maintain the property.

“This property will provide wonderful experiences for people. We owe the Miles Family our sincere gratitude,” said TPL project manager Bob McGillivray.

As part of one of the largest undeveloped tracts remaining in central Dakota County, this acquisition is the first step toward establishing a major natural area complex for the region. In addition to this DNR property, Dakota County is currently planning a regional park just to the north of the Miles property. This park, the acquired Miles property, and adjacent land owned by the University of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council are envisioned to be managed cooperatively with shared facilities. Once completed, citizens will be able to enjoy all four areas as a greater natural area complex containing thousands of acres.

The uniqueness of this area and its opportunities has led the McKnight Foundation to recognize it as one of the Twin Cities’ Top Ten Treasures in its Embrace Open Space Campaign.

This conservation effort is an ongoing initiative by TPL, the DNR, and Dakota County to protect remaining undeveloped stretches of the Vermillion River threatened by rapid development. “Dakota County is growing rapidly,” said Joseph Harris, chair of the Dakota County Board of Commissioners. “Through collaborative efforts like this, we can balance residential development with protecting natural resources while providing outdoor recreational opportunities for current and future residents. I think this is the kind of project many residents envisioned when they passed the County referendum in 2002 that generated $20 million to protect farmland and natural areas.”

For years the 475-acre property was privately owned and not accessible to the public. The property includes more than a mile of the Vermillion River and a scenic knoll offering panoramic views of the river. Among the remaining local trout streams in the Twin Cities area, the Vermillion is one of the best. Its wooded banks, winding route, and cool waters make it a prime habitat for trout. Working with the landowners, TPL was able to develop and finalize the acquisition for the DNR.

“The Vermillion River and the lands around it would be worthy of conservation no matter where they were,” said DNR regional fisheries manager Dirk Peterson. “Their location within a short drive of several million people in the metro region make them all the more important, because providing outdoor recreational opportunities close to where people live is critical to maintaining future support for conservation.”

This conservation achievement was made possible by the Trust for Public Land; Butler Family Foundation Special Projects Giving; the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife, Metro Greenways Program, and Land and Water Conservation Account; the Dakota County Farmland and Natural Area Program; the Metro Conservation Corridors Program; and the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources.

In addition to its nonprofit and governmental partners, Braun Intertec, one of the Midwest’s premier engineering and environmental consulting firms, began working with the Trust for Public Land and the Miles family in 2003. Braun Intertec (www.braunintertec.com) evaluated existing conditions at the property that included petroleum releases from abandoned underground tanks, buried debris, abandoned natural gas pipelines and several water production wells that required testing and proper abandonment.

The Trust for Public Land is a national, nonprofit land-conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Established in 1972, TPL is the only national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for public enjoyment and use. In Minnesota, TPL has protected more than 27,500 acres valued at more than $46 million including the recent protection of Caponi Art Park in Eagan, an addition to the future Neenah Creek Regional Park in St. Cloud, and the creation of the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in downtown St. Paul. TPL depends on contributions from supporters to continue protecting land throughout the state. Visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org