Cornerstone Secured for Future Prior Lake Park (MN)

Scott County, 11/8/2007: Chuck and Carol Pavlish always treasured their 30 acre natural sanctuary on the shores of Pike Lake where they raised their children. Chuck, a retired school teacher and former National Park Ranger, had always hoped to find a way to preserve the natural features of this lakeshore property–a haven for many species of birds and wildlife. For years the Pavlishes had turned down developers who were interested in buying the property on account of a new highway coming in nearby. But when Carol received a nursing professorship at UCLA necessitating a move, the Pavlishes knew they would quickly have to make some hard decisions regarding their cherished land. Chance led them to the Duck Rally where they met Bob McGillivray of The Trust for Public Land (TPL), who has worked with the Pavlishes to conserve their property.

Today, TPL announced that this 30 acres of land vital to water quality and wildlife habitat in rapidly-growing Scott County is now permanently protected for future generations to enjoy. The national land conservation organization purchased the property from the Pavlishes and conveyed it to the City of Prior Lake. The City of Prior Lake will operate the property as a natural area park open to the public that will form the cornerstone of a much larger neighborhood park. The property comprises half of the shoreline of Pike Lake, includes a small island and part of Prior Creek, and is adjacent to the popular YMCA Camp Kici Yapi. The future Pike Lake Community Park will provide the public excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, canoeing, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

“The acquisition of this 30-acre natural gem reflects the city council’s priority to preserve pristine Prior Lake beauty through partnerships with organizations like The Trust for Public Land,” said Prior Lake Mayor Jack Haugen. “Because of efforts like this our residents now, and forever, will enjoy the serenity and beauty which is the City of Prior Lake.”

Scott County is one of the fastest growing counties in the country, with the population of the City of Prior Lake alone increasing by 123% between 1995-2000. Within that city, this serene shallow lake is under particular development pressure due to extension of County Road 21 over the next few years. This acquisition not only protects important habitat in a critical wildlife corridor, but will also improve water quality and provide recreational opportunities for thousands of new residents.

“In rapidly growing communities like Prior Lake, it is important to consider setting some land aside not only to provide critical habitat for wildlife, but also for people to enjoy as parks and natural areas,” said Bob McGillivray, a Senior Project Manager with The Trust for Public Land. “TPL was happy to be able to help the Pavlishes and the City of Prior Lake achieve their conservation goals.”

Pike Lake is situated in a regionally significant ecological and water corridor linking Prior Lake with the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge on the Minnesota River. This acquisition thus also provides an opportunity to protect water quality. With 650 feet of Prior Creek running through this property and over a half mile of lakeshore, its conservation is critical to maintaining water quality functions.

In addition to negotiating and coordinating this acquisition, TPL worked with the City to find the money for it. Funding ultimately was provided by the City of Prior Lake, the Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District, the McKnight Foundation, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Natural and Scenic Area and Remediation Fund grant programs. (The Natural and Scenic Area grant was funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, State bonding, and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.)

“We were impressed with how the Pike Lake project protects a significant amount of shoreline in a rapidly-growing area,” said Wayne Sames, Local Grants Program Supervisor at the DNR. “Pike Lake Park will create meaningful opportunities for nature-based environmental education and recreation for many generations of residents.”

Without the vision of the Pavlishes, this property could have been developed with approximately 20 houses. The City of Prior Lake will now be able to provide current and future residents with a place to enjoy nature close to home.

“That so many everyday citizens and agencies joined to create this park to protect habitat and wildlife and provide a human outdoor experience, surely proves that people do care deeply about our natural heritage. We are fortunate to be part of the project,” said Chuck Pavlish.

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 81,000 acres valued at more than $62 million including the recent protection of Pilot Knob in Mendota Heights, the 475-acre DNR State Aquatic and Wildlife Management Area on the Vermillion River in Dakota County, and the Chainsaw Sisters Saloon in Ely. TPL depends on contributions from supporters to continue protecting land throughout the state.