Wayzata, MN, Will Vote to Protect Land

WAYZATA, Minnesota, 7/15/03 – In a 5-0 vote on July 15th, the Wayzata City Council approved a resolution to allow a referendum to protect a 22-acre property on the city’s eastern edge containing the region’s last remnants of the Big Woods that once covered much of Minnesota’s landscape. The council’s decision will allow for negotiations to move forward to acquire approximately 15 acres that will be subject to a conservation easement to protect it from further development. The vote also calls for a $3 million bond referendum to be held on November 4th. Protection of the property is contingent on voter approval of this bond measure and a private fundraising effort being led by Wayzata citizens organized as the Friends of the Big Woods.

“The Wayzata City Council needs to be commended for their thoughtful consideration of this opportunity,” noted Susan Schmidt, Minnesota Director of the Trust for Public Land (TPL). “They diligently worked through complex and important issues in order to allow this question to be put to the voters.”

TPL is a national nonprofit conservation organization working with citizen leaders and city officials to ensure the protection of the site. TPL has led the negotiations with the current landowner and is advising local leaders regarding public and private financing. $1.8 million is being raised through private contributions to support this protection. $2 million will come from The Retreat, a private educational retreat center for recovering alcoholics. The Retreat will purchase approximately five acres and the former Cenacle Retreat Center buildings – which will also be subject to a conservation easement. The fall referendum could provide the final $3m needed for the acquisition and protection of the site.

“Community leaders, including members of the Friends of the Big Woods, have already dedicated countless hours and received pledges of nearly $800,000 towards this effort,” added Susan Schmidt. “The commitment so far has been amazing.”

Earlier this summer, City Council members passed a resolution approving a November 4 referendum but raised a series of concerns that needed to be addressed by a second resolution before the proposal could move ahead. After two city council meetings and a public hearing, Council Members approved the resolution in a 5-0 vote. The vision for the site is for low-impact public use, which might include an unpaved foot trail in the woods. Existing parking spaces would be available for visitors.

More information on the Cenacle protection effort can be found at www.wayzatabigwoods.org.