The on-again, off-again purchase of prime shoreline along Lake Waconia to enlarge a park has been resolved.
Carver County commissioners signed and approved a $3.6 million amended purchase agreement last week for a 19-acre parcel that will expand Lake Waconia Regional Park.
“This is the last parcel to complete the regional park, so it opens up a lot of additional opportunities,” said County Administrator Dave Hemze. “The park is considered the gem of Carver County, if not one of the gems of the entire region.”
The undeveloped land includes 890 feet of shoreline and a 40-foot hill that offers a picturesque view of the lake, Coney Island and the surrounding area. Lake Waconia is the second-largest lake in the metro area after Lake Minnetonka. It is popular for sailing, water skiing and fishing, and hosted the Governor’s Fishing Opener last May.
Last week’s deal came after a public announcement last November that the county had agreed to purchase the land for $3.25 million. However, the Pauls family, which owns the land, had not signed the purchase agreement at that time, according to their attorney.
Hemze said the county then requested a delay because of changing rules about how it would pay for the land.
Under last year’s rules, he said, the county needed to contribute 25 percent of the price, or about $800,000. The remainder would come from two funds channeled through the Metropolitan Council, including some money from the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund approved by Minnesota voters in 2008.
A few days after the November announcement, Hemze said, the county realized that the council’s funding formula would change in 2013, and the county would not need to pay the 25 percent match if it waited a couple of months.
“It was really in our interest at that point to discuss with the landowner waiting until 2013,” Hemze said.
However, the landowner faced higher capital gains taxes if the sale happened in 2013, so the whole package needed to be renegotiated. The final settlement boosted the price to $3.6 million, with most of the increase “to make the landowner whole,” Hemze said. The price was based on a property appraisal, he said, and the county also benefited from the delay by not having to pay matching fees.
The closing date now is June 14, and Hemze said he expects no further complications.
New boat access planned
County Parks Director Marty Walsh said the 19 acres will expand Lake Waconia Regional Park to 135 acres, as envisioned in a 1995 master plan. About six acres of the addition is planned for a public boat access and parking area in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR operates one public boat access with 40 parking spaces on the east side of the lake, but it’s crowded all summer. The congestion and overflow parking along County Road 92 have created hazardous conditions, especially on weekends, DNR officials said.
Walsh said the acquisition also clears the way to remove an old beach lane and to replace it with a bicycle and pedestrian trail connection from the city of Waconia to the park. Overhead utility lines also will be moved away from the lakeshore, he said, improving the aesthetic qualities of the shoreline.
Walsh said there was an old farmstead on the site, so a silo and some building debris will be removed for safety purposes. He also said the county will build a trail to the top of the hill, and he expects people to be enjoying the view already this summer.
“It’ll be a fantastic place to watch the Fourth of July fireworks over the lake,” he said. “There’s an unbelievable view from that vantage.”