The owners of a 103-acre farm in Lakeville are ready to sell easements over 15 acres that will become part of a trail stretching from Apple Valley, to Eagan, Lakeville and Farmington.

It's a key piece of land for the 14-mile North Creek Greenway and North Creek Trail because it includes the headwaters of North Creek, said county planner John Mertens. North Creek is a tributary to the Vermillion River.

The easement is part of an effort to protect wildlife habitat and water quality by stopping future development along the county's rivers and creeks.

The next step is to have the land appraised to negotiate the purchase of easements on 11 acres of shore land for the greenway and 4 acres for the trail from Mikkell Smith and the Smith family.

The goal is to complete the purchase in time for the city of Lakeville to build a mile of the trail along the creek next year.

Dakota County is planning 15 greenways, each with a 10-foot wide paved trail within a 100-to-300-wide ribbon of open space. About a third of the way into developing the 200-mile system of linear parks, the county is buying easements over which the trails may pass as land is made available.

So far, four sections — totaling about 4 miles — of North Creek trail are in place.

When finished, it will connect from Lebanon Hills Regional Park through the Minnesota Zoo, through Apple Valley and Lakeville and end at the Vermillion River in downtown Farmington.

None of the trail will be on a road and 80 percent of it will not even flank a road, Merten said.

"North Creek Greenway really connects some great places. It connects six or eight schools and at least 10 parks."

The county has not set a date for completing the trail and greenway and has said that will depend on when land becomes available.

Other plans

Two other projects are underway along the North Creek Greenway.

Using a $1 million federal grant, Dakota County is planning 2015 construction of a pedestrian bridge over County Road 38 near the Zoo entrance and one mile of trail through the Zoo that will connect to Lebanon Hills Regional Park.

The city of Apple Valley has a $630,000 federal grant to build an underpass for the North Creek Trail under 157th Street in Apple Valley. Construction is scheduled for 2015 or 2016.