Caponi Art Park, a unique oasis of wilderness and sculpture in the middle of Eagan, may soon be officially owned by the city.
The city and Dakota County have recently agreed to pay $800,000 -- $400,000 each -- in an effort to buy the remaining 30 acres of the park and protect it from future development. In a similar arrangement, they bought the first 30 acres in 2005.
Negotiations for the purchase of the property are underway. A final price would have to be approved by the city. Purchase of the land would retire the mortgage held by the Caponi Art Park board, which has been unable to make the payments.
If the deal goes through, the group will be free to explore new territory for the park, including forming links with more artists who specialize in outdoor and environmental art and developing more programs for the public, said board president Craig Harris. "It's appropriate to say this park is moving into a new era," he said.
This year about 18,000 people visited the park, Harris said.
The park is the estate of Anthony Caponi, a sculptor and retired professor at Macalester College. Caponi and his wife, Cheryl, have been developing the park for decades, integrating artwork into the landscape and weaving trails throughout the property.
Performances are staged at the park in a natural amphitheater, and art classes are also held on the site.
The land purchase is made with the understanding that Caponi, now 90, and Cheryl will continue to live in their house in the park as long as they wish.
Caponi's studio is now being used by park staff.
Questions about the fate of the art park have worried its supporters, who feared it might fade someday with the passing of its founder.
The art park on Diffley Road is sandwiched between Patrick Eagan Park to the north and an outdoor athletic field complex to the south.
Originally, the city applied for two grants from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to pay for the purchase of the land. Neither came through.
The park, which is open in the warm months, is free for anyone to visit.
Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287