Eagan, which has won national recognition for its clean waters and abundant parks, has special bragging rights to an angler's dream in the south-metro area: Within one mile of every resident's home, there is public access to fishing.
Resident George Bohlig, who has lived on Blackhawk Lake since 1975, said it takes a community working together to keep Eagan's many lakes healthy and pristine.
The city, he said, has "been good about keeping lakes decent, but it doesn't come free. And everybody should be willing to support keeping lakes as an important asset for the community."
On Saturday, June 12 -- the 20th anniversary of Eagan's nationally recognized program for water quality -- residents will gather for LakeFest, a celebration of the city's lakes, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Blackhawk Park, on Murphy Parkway just off Deerwood Drive.
Bohlig exemplifies what many feel, research shows. More than 95 percent of Eagan's residents say lake water quality is important to them, according to public opinion surveys. And 72 percent say quality lakes are "very important," said Tom Garrison, a spokesman for the city.
Public opinion researcher Bill Morris calls Eagan an epicenter of "conservative greens."
"They deeply appreciate natural resources, but also want to know how to pay for environmental programs," Morris said.
In 1990, Eagan became the first city in the state to adopt a comprehensive lake water quality management plan. In 1996, Eagan's lake water quality program received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National First Place award for outstanding municipal storm water control.
Then, in 2007, the city adopted a state-of-the-art water quality and wetland management plan that has been widely praised. Mayor Mike Maguire said such efforts remain a high priority for the city. It has about 200 lakes and ponds that are at least an acre in size, out of about 350 total.
And since 2008, Eagan's popular Neighborhood Fishing Program has provided that public access to fishing within a mile of every home.
At LakeFest on Saturday, residents can take a child fishing without having to worry about bringing a fishing license or even gear, which will be provided to all who are fishing.
Other activities are planned. Home Depot, for example, will be on hand to help families build bird houses. Kids will be invited to create "fish print" art, learn about water safety, and take part in water-quality experiments.
Groups from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the National Audubon Society are putting on informational displays for adults. And there will be music by award-winning folk singer and songwriter Bill Isles of Duluth.
Not only is it "National Get Outdoors Day" and "Take a Kid Fishing Day," Garrison said, but in honor of Eagan's 150th anniversary, a "celebration memento" will be given out to the first 150 attendees who bring canned goods to donate to the sesquicentennial food drive.
Fishing then and now
Fishing is part of the community's heritage. Stories are told, Garrison said, of an Eagan farm wife in the 1800s who traded apple pies for fish speared by nearby American Indians.
These days, the city's most popular lakes include Blackhawk, Schwanz and LeMay. Still, many of Eagan's lakes are not fully appreciated for their good fishing, said Eagan resident Bill Kidder.
He used to trek northward to Lake Mille Lacs and elsewhere to wet a line for walleye and other fishing. But in the past seven years, he's discovered that Eagan lakes offer good catches, too, and close to home.
Within Eagan's borders, Kidder said Friday, he's caught a 36-inch northern pike, an 18-inch large-mouth bass, several nice walleye, crappie and panfish, and a 35-inch channel catfish.
Now, he just wishes a local bait shop would open up for winter and spring fishing.
"Lakes in Eagan are great," Kidder said, "and there are good opportunities to teach little guys and gals how to fish. Eagan's got it going on."
LakeFest 2010 will be held rain or shine. For more information, call 651-675-5300 or go to www.ci.eagan.mn.us.
Joy Powell • 952-882-9017