Three Rivers sells park land to Anoka County

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 20, 2011 - 10:59 PM

The deal involving 214 acres of park land the county had been leasing on the Mississippi River comes along with a new political alliance between the park district and the county.

Three Rivers Park District has agreed to sell Anoka County 214 acres of park land it's been leasing on the Mississippi River near the Coon Rapids Dam for $372,414 -- about half of what the county would have paid if it had continued to lease the land through 2024.

To seal the deal, Anoka County agreed to join forces with the park district in seeking the transfer of the dam to the Department of Natural Resources.

Up to now, the park district and the county held differing views on who should own the dam and had worked at cross purposes on the issue at the state Capitol.

Anoka County -- which prizes the recreational pool in the river that is created by the dam -- had wanted the dam to stay under the continuing stewardship of Three Rivers.

The park board, seeing little value in the dam for its suburban Hennepin residents, has been eager to divest itself of the 100-year-old structure and the ongoing cost of maintaining it.

A resolution approved by both the county board and the park board last week states: "In order to protect the investment committed to the Coon Rapids Dam by the state of Minnesota, the Coon Rapids Dam should be immediately transferred by gift to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources."

The state has committed $16 million to upgrade the dam as a fish barrier to protect northern Minnesota lakes from the northward migration of Asian carp.

Since 1994, Three Rivers had leased the 214 acres, part of the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, to Anoka County for $75,000 a year, with the understanding that Anoka would eventually buy it.

Three Rivers commissioners abruptly terminated the lease last spring after learning that Anoka County was working at the Capitol against transfer of the dam to the DNR.

Initially the park district said that cancellation of the lease gave Anoka County one year to purchase the land for the remaining price on the lease: $673,000.

Not long after that, Anoka County asked that the district turn over the 214 acres for free.

Park Board Chairman Larry Blackstad said the district would not give Anoka the land but was willing to negotiate on the price.

The park board conducted discussions about the sale of the property in meetings that were closed to the public.

Three Rivers Superintendent Cris Gears said the park district reduced the land price "primarily because we felt that Anoka's expenditures to improve the leased lands on the other side of the river benefitted our park and users of the regional system."

In addition, Anoka County has agreed not to contest the termination of the lease and to allow Three Rivers to spend money from past lease payments on needs other than dam repairs, Gears said.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711

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