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Tribe's largesse making things happen in Scott County

  • Article by: David Peterson
  • Star Tribune
  • January 14, 2014 - 3:28 PM

The completion of a biking link between the two long-merged cities of Elko and New Market and the creation of public access to a natural treasure in Shakopee are among the expected results of a new burst of grants to Scott County from the Shakopee tribe.

The grants arrive just as the county’s historical society is preparing for a “grand reopening” on Feb. 1 to show off the results of a big upgrade made possible by the tribe’s $50,000 gift last year.

“We have never, ever, had a Native American exhibit here at all,” said Kathleen Klehr, the society’s director. “Now we will. It was in our plan, but down the road a ways; teachers have been asking for it for a long time.”

A lot of things that never happened before are happening as relations between the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and its neighbors — notably Shakopee itself — continue to improve.

“The tribe has been extremely supportive of efforts to create trail opportunities for residents, including providing easements across their land for a critical connection between [the new] Spring Lake Regional Park and the Scott West Regional trail,” said the county’s parks and trails director, Mark Themig.

The latest grants come on top of the October 2012 surprise: $900,000 to be shared among Scott County and its cities. The recipients are nearing the end of a prolonged process to decide how to use the windfalls; it’s not yet clear how every dime will be spent.

Most cities are planning to invest in parks, perhaps an admission that during Scott County’s hypergrowth years, population got ahead of parks needs in many places.

In Shakopee, it’s been more than a decade since the city was approached about developing a 105-acre reclaimed quarry as a park, yet even today the Web page devoted to “Quarry Lake Park” stresses: “No public access at this time.”

Equally, Elko and New Market merged in 2007, quickly followed by a plan to connect the two with a 4-mile trail from a key Elko park to one in New Market and on out to an elementary school at the edge of town.

But only now is the final 300-foot link in that trail expected to happen, thanks to the grant.

The money will allow for “the final segment of the bike/hike/running trail ‘spine’,” said City Administrator Tom Terry, “and link, both symbolically and physically. It will be completely handicapped-accessible, increase the safety of the users of the trail and allow access to the newly formed city’s pre-eminent natural area — Pete’s Hill.”

Whereas the 2012 windfall was for all, the newly announced trail grants, adding up to $366,000, were the result of a competition launched last fall. This time, cities were told to make quick decisions on what to use the money for, and to finish the projects themselves this year.

Five cities won grants. In addition to Elko and Shakopee:

• Savage got $100,000 to develop the Bluff Trail Project, a one-mile trail helping link Burnsville and Prior Lake to Savage, from Dakota Avenue to Quentin Avenue.

• Prior Lake got $76,000 to work on Pike Lake Trail, which includes a trail taking people to the lake itself.

• New Prague got $52,000 to pave the Green Meadow Trail in Settlers Park, meaning year-round access to the area.

The tribe has long bestowed amenities on Prior Lake, once that city moved to put aside past hostilities and stop fighting the tribe’s efforts to expand its reservation lands.

But the inclusion of Shakopee and others follows the signal sent by Shakopee’s voters in the election and re-election of Mayor Brad Tabke, who made a big point of improving tribal relations — while also asking the tribe itself to be more forthcoming with its future development plans.

“All of the grant recipients reflect the high priority that the SMSC and these local governments have placed on environmental stewardship and quality trails in Scott County,” tribal chairman Charlie Vig said in a written statement.

In an era when full-fledged trails can easily cost $300,000 a mile, Themig said, a $366,000 kitty divided several ways needed to be used strategically.

“They are filling in gaps that are important now, and in ways that in the future will allow them to be connected to the larger regional system,” he said. “It will be a huge benefit both short-term and long.”

The historical society, meanwhile, is throwing a party Feb. 1 from noon to 2 p.m., with tours of newly remodeled spaces and two new exhibit galleries, including the one devoted to Indian history.

Klehr stresses that the content of the latter will be the work in part of tribal experts, and will only be “partially completed while we work to ensure the content is accurate, visually engaging and interactive.”

 

David Peterson • 952-746-3285

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