Three Rivers Park District has taken a step toward acquiring nearly 42 acres of prime acreage in Minnetrista that could become an important link in a future north-south trail system in the west metro.
District commissioners gave the go-ahead last week for staffers to negotiate with Tom Meyer, property representative of the Von Blon family that owns the land. Most of the acreage is a maple-basswood forest that is protected by a conservation easement and is surrounded on three sides by the future Woodland Cove development.
"It would be a beautiful trail corridor," said Margie Dahlof, Three Rivers associate superintendent for strategic initiatives. "What we're looking at is taking advantage of a good deal now for a future trail corridor."
Three major paved trails now run east-west across the west metro, looking like spidery spokes on a map emanating from Minneapolis. The park district would like to connect them with a north-south trail that would create trail loops and links between existing parks in the area west and south of Lake Minnetonka.
That future Minnetrista Regional Trail would run about 9 miles from Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail and Carver Park Reserve in the south and cross Lake Minnetonka Regional Park, Dakota Rail Regional Trail, Gale Woods Farm, the Kingswood Camp property and the Luce Line State Trail.
Dahlof said it will be years before such a trail might be built, but the park district is interested in acquiring undeveloped pieces of land along the route's corridor if they become available.
"This was not a property we were looking at," she said, referring to the Von Blon land, "but the opportunity arose when the owner called and said the family was interested in selling."
Commissioners have authorized the park district to negotiate with the family, Dahlof said, and any actual purchase would need separate board approval. The advantage of owning the land, she said, is that it would enable the district to build a quarter-mile paved trail through scenic woods rather than along a road in the same area with eight road crossings.
According to an initial assessment done by Three Rivers, the seller has proposed a purchase price of $500 to $625 per acre, and the nearby Woodland Cove owners will pay for the woods that Three Rivers would own and manage. Officials from Carlson Real Estate Company, Woodland Cove's developer, did not return phone calls to discuss the arrangement. The development has proposed to build nearly 1,100 new residential units on 490 acres in Minnetrista over the next decade.
Park officials said the only initial costs to the district for the adjoining 42 acres of woods would be for boundary signage, although if the property is eventually developed for a regional trail, the park system would then need to build and maintain that 10-foot-wide pavement.
The reason the price range for the acreage is so low, said Minnetrista senior planner David Abel, is that the family gave up its development rights on the land to the Minnesota Land Trust. "Because of the conservation easement, it's undevelopable, so there's hardly much of a [market] value to the piece," Abel said.
The easement was donated to the Land Trust in 1996, said its stewardship director Anne Murphy. The conditions would allow a trail across the land, she said, but no other development.
Minnetrista is reviewing the park system's possible purchase to make sure it fits with the city's long-range plans, Abel said. "As far as I know thus far, I don't see there being any issues with our comprehensive plan and them pursuing purchase of the property," he said.
The matter is scheduled to come before the Minnetrista City Council on Monday.
Late last year, Three Rivers signed a purchase agreement for Camp Kingswood, a 127-acre former Bible camp that is also in Minnetrista. It is studying future uses for the site.