Contractors will remove invasive species, strategically burn prairie land and plant native seeds in some of Dakota County’s most popular parks.

The County Board on Tuesday approved $1.78 million in restoration projects at Spring Lake Park Reserve and Lebanon Hills and Whitetail Woods regional parks. Nearly $1.4 million of the cost will be covered by state grants.

The improvements to 599 acres of parkland in the three locations will be done over the next several years.

The restoration spending comes as Dakota County park users are watching the county “very judiciously,” Commissioner Tom Egan said.

Residents have recently critiqued the board’s spending on parks, saying officials are prioritizing new trails and development over protecting and enhancing natural land. A $2.8 million paved trail planned for Lebanon Hills Regional Park is one of the projects that ignited opposition.

“I hope the public is paying close attention to the money that is going into the restoration of all three of these park systems,” Egan said.

The restoration work at the three parks will include removing exotic woody brush and an invasive species called reed canary grass, which Terry Vikla, county natural resources manager, described as “the buckthorn of the wetlands.”

“It comes in very thick, and nothing else can grow there,” he said.