It's a rare opportunity for the Brown's Creek Watershed District: 28 acres of woods, ponds and wetlands for sale in Stillwater.

The Brown's Creek folks want to buy the state-held land, north of Long Lake, for $10,000.

That's considerably less than the minimum bid of $177,950 set by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), but Craig Leiser said the watershed district sees a public benefit to the land.

"Nobody has a significant interest to develop it as a park, but we see it as a nature study area," he said last week.

Leiser, who is the watershed district's president, said a new state law allows a government agency to sell land to another public body at a price lower than the appraised value. The district will make a bid on the land, known in the Stillwater area as Jackson Wildlife Management Area, before the Oct. 21 public auction, he said.

The parcel is just south of County Road 12, known in Stillwater as Myrtle Avenue, and about a mile east of County Road 15, also known as Manning Road. It's on the south reach of Brown's Creek, a sparkling trout stream that tumbles through the bluffs on Stillwater's north side to the St. Croix River.

Neither the city of Stillwater nor Washington County has any interest in the parcel, Leiser said, because it's unsuitable for a public park and isn't close enough to county trails.

The watershed district, however, sees the land as a critical link to Brown's Creek. The ponds and wetlands "purify" water that feeds into the creek from the Long Lake area, Leiser said.

The land, surrounded by neighborhoods, has endangered orchids, red- and yellow-winged blackbirds, owls and woodpeckers.

The watershed district would install "very minimal low-impact parking," modest trails and nature sites to view native plants, wetlands and nesting birds, Leiser said. The parcel has no known wells or septic systems and most of it wouldn't be suitable for buildings, he said.

Washington County, which has a voter-approved Land and Water Legacy program, will examine the Brown's Creek proposal to see if it's eligible for funding. Such efforts to preserve native land fit well within the program's intentions, said Commissioner Gary Kriesel, who represents Stillwater on the county board.

The watershed district would find a way to pay for the parcel without adding to the district's tax levy, Leiser said.

The DNR is selling the land "as is" with no improvements or easements.

Marty Vadis, director of the DNR's land and minerals division, said the sale is part of a mandate to dispose of $6.44 million worth of land to help balance the state budget. If the DNR strikes a deal with the watershed district, he said, the auction would be canceled.

Kevin Giles • 651-735-3342