March 18, 2005

Whitewater acquisition will preserve land for the people of Minnesota

Whitewater State park is one of the most visited parks in southeastern Minnesota. Today, Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota successfully completed the acquisition of 215 acres of wooded bluff in Whitewater State Park along the Whitewater River. The bluff protects the visitor center on the north and west. The purchase ensures that no development will take place on the bluff overlooking the park.

“Whitewater visitors will be able to enjoy the view above the visitors center uninterrupted,” said Dorian Grilley, executive director of P&TC. “The undeveloped bluff line is what makes the Whitewater Valley and Whitewater State Park so special. We are very happy that the McCarthy Family accepted our offer to purchase the property. This is a win-win situation. The McCarthy family chose not to pursue the development option, and instead decided to work with P&TC to make this happen. It was one of our top two projects statewide and very high on the DNR’s priory list.”

P&TC considers the property to be critical to the integrity of the park. The acquisition includes 1.25 miles of the bluffs to the north and west of the park’s visitor center. If the land had been sold and developed with houses, the views of the bluffs from the park and the setting surrounding the visitor center, campground and valley would have been altered forever. The land is all wooded except for a small corner of a field and some oak savanna that is currently pastured.

Critical to this purchase is a donation from the WM Foundation of $1 million to be paid over two years and a $250,000 gift from The McKnight Foundation. Donated legal services provided by the Minneapolis firm of Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly, LLP helped make the purchase possible.

“Our land acquisition fund made this purchase possible,”said Grilley. “Over the past two years we have raised $2 million for that fund. This is exactly the way the fund is meant to be used–to preserve lands until the state can purchase them and make them part of a state park. With sale to the staet P&TC can use the proceeds to purchase other lands.”

“This wouldn’t have happened without Parks & Trails Council,” said Garry Barvels, Whitewater State Park Mangaer. “The state parks have no funds for purchasing land at this time, even if it is within a park boundary. We will acquire this land when funds do become available. When that happens we can connect existing trails with our hiking trails. In the immediate future, we will begin planting trees to ensure that the forest recovers as soon as possible from the recent logging.”

Dr. Tom Stoa, a P&TC member from Winona says, “hiking the bluffs in Whitewater State Park is one of my favorite things to do. A plan to subdivide this land had been under consideration. The park would not have been the same iwth houses along those bluffs. I’m grateful that Parks & Trails was able to step up and ensure that we can continue those hikes in the future.”

Lazy D Campground and Trail Rides has a purchase agreement to buy most of the remainder of the McCarthy Family Farm. Plans are to continue the trail rides, partially on trails leased from P&TC and to farm the remainder of the property.

Plans are for P&TC to hold the land until the Legislature appropriates sufficient funding for the DNR to buy it at cost.

About Lisa Filter