The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions related to Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota’s 2017 Land Project for Frontenac State Park
Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota (P&TC), an independent, member-supported nonprofit purchased the land from a private landowner in May 2017. P&TC acquires land when necessary to ensure critical opportunities are not lost and then works with public agencies, state lawmakers and community members to add it to the park or trail.
In the more than 100 land projects that P&TC has collaborated on, each has a unique set of factors and has required thoughtful negotiations with all partners, making timeframes unpredictable. However, P&TC is prepared to hold this land in trust for the park and care for it as if it were part of the park for as long as necessary.
The land is minimally maintained with sporadically mowed trails and no other amenities. People are welcome to visit the land and use it respectfully, with the same rules as state park land, e.g., stay on the mowed trails, no trash, no overnight stays, no hunting, etc.
P&TC will work with DNR leaders, local legislators and community members to take the necessary steps of adding it to the park. We encourage you to talk with your friends, family and especially your local legislators about the benefits of adding this land to the park.
Enhances the natural assets of the park. This land enhances the park’s ability to “preserve and buffer natural resources, wildlife habitat and viewsheds to preserve the sense of wildness within the park from the potential impacts of future development.” ~Frontenac SP Management Plan
Takes advantage of the extensive and knowledgeable work done by the previous landowner to restore the prairie and oak savanna habitat to be compatible with the park.
Provides opportunities to enhance the user experience of the park. This land holds a stunning overlook and incredible birding opportunities that would provide unique trail experiences. Other potential uses that could be explored are a group picnic site and group or walk-in campsites.
P&TC learned that this land was being sold during conversations with community members. The DNR were not in a position to acquire it for the park anytime soon, so P&TC began evaluating the potential to acquire it. P&TC has an evaluation process that ranks potential land projects on a number of criteria. This land ranked high and received official board approval to purchase. P&TC began the process of buying the land which includes an appraisal and professional inspection and closed in May 2017.
The building, while not fully finished inside, was built to reflect the look of a historic Mill that was located nearby. The floor level has been used for storage of tractors and large machinery that were used for prairie restoration work. We will work with our partners to determine its ultimate fate, which could mean that the building remains and is used in some capacity for the park or if no compatible use is found, then we will work to remove it.
This situation illustrates the urgency to act in acquiring land for parks before it becomes developed. Generally, houses, barns, and other private development make land prohibitively expensive for park acquisitions and adds another expense to remove and then restore the land. Had any other structures been added, we would likely not be here today, but Parks & Trails Council is committed to working with our partners to ensure this building is either useful to the park or removed before added to the park.
This is not an either-or question. Continuing the legacy of parks and trails in Minnesota requires us to do both. This is why P&TC dedicates significant resources to both. P&TC advocates for robust public investment in parks and trails to both maintain and extend protections to more lands. Parks and trails are critical to our quality of life and we believe that making our voices stronger in support of properly funding parks and trails is the only way to address the maintenance question. Halting land acquisitions is not the solution, and in fact we believe that taking such action is a tell-tale sign of retreating from supporting parks and trails as a whole.
Something to keep in mind is that the primary purpose of state parks is to “protect and perpetuate extensive areas of the state possessing those resources which illustrate and exemplify Minnesota’s natural phenomena…”(MN Statute 86A.05). And yet, our state parks system, as it stands today, preserves less than one percent of the land in Minnesota.
The opportunity to add land with outstanding natural resources within or bordering a state park is something that, if not acted upon when the seller offers it up to the highest bidder, becomes lost. Any development that occurs on the land is likely to make it incompatible for a state park, hence that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is lost forever. It would be short-sighted to pass up such an opportunity.