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September 1, 2014
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Preventing lost opportunities to save park and trail lands

Mike TegederBy Mike Tegeder, president

Over the years Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota has had the joy and privilege of working with extraordinarily dedicated individuals. Mark and Joan Strobel definitely fall within this category of extraordinary. Their history with Parks & Trails Council is particularly motivating because it shows how committed individuals, who care deeply about parks and trails, can make a lasting difference.

One way the Strobels made a difference was with their purchase and donation of land at Tettegouche that was threatened by incompatible development. This land was located within a state park, but was not owned by the state and therefore could not be preserved as state park land.

People may be surprised to learn the extent of private inholdings within state parks. Our last estimates show that 15 percent of state park lands are privately owned. These lands run the gamut from fairly unobtrusive, such as forested lands that someone left undisturbed for a hunting retreat to fairly obtrusive, such as the shuttered gas station with it’s unused parking lot.

Usually these lands were privately owned before the park was established. When the park was established and boundaries drawn, these lands were included because they were still in a natural state at that time and the landowner expressed a desire to have their land become part of the park. The boundaries act as road map showing areas that should be pursued if and when the current landowner wants to sell. However, the park is not always in a position to buy the land when it goes up for sale, and the opportunity is lost—sometimes forever, if the new owner decides to alter the land to a point that makes it virtually impossible to restore.

These lost opportunities are what Parks & Trails Council works to overcome. We have a $5 million land fund specifically to acquire these places. We work with a range of landowners. Sometimes the owners sell their land at less than its current fair market value, because after years of enjoying the land themselves, they want it to be preserved for the public’s benefit.

Other times, such as at Gold Rock Point in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, we end up paying the full appraised value.

And then, occasionally a landowner generously donates their land as a way to advance the mission of Parks & Trails Council. If you are interested in donating land within or adjacent to a park, please don’t hesitate to contact our office at info@parksandtrails.org or 651-726-2457.