William O’Brien


Minnesota outline with star at William O'Brien State Park

Land Saved

1,014 acres that protects

  • Rolling, partly wooded hills
  • Springs, streams, ponds, prairie, wetlands and fens
  • Miles of cross-country skiing area
  • Plus, it removed the donuthole of privately owned land within the park

Amt of Park Acquired

Map of Acquired Lands

Park map showing land P&TC acquired

Project Years

Year AcquiredYear AddedAcres

William O'Brien State Park

Providing access to natural beauty close to the metro

Old farmland with grasses
A quaint stream on the land P&TCM acquired for the park in 2010

Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota has a long history with William O’Brien State Park. We’ve overseen seven land projects at this park between 1972 and 2010 that have totaled more than 1,000 acres for the park. That’s about half of the land for the park.

Our involvement began in 1971, when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began an effort to expand William O’Brien State Park. They wanted to include the rolling, partly wooded area to the west of the park, which is now home to several miles of popular cross-country ski trails. As the DNR waited in limbo for the Legislature to authorize the expansion, a developer purchased a big portion of it and quickly moved to develop housing.

Led by then president Samuel H. Morgan, P&TCM began a race against time to save the park from the impending development. To win this battle, Morgan and his group moved simultaneously on several fronts. They launched a major fundraising campaign while working to safeguarding the land within the proposed 850-acre expansion area, by entering into buyer agreements. At the same time these land deals were being negotiated, P&TCM’s leaders were working with the Legislature to assure the park boundary expansion bill passed into law. Thanks to generous support from individuals and foundations, P&TCM was able to acquire nearly all the land in this area in seven separate land deals finalized between 1972 and 1973. By 1973 the Legislature authorized the expansion and P&TCM conveyed the land to the state.

Since this initial major project, we’ve continued to add valuable land to this popular park. Today, we can all enjoy access to natural beauty so close to the metro thanks to the foresight of the early advocates and continued efforts of advocates today.

NEXT: Afton State Park

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