Say 'Yes!' to Dakota County parks and natural areas

by Betsy Daub

Family and friends planting trees at one of the many beloved parks and natural areas in Dakota County. (Photo by Tom Reiter)

When my children were little, they had a favorite tree in the park near our Twin Cities home. The enormous evergreen's long, sturdy branches reached all the way to the ground making it irresistible to two kids eager to climb. As they clamored nearly to the top, ignoring my pleas to not go any higher, they were enveloped by and nearly disappeared in its needles.

During this time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, I relish having a park nearby to get out of the house and get a dose of nature. On a recent walk, I was joined by my children — one now in her twenties, the other in high school. They made a beeline for “the tree,” and joyfully scaled their old friend. A touchstone in a time of uncertainty.

Our investments in parks and natural areas are never regretted. And many of us find ourselves valuing them now more than ever. 

If you're fortunate to live in Dakota County or use and value its parks, you now have the opportunity to advocate for protecting and restoring additional parks, natural areas and greenways.

A new plan for conservation

Dakota County recently released a comprehensive Land Conservation Plan that examines the value of natural places, the success of the county’s land conservation efforts to date, and opportunities to protect and restore additional land throughout the county.

Land conservation efforts in Dakota County have given us some well-loved places — Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area, Chimney Rock, Marcott Lakes, Spring Lake Park Reserve, the Vermillion River Aquatic Management Area, and many more. And the county has built a strong network of conservation partners (including FMR, amongst others). 

In addition to opportunities for recreation and inspiration, the plan notes many additional values of parks, such as providing wildlife and pollinator habitat, protecting our waters by absorbing pollutants, and many other social, ecological and economic benefits. 

The draft Land Conservation Plan also identifies many other natural areas across the county (nearly 40,000 acres!) that should be protected. 

A small brown weasel like animal walking in a snowy forest.
When we protect and restore habitat, wildlife (like this fisher in Spring Lake Park) return. (Photo: Dakota County Parks)

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The county commissioners are currently considering the plan and ways to fund it! If you live in Dakota County and would like to be notified of future opportunities to support this exciting proposal, please sign up below!