December 15, 2013

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — The City of Maplewood announced today the completion of a two-year campaign to preserve one of the largest natural open spaces in the region. The 70-acre Fish Creek property was transferred to the City on December 11.  The scenic site, located north of the Highway 61 and Highway 494 junction, will be managed as part of the Fish Creek Natural Area Greenway for the restoration and protection of natural habitat and public open space.

The Conservation Fund purchased the site in 2011 and agreed to hold it for two years to give the City and its primary partners, Ramsey County and Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, time to raise the $2.2 million needed.  Generous donations from the Maplewood-based 3M Foundation, Friends of the Mississippi River and individual donors were provided.  A Natural and Scenic Area grant from Department of Natural Resources as well as a grant from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund also made this conservation achievement possible.

“This has been a true collaborative effort,” DuWayne Konewko, Parks and Recreation Director for Maplewood explained.  “Without the strong leadership of Maplewood City Council, The Conservation Fund, our partners and residents this project would not be possible.”

Located adjacent to Ramsey County’s 130-acre Fish Creek Open Space, this conservation purchase allows the City and County to begin to create the Fish Creek Hiking Trail, which will connect Point Douglas Road in St. Paul to Carver Lake Park in Woodbury along picturesque Fish Creek.  Twenty acres of the newly acquired parcel will be deeded to Ramsey County.  The City and County will jointly manage the new Fish Creek property, including developing additional nature trails throughout the site.

The newly acquired land features a mix of natural landscapes, including open rolling hills, prairie grassland, wetlands, woodlands and scenic bluff-top views of the Mississippi River floodplain. The City will continue to work with Great River Greening and the Friends of the Mississippi River to restore the property’s natural forested and grassland habitats to benefit a variety of wildlife species.

“When a community comes together like this, it shows how much they value open space and places to enjoy the great outdoors,” said Clint Miller, Field Representative for The Conservation Fund.  “Our role in the project was greatly enhanced by generous financial support from the McKnight Foundation through the Mississippi River Revolving Fund in addition to support from the Wallace Dayton and Hadlai Hull Memorial Revolving Funds, all of which allowed us to purchase and hold the property until all the partnerships and funding could come together for this tremendous effort.”

The preservation of this property is also a story of perseverance. Over twenty-five years ago, nearby residents called for preservation of the site.  In 1993, Maplewood was one of the first cities to pass a referendum to set aside funds to acquire open space.  Funding was thus available but the landowner was not ready to sell.  By the time the landowner was interested in selling in the early 2000’s, land prices had increased and purchase was beyond the city’s means.

The site was sold for development, but development plans eventually fell through during the economic downturn.  The parcel went up for sale and residents encouraged the City to acquire the site.  The timing was good because the City and partners had just completed a study of the Fish Creek Natural Area Greenway which identified this parcel as a priority for protection. Unfortunately, the City did not have the funding in place.  The Conservation Fund stepped in to acquire the property temporarily to allow the City to raise enough funds.

“The Conservation Fund stepped in at a critical moment to give us time to find the funds to purchase the property,” Konewko stated.  “Their action allowed us time to put together a diverse partnership of funders to complete the project.”

Additional Information

Places Where We Work—Fish Creek Open Space Area

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985.

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |
DuWayne Konewko | Maplewood Parks and Recreation Director | 651-249-2330
Clint Miller | The Conservation Fund | 507-356-6301