Anoka County will buy land in conservation land in Columbus

Eric Hagen
ECM Staff Writer

Anoka County is planning to purchase 263 acres in the city of Columbus for inclusion in a land conservation area.

The property is located south of the Lamprey Pass Wildlife Management Area and Lake Drive (CR-23) and north of the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve. Columbus Lake runs through the property.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund, which is part of the state Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment approved by voters, will be contributing $940,000. The Anoka County Board on Tuesday, Aug. 14 approved acceptance of the grant.

According to Anoka County Parks Director John VonDeLinde, the next step is for the Minnesota Land Trust to close on the sale of the land with the current private property owner. The county would then purchase the property from the Land Trust.

The Minnesota Trust for Public Land will chip in $60,000 for this land purchase, while Anoka County will cover $247,000 by utilizing the enterprise fund dollars that come from Bunker Beach, VonDeLinde said.

What makes a conservation area much different from a place like the nearby Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve is that no picnic or camp sites are allowed, he said. Conservation areas are mainly set aside for wildlife habitat preservation, although hunting and fishing would be allowed.

There will be a small parking lot on the north end of the conservation area by Lake Drive where these hunters and fishers could park, according to VonDeLinde.

County Commissioner Dan Erhart questioned how much of the 263 acres is upland and whether any material mining could take place if fill was needed for a road project, for example.

VonDeLinde said there would be a 20-year covenant on the property that would require the county to maintain the area as open space and for hunting and fishing for at least 20 years.

Only about 20 percent of the site is upland and the rest is wetland, so VonDeLinde does not see a higher use for this site other than these recreational activities, he said.

According to VonDeLinde, there would be permanent restrictions on this property to preserve it from development and the county could not just sell any part of the property to a housing or commercial developer unless there was replacement land the county had to offer.

The site cannot be mined or touched in any way unless the purpose is to enhance natural amenities, VonDeLinde said.

“We see it as a place where hunting for deer, duck and turkeys would be the likely use of the site along with some marginal fishing opportunities along the Rice Creek on the north end of the property,” he said.

VonDeLinde said that about 120 of the 263-acre site was already in the county’s master plan boundary for the future expansion of the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve. The county will amend this planning document to reflect the land use change.