A push by Dakota County to develop Lebanon Hills, a 2,000-acre park, has met with significant resistance from those who use the park, the Star Tribune reported last week. Commissioners from the county started an advisory group after listening to nearly 350 park users’ comments at an open house event earlier this month.
Currently, much of Lebanon Hills remains undeveloped, which is useful for mountain bikers, trail hikers and those who ride horses or cross-country ski.
The county plans to add trails, 6.5 miles of them paved and another 3.5 miles of unpaved trails totaling 43 miles of trails. Costing an estimated $31 million, the plan would require a significant amount of tree and brush removal but would allow for some natural resource projects like prairie restoration.
Proponents of development argue that Dakota County’s aging population and disabled residents deserve an opportunity to use the parks and require paved paths.
We are skeptical of the motivations behind developing the park. Part of the attraction of such undeveloped land is that it is one of the last places where people can go to be in nature. Paving paths through the woods opens up the likelihood of increased bicycle traffic, especially as part of the plan includes linking paved trails to commuter trails.
We urge the two sides to come to a compromise — of course there should be facilities that cater to those who require them, but there needs to be a limit to ensure much of the park stays intact.