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Board OKs purchase of Butler property

Dakota County is now ready to buy 456 acres of property for a regional park in Empire Township.

At its regular meeting May 20, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners gave its approval to the parks department to acquire the regional park portion of the Butler Trust property.

The county, the Minnesota Department of Natural resources and the University of Minnesota have been working together to acquire and and collaboratively manage a 4,000-acre natural area complex. One of the main properties is the the privately-owned 816-acre Butler Trust property.

The County received $6 million in bonding funds for the park acquisition, and has received two grants totaling $2.5 million from the Metropolitan Council for the purchases. The county previously supplied a matching grant of $566,000 for the Metropolitan Council grant.

Two weeks ago, Dakota County approved an agreement with the Metropolitan Council which provides $7.7 million in state bonding funds to be used for the purchase of the property. This property provides the critical connection between the 475-acre Vermillion River Aquatic and Wildlife Management Area and the 2,840-acre Vermillion Highland Research, Recreation and Wildlife Management Area. Acquisition of the Butler Trust property is a 2008 County Board goal.

In 2006, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $6 million in bonding for acquiring the Butler property.

The negotiated Butler Trust option is for $14.81 million, contingent upon future funding. After additional funding from the Department of Natural Resources and funds from the Farmland and Natural Areas Program, there is still a gap of $2.85 million. The county will make up the difference from its general fund balance.