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Visions of a greener future

Dakota County has created a plan to interconnect parks throughout the county.

It will take years to come to fruition but eventually residents will be able to walk, bike or run around Dakota County. With the help of cities within it, county planners have put together a plan to interconnect green areas countywide.

The plan, called the Greenway Collaborative, calls for government agencies within the county to work together to create 200 miles of trails. The trails, some of which already exist, will connect large natural areas to others within the county through an eco conscious system.

Representatives from Rosemount, including parks and recreation director Dan Schultz and public works director Andy Brotzler, have contributed to the county's planning within the city's borders.

The goal of the project is to build a better model than just trails by making natural habitat and water quality a priority along the system. To do so the county plans to build buffer strips that will clean water before it enters larger waterways and use native vegetation to encourage a natural habitat along the corridors.

"It's more than just about recreation," said John Mertens, a representative for the county's office of planning and analysis. "We'd like to have landscaping and a parklike feel for the whole thing."

The plan calls for the greenway connections to have a consistent look and feel countywide, including activity centers and signage throughout.

Mertens and fellow county representative Kurt Chatfield presented the plan to the Rosemount City Council during a work session Nov. 10.

The big questions council members asked of the two men from the council focused on whether the project is it feasible and who would pay for it.

Mertens said the plan has been spaced out to be completed by 2030 but will be built out as development proceeds and funding becomes available. Participating cities may be asked to pay for portions of the projects that go through their borders or projects that they initiate. However, Dakota County will pay for the majority of the projects. The Metropolitan Council has also dedicated money.

Chatfield said the county has been actively pursuing federal grants.

"Dakota County tends to do well in getting funding," he said.

Going forward, Mertens said the pace of development will be a big factor in how quickly the greenways are put in place. He said planning in the cities will be easier than in the townships because of development.

In Rosemount there are be more than 25 miles of trails in the greenway plan, including the Spring Lake Park Preserve along the Mississippi River. Later this year the county will build a $2.4 million section of the Mississippi River Regional Trail in the park that will be congruent with the greenway plans. The paid for the project.

For more information on the greenway collaborative visit Dakota County's web site at

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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