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County dedicates new Spring Lake Islands WMA

The new Spring Lake Islands Wildlife Management Area officially opened April 8. More than 700 acres make up the new venture between Dakota County and the State of Minnesota.

The Dakota County Board of Commissioners, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources held a dedication ceremony Thursday morning.

In December, the county board approved the execution of a joint powers agreement with the State of Minnesota for the establishment of the Spring Lake Islands Wildlife Management Area.

The islands and backwaters within the Spring Lake Park Reserve comprise the wildlife management area. In 2003, the commissioners adopted the park's master plan, which allows hunting on the islands. The plan also recommended that the islands be owned and managed by a state or federal agency.

The DNR was receptive to the idea and the joint powers agreement, approved in December, was prepared to establish the wildlife management area based on an initial term of 30 years.

Under the joint powers agreement, 75 acres of county-owned property has been transferred to the State of Minnesota for designation as a wildlife management area. The county is reclassifying 574 acres of tax-forfeited lands for conservation purposes.

The DNR will provide general operation and maintenance of the wildlife management area. It will also give the DNR the ability to perform habitat restoration and conservation projects.

There is a plan for future tent camping and a water trail, which will be managed by the county.

Spring Lake Park Reserve has 1,100 acres with activities such as archery, picnic areas, cross country ski trails, nature trails and boat launch. The Schaar's Bluff Gathering Center opened in 2008 and is available for parties and receptions.

Jane Lightbourn covers Dakota County for the Hastings Star Gazette, which is owned by Town Pages parent company Forum Communications.