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Dakota County Regional park finally finds a name

Considered from the outside, the name is deceptively simple. Whitetail Woods Regional Park.

But those four words, the name of a planned Dakota County Regional Park in Empire Township, are the result of a process that stretches back more than a year. The name is the result of focus groups and surveys and best-practices research conducted by the county's communications department.

It is the result, Dakota County communications director Gail Plewacki said, of taking all of the words that could possibly be associated with a regional park and filtering out everything that didn't work.

In other words, it wasn't so simple after all.

Plewacki and the communications department took over the naming process early last year after Dakota County Commissioners rejected an earlier set of options. The challenge, Plewacki said, is that the 456-acre park has a number of lovely features, but nothing that immediately suggests itself as an obvious name.

"Generally (parks) are named for great historic events that have taken place or great historic figures who are connected to the land," Plewacki said. "The problem with this park is, it's kind of a quiet little park. It doesn't have a dramatic history connected to it."

It turns out, there are a lot of rules when it comes to naming a park, some obvious and some not. You want a name that helps people picture the park. It also has to be easy to spell and easy enough to say that it doesn't twist people's tongues. Maybe most important, it can't be offensive.

One of the names proposed last year, Hills and Hollows Regional Park, was rejected because commissioners thought hollows didn't sound like a Minnesota kind of word.

Plewacki said the group working on the name rejected "hundreds and hundreds" of possibilities before it came to three finalists it presented last month.

"We had some that, when we went back and looked at them, sounded like golf courses or sounded like a housing development," Plewacki said.

The group landed on Whitetail Woods because of the large population of deer on the property. She said they saw deer each of the four times they visited the future park.

In addition to Whitetail Woods, Plewacki's group presented Eagle's Rest and Fawn Crossing as potential names. The county's physical development committee unanimously selected Whitetail Woods.

The name was approved by the county board at its Jan. 31 meeting.

Plewacki said she's happy with the results.

"I think it very definitely is an attractive name," she said. "It has a lovely alliteration. It's representative of the park. I think it has a wild and inviting appeal and it fits well with our brand, which is Dakota County Parks, Forever Wild."

The park

Now that the park has a name, the county is working on turning the property into something residents can use. A master plan for the park was finalized last year, and parks director Steve Sullivan said construction on the park's first phase will start in 2013.

That first phase, estimated to cost $5.25 million, will include hiking trails, boardwalks through some of the park's wetland areas, sledding hills and an "adventure playground," among other things.

According to the master plan the finished park will include cabins for camping, a disc golf course and observation towers. There will be cross country skiing, a zero-waste visitor center and a agriculture education area operated in conjunction with the University of Minnesota.