County seeks grant to buy Aiple river site

WashCo_logoWashington County will seek a state grant for matching funds to purchase the Aiple property along the St. Croix River in Stillwater.

The Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved submitting a grant proposal for up to $2.5 million to the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

Approval of the LCCMR grant submission was one of three park-related issues before commissioners Tuesday. The board also approved a fall deer harvest at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve and a request by the state Department of Natural Resources to moor a DNR boat at St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park.

The county wants to use LCCMR grant funds to help buy the 15-acre Aiple property that includes 3,500 feet of St. Croix River frontage just north of downtown Stillwater between Minnesota 95 and the river.

The county is joining the city of Stillwater to consider buying the Aiple site to preserve the land’s ecological integrity and increase public access to the river.

The Aiple property is the largest piece of privately-owned property along the St. Croix River in Stillwater and is one of the longest stretches of riverfront property under a single owner in the county.

The LCCMR will accept grant proposals beginning July 1, 2014. The county seeks funds to match county and city money to buy the Aiple land. The site is currently being appraised and the project cost and final requested amount will be updated when the appraisal is complete.

The County Board also approved a deer harvest in the popular Lake Elmo Park Reserve for the first and second weekends in November. The most recent deer harvest in the park was in 2008.

The decision to schedule the cull came after Washington County Park staff conducted an annual winter aerial survey of the deer population in and around the park reserve. After the survey and consultation with DNR, park staff concluded that deer are overpopulated in the park.

Park staff notes that deer overpopulation results in degraded habitat and vegetation and increased accidents involving vehicles hitting deer.

The DNR recommends 100 deer be removed from the park because the current population is four times greater than the park’s recommended deer herd size.

The DNR suggests a shotgun harvest of deer is the most efficient culling method. The park will be closed to the public during the harvest and park staff will work with the DNR and county Sheriff’s Office to conduct the harvest. It will be the seventh harvest at the park in the last 20 years.