County to seek grant for Aiple purchase

WashCo_logoWashington County will seek a $2.5 million state grant for matching funds to buy one of the longest privately owned stretches of land along the St. Croix River.

The Board of Commissioners Tuesday agreed to submit a grant proposal to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The money would be used to purchase the 15-acre Aiple property in north Stillwater that includes 3,500 feet of frontage along the St. Croix River. The property is north of downtown Stillwater between Minnesota 95 and the river and parallels the Brown’s Creek State Trail.

Tuesday’s decision by commissioners comes about one month after the County Board approved a similar request for project funds from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

The county and the city of Stillwater are considering buying the Aiple property to preserve the site’s ecological integrity and increase public access to the river.
Preliminary plans call for the county to buy the land and the city accept ownership and future management costs of the site. The city would restore the land to a more natural condition and provide recreational uses such as shore fishing, transient docking, walk-in boat launching, walking paths, nature observation, picnicking and trail access.

The county and city are pursuing a purchase of the Aiple site because the property is considered too small for either the state Department of Natural Resources or the Metropolitan Council to add to the state park or metropolitan regional park systems.

The County Board’s decision comes almost one year before the Lessard-Sams council begins accepting grant proposals for funds July 1, 2014. The county seeks Lessard-Sams funds to match county and city money used to buy the property.

The site is currently being appraised and the project cost and final amount requested will be updated when the appraisal is finished.