City looks to finalize riverfront easementSome 200 acres of woods, marshes and parkland along Red Wing’s riverfront would be set aside forever
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
Some 200 acres of woods, marshes and parkland along Red Wing’s riverfront would be set aside forever as green space under a proposal being considered by city officials.
The wealthy benefactor whose donation of 3 acres prompted the city to pursue the conservation easement has softened its position.
According to a city memorandum, the Sweasy Family Fund has informed the city it should only enter the riverfront into an easement if City Council believes it would be in the public interest, and the city can keep the donated land regardless.
In 2008, the fund offered to buy 3 acres near Bay Point Park from private owners for $831,200 and donate it to the city. In return, the city would place those acres into a conservation easement run by a third party.
It was assumed the city would also need to put its own 202 acres of riverfront into an easement as well, as a stipulation of the donation. Over the past two years, city officials have been pursing an agreement with Minnesota Land Trust, a non-profit organization. An easement would limit development, allowing for only open space and parkland. That would include limited public building construction.
It was the trust, however, that suggested including placing all 202 city-owned acres, including Bay Point Park, into a conservation easement, Evie Sweasy said in an e-mail to the newspaper Saturday.
“It sounded like a good idea and we agreed,” Sweasy wrote. “We feel now that the decision for the existing park should be made by the City Council. We hope they will decide to have the conservation easement.”
The plan will be re-introduced to the City Council tonight.
Meanwhile, a citizen group has spoken out against the proposal. Dubbing themselves “Voices of Red Wing,” the group has written a letter to council outlining 32 pointed objections to the proposal.
“You’re not trusting future city councils do their job. It ties up everything down their for the future forever,” voices member Stephen Castner said.
A former city council member, Castner was one of two sitting members to vote against the measure in 2008. Mike Hall was the other.
Proponents of the easement say green space and parkland is the best use for the fragile acreage. Planning Director Brian Peterson wrote in a city memorandum an easement would be in line with the city’s long-range vision for the area.
There was a lively public debate between 2005 and 2007 over the best use for Red Wing’s riverfront.
Some would’ve preferred a degree of commercial development along the river. Those who preferred the land stay untrammeled, however, ultimately prevailed in that public policy debate.