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Construction of the new boardwalk trail from East Lake Park to Lexington Ave. and preparations for the wetland restoration project both started in January 2017.
The land for these projects was first acquired by the city between late 1990’s and 2003. Some was donated by developers and some was purchased with funds from the referendum passed in 2000. Even before then, there was a vision of restoring some of that area to the natural pre-development condition and making it possible for people to enjoy the beauty and diversity of the Anoka Sandplain. Over the past 3 years, planning and regulatory processes have been completed to reach the point of making these long awaited plans a reality.
The overall plan is to build a nature center adjacent to Lexington Ave. just across the road from the new Lexington Athletic Complex. That will take a few years yet but in the interim, a boardwalk and pathway is being constructed to connect the existing trail from East Lake Park in The Lakes of Radisson to the regional trail along Lexington Ave. Work on the boardwalk began in January and by the time this article is in your hands it should be complete, pending cooperation of the weather. In May of this year a parking lot will be constructed with access to Lexington Ave. providing a trail head for the boardwalk and parking for the future nature center. The parking lot is schedule for completion by early July. A formal opening of the trail system will be scheduled shortly thereafter.
Over ten years ago, the city began some research in the wetland area of the 500 acre open space west of Lexington Ave. adjacent to Anoka County Ditch 53-62. This area is part of the larger Anoka Sandplain which is home to unique plant communities found in very few places anywhere in the country. Several species of rare and endangered plants were discovered and the concept of restoring the wetlands to allow those species to flourish began to take shape. Combined with the big picture of being in a city open space and the prospect of adding a nature center for public education and access for the enjoyment of nature lovers, plans were put in motion.
In 2009, a 103 acre site in the center of the 500 acres, called Branch 3, was identified for restoration. Funded by the Blaine Economic Development Authority (EDA), this project would not only restore the native plants by eliminating invasive non-native species, but also create wetland credits the city could sell to offset the loss of wetlands from development in other parts of the city. That project was completed at the end of 2015.
During that restoration, plans for the overall trails and nature center were taking place with the potential of a second restoration project that would be funded through the Open Space fund of the city. This fund is supported by a share of the park dedication fees paid by developers, not general tax dollars. The hope was to create a second restoration site that would provide a revenue source to help in building the nature center and provide the funding to maintain all the city open spaces. After negotiating a rigorous regulatory path,authorization was given to start the project in January 2017.
The open space area had not seen any management for decades. In order to accomplish the goal of restoring the wetland and creating the desired credits, the area needed to be managed as a wetland. This meant removing some of the trees that had crept in over the years, mowing off the invasive grasses and opening the opportunity for the native plants and dormant seeds in the ground to flourish. The Branch 3 restoration used the same techniques and has been very successful.
Management of the wetland site will continue over the next 5 years to accomplish the plan approved by the regulatory agencies. The culmination will be large communities of native plants, improved habitat for birds and wildlife, opportunities for people to learn about and enjoy this unique ecosystem and support for all open spaces in the City of Blaine.
More information on these projects can be obtained by contacting the Engineering Department at 763-785-6172.
Engineering Information for Wetland Sanctuary Project