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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


The Path to Fish Creek

This afternoon an event at the community center will celebrate the closing on the purchase of the former CoPar property at Fish Creek.  The Conservation Fund has purchased the land, to hold while the city finalizes the last of the funding in order to make it publicly owned.

When I was first running for council four years ago, Fish Creek was a contentious issue, with the city embroiled at the time in litigation with a developer whose proposal had been turned down.  Studying the issues, and ultimately voting in favor of a settlement agreement to end the lawsuit, provided me with a real crash course in the land use issues that are a major part of city council responsibility.

I successfully pushed for a "public ownership option" to be included as part of the settlement agreement.  The developer went out of business before building, and the city did not exercise its right to purchase land for conservation under that settlement agreement -- but the discussion did focus attention on the idea of conservation, and brought county, local, state and even federal officials into the conversation.  It led to the Fish Creek Greenway ad hoc committee and its work, and council endorsement of that committee's work gave staff the backing to pursue various leads and ideas, bringing us ultimately to where we are today -- with an actual plan moving ahead to conserve the land, bringing together public and private resources (including the generous help of Ramsey County, the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and 3M), and a relatively small funding gap left to fill.

There are a bunch of people who have worked much, much longer -- on the order of decades -- to protect this land at Fish Creek (I'm thinking of Char and Carolyn, in particular).  But I'm very proud that my legacy as a councilmember will include helping that long-sought vision become reality.

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