Andover spends last of its open space money

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

Nine years after Andover voters approved a $2 million referendum to protect natural lands from development, the city is about to spend the last $80,000 on a 40-acre site.

Alfred Dalske (second from left) gives a tour of the property he is selling to Andover for open space preservation. A request that the city will honor is that the property be called Dalske Woodlands. Photos by Suzanne Van Hecke
Alfred Dalske (second from left) gives a tour of the property he is selling to Andover for open space preservation. A request that the city will honor is that the property be called Dalske Woodlands. Photos by Suzanne Van Hecke

The city of Andover is set to close at the end of August on the purchase of a 40-acre property from Alfred Dalske. One stipulation of the purchase agreement is that the open space be named Dalske Woodlands.

“When my kids heard that the Dalske name would go on in perpetuity, they were all excited,” said Dalske, who celebrates his 81st birthday Friday.

Located in northeast Andover, the site abuts approximately 160 acres in Oak Grove owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This proximity will lead to discussions with the state about shared parking since the access by foot into both properties is where 181st Avenue dead-ends into a gravel road.

“It’s very peaceful. It’s adjacent to state land so it feels far removed from development,” said Suzanne Van Hecke, member of the Andover Open Space Advisory Commission. “The Dalske family tells us the maple colors are brilliant in the fall. I’m looking forward to taking a walk there again.”

In Van Hecke’s opinion, the prettiest areas are where soft grass is found under large trees, which are a great spot for deer to lay down.

A deer bed in a packed down grassy area underneath a grove of trees.
A deer bed in a packed down grassy area underneath a grove of trees.

Dalske has lived in Oak Grove north of Cedar Creek near Lake George Boulevard since 1969. His wife died 14 years ago. Two of his children live in Coon Rapids, two are in Wisconsin and one resides in Princeton.

In 1996, he bought the 40-acre property in Andover for hunting and recreation.

“All my sons have hunted on there. The Boy Scouts have camped there. The kids still like to pick raspberries there,” Dalske said.

City Administrator Jim Dickinson said $80,000 for 40 acres is “a very good price” and believes it may qualify as a partial donation by Dalske for tax purposes.

Dalske believes the land was worth more, but was faced with the fact that $80,000 was all the city had left to spend from its open space fund. He has had health problems recently and is looking long-term at estate issues.

With the taxes much higher the past couple of years once the property was removed from the Green Acres taxing classification, he felt it made more sense to sell the property at a discount rather than keep it. The property is far from any city sewer and water lines.

“It was a good time to sell and get rid of it,” he said.

After voters approved a $2 million open space referendum in 2006, the Andover City Council formed the seven-member Open Space Advisory Commission that sought willing sellers who owned land that was worth preserving because of natural amenities or because there was a danger of it being developed.

The city bought 170 acres for $2.02 million, slightly higher than the referendum amount because of interest on those accounts.

Mayor Julie Trude does not envision there being a push for another open space referendum that would allow the  city to buy more property, but said the open space commission will still have work to do, along with Andover’s Natural Resources Technician Kameron Kytonen, on drafting and implementing land management plans.

“We have a lot of park land. I don’t want to take more property off the tax rolls,” Trude said. “It’s costing us money to care for this land.”

The open space property is different than the typical city park because there can be no paved trails, playgrounds, picnic tables, shelters or other amenities that would seriously alter the natural setting.

The city prohibits hunting and camping on open space land. The only thing allowed is walking on dirt trails cut through the brush by the city. The biggest task for maintenance is removing invasive species such as buckthorn.

There is currently no public access to Dalske Woodlands. That will be developed in the coming months. Dickinson said a county ditch that cuts east-west through the middle of the property “would add to the value and character of the parcel” but it means some type of bridge needs to be built so walkers can get to the high ground on the south side.

The DNR’s property is open to the public but there are no trails and the DNR has not discussed any type of trail access between the two properties, according to Aaron Vande Linde, administrator of the state’s School Trust Lands program.

The program was developed in 1858 when Minnesota became a state. This land can be sold and mined for resources to assist with education funding.

In the winter of 2012-2013, the DNR allowed a logging company to come onto this 40-acre Oak Grove property to clear cut aspen, oak and maple trees and cut down a small stand of Norway pines. The DNR did leave some of these hardwoods behind to provide habitat for animals and to help with forest regeneration and planted white pines, VandeLinde said.

The DNR updates its management plans for School Trust Lands sites every 10 years and tree harvest schedules depend on the ages of the trees, stand density and mortality and whether the trees are being impacted by diseases.

School Trust Lands can be mined, but Vande Linde said “this site is not conducive to mining for sand or gravel.” And the DNR typically does not sell black dirt.

Andover open space properties

In addition to Dalske Woodlands, there are three other open space properties in Andover, all of which are north of 161st Avenue.

Ninety of the 170 acres of open space in Andover is north and east of the intersection at Hanson Boulevard and 161st Avenue, an area of the community that has seen a lot of new homes built in the White Pines Wilderness, Country Oaks West and Country Oaks North neighborhoods.

North Woods Preserve is 46 acres that can be accessed by parking in small gravel lot on the east side of 161st Avenue, just north of 161st Avenue. The city of Andover had purchased 20 acres from the Emmerich family and 26 acres from the Aasness family.

Just to the north is 44 acres of a yet to be named open space property which can only be accessed on the north side of the new Country Oaks West neighborhood north of 161st Avenue on Wintergreen Street, but there will eventually be another city street out to Hanson Boulevard close to this open space. The city had bought 14 acres from Dennis Kuiken and 30 acres from Jim Selmer and his sister Hazel Blanchette.

Martin’s Meadows is a 40-acre site along the Rum River that can be accessed at the end of Navajo Street. This was the first open space purchase the city made, in November 2009, and it ended up being the most expensive by far. The city paid Hope and Jeff Leudtke $930,000 for this river-front property in northwest Andover.

Dickinson said each property has its own unique positives whether it be the river, untouched woods, significant prairie or wetlands.

“I want to thank the open space commissioners, past and present, for their work on the open space purchases,” Trude said. “As people move here to enjoy nature, now we know there will be nature left even after homes continue to be built around these areas.”

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