Continued growth and outward development have always put pressure on the natural areas around the Twin Cities metro, but in recent years these trends have accelerated. The few remaining green spaces around the metro are steadily being converted to suburban development—impacting the many public benefits these green spaces provide. Fortunately, local families have stepped up to ensure that the natural lands that support the clean water and wildlife habitat for which Minnesota is known are preserved. Recently, Paul Goodwin and Yuko Nakajima worked with the Minnesota Land Trust to protect nearly 47 acres of natural land in the St. Croix River watershed, protecting the river and the open spaces forever.
Just north of Stillwater, the property is a mix of oak savanna, woodlands, wetlands, and retired farm fields. Located in an area identified by Washington County as a high-priority area for conservation, Paul and Yuko worked to protect their property because of their strong conservation ethic and love of the property.
Having grown up along the St. Croix River, Paul wanted to make sure his family had the opportunity to experience all the area had to offer.
“With two young boys, we wanted to give them a lot of room to roam,” says Goodwin. “It’s a nice place to cross-country ski and camp. Sandhill cranes visit us in the Spring and this Summer we have a resident Great Horned Owl with her offspring. The kids love the connection to the wild.”
More than just a beautiful parcel of land, the property plays an important role in protecting the water quality of the St. Croix River. Silver Creek flows over the land and, by keeping the shoreline natural and undisturbed, the family is reducing runoff pollution and filtering the crystal-clear water as it flows to the St. Croix River.
And there’s more need than ever to protect those waters—just last year the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) declared another 25-mile stretch of the St. Croix impaired by runoff and excess nutrients.
“Protecting this land forever the way Paul and Yuko have isn’t just a wonderful gift to their family, but also a gift to all of us here in the Metro and Washington County,” says Kristina Geiger, program manager for the Minnesota Land Trust. “By working with the Land Trust and Washington County, this land will stay in private hands and continue to be managed and taken care of by their family for years to come.”
“Washington County has been a leader in recognizing the importance of protecting our natural areas, both for the protection of the water resources that will be needed for future generations,” says county Commissioner Gary Kriesel, District 3, “and for the preservation of our natural areas that provide a natural getaway from usual urban living.”
Long term, Paul hopes to fully restore the land and bring back the species and plants that used to be prevalent on the landscape.
“There’s a lot of old white oaks and bur oaks; it’ll be great to clear out the buckthorn and bring back the savanna habitat” says Paul. “It has always been a dream of mine to improve habitat, and the Minnesota Land Trust has been a great restoration partner.”
“Long term this will be a great asset for both Paul and Yuko’s family, as well as for all Minnesotans who rely on the clean waters of the St. Croix,” says Haley Golz, Private Lands Restoration Manager at the Minnesota Land Trust. “In the coming years I look forward to working with the family and our partners to bring back some of the beautiful prairie that used to dominate the region and create an oak savanna that will provide habitat for numerous native species.”
Paul hopes more landowners in the area explore the opportunity to protect and restore their natural land with the Minnesota Land Trust. “We didn’t know a conservation easement preserves your private enjoyment of the land. It’s been a fun learning experience; the flexibility of the Land Trust helped us do this, and now we can still enjoy the property.”
The Minnesota Land Trust works with local landowners and partners to protect the habitat and water quality of the Twin Cities metro region. Interested landowners can apply for opportunities in their area at www.mnland.org/metro.