The Stillwater City Council on Tuesday night told Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel that the city is interested in working through a concept that may eventually turn the Aiple property into a city park.
Elayne Aiple recently informed Washington County that she would like to sell her property on the St. Croix River—north of downtown adjacent to the Brown’s Creek Trail—to the public to preserve the land.
The estimated market value of the 16-acre property, including 4,000 feet of shore land, is $1.056 million, according to city records. The land's estimated value is $725,600, while the building is valued at $331,200.
Four acres of the property are undeveloped and in a natural state, according to city records. Twelve acres include the house, a long driveway turf grass, a pool, a manmade trout pond and large docks.
“It’s an opportunity for the city to significantly expand its riverfront,” Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki said. “Even if not for today, for future generations. I don’t really think we have a burning need for it today, but to have that available—especially as the (Brown’s Creek) trail evolves—it will be important to do something with that piece of land.”
There is no need to turn the property into pubic-use land immediately, Stillwater Community Development Director Bill Turnblad said. One option is for Mrs. Aiple to remain there as a life estate, but all the details still have to be discussed.
“I see no downside for the city continuing to work with the county in exploring what’s possible in preserving this for future public use,” City Administrator Larry Hansen said.
Depending on the price of the property, the potential use of the county’s Land and Legacy Funds chipping in it would be a great way to leverage city monies to acquire an incredible asset for the city, Harycki said.
The county put out requests for proposals to appraise the land value, Kriesel told the council, but before moving forward wanted to be sure the city of Stillwater was open to possibility of owning, managing and operating the property for public use.
During the Washington County Board’s discussion about the Aiple property last month, Jane Harper—who coordinates the county’s Land and Water Legacy Program—said various governmental agencies agree the property would be a great asset to the public, but haven’t decided how to manage it.
The National Park Service can’t acquire the property because it is south of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway boundary, Harper said. The Met Council says the land is too small for a regional park.
The Minnesota DNR supports the public acquisition of the property as an amenity for trail users to find a place to rest in the shade at the end of the trail, but say it is too small to be a state park.
While discussion about the Aiple property is just beginning, a few potential funding sources include: