Considering that there are over 1,000 acres of parkland within the city limits of Prior Lake, this means that there is one acre of green space for every 25 residents! With 55 neighborhood parks scattered throughout the city, residents are assured of at least one park being close by virtually any residential community lots in Prior Lake, MN. One of the largest of these parks, however, is Spring Lake Regional Park, which is operated by The Three Rivers Park District in partnership with Scott County. The Three Rivers Park District is a special park district serving the suburban areas of the Twin Cities, all with facilities that have watersheds flowing into one of three rivers: the Mississippi, Minnesota, or the Crow rivers.
Located on Prior Lake’s west side, along the north shore of Spring Lake, Spring Lake Regional Park encompasses 374 acres of spectacularly diverse natural habitats, including a three-mile paved trail that winds through magnificent maple-basswood-oak forests, wetlands, and prairie areas. It also links to the Scott West Regional Trail, connecting Three Rivers Park to the equally outstanding Cleary Lake Regional Park, just southeast of the city. Of course, all of this would be reason enough for any lover of the outdoors to heap praise on Prior Lake, and the quality of life that all of this open space offers to its residents, but it should be noted that it took years of planning to bring this all about.
Scott County began acquiring land in the area as early as the 1960s, but other than footpaths and some snowmobile trails, the land was mostly unused by the public. Initially purchased by the county to provide diverse habitat and protect natural resources, development of Spring Lake Regional Park wouldn’t occur for another half century. Then, in 2006, Scott County commissioned a Spring Lake Regional Park Master Plan Report as a guide for future implementation of infrastructure, recreational amenities, and stewardship practices. Six years later the county began to build the first phase of the park, which was to be phased in over several years, with the first phase opening in 2012.
Today, Spring Lake Regional Park not only has that three-mile paved trail, but dogs are allowed on all paved paths as well and there are 9 acres for large breeds and 1 acre for small breeds of off-leash areas with watering and rinsing stations. By linking to the Scott West Regional Trail, connecting this park with the Cleary Lake Regional Park, an additional eight miles of trail are accessible, with another eight miles in the planning stage. When fully complete, the trail will connect others in the region such as the Minnesota Valley State Trail and the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail. There are also plans that include a four-season lakeside pavilion with fishing piers and observation decks and restoration of savanna areas.
If that were not enough, Scott County also has a 2030 Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2009, that encompasses Spring Lake Regional Park. In it, the county updated its mission statement to read: “enhance the health and spirit of our residents and guests by creating a sustainable system that connects people to the natural world.” As stated in its executive summary, it establishes goals, policies, and strategies to balance the complex relationships between land use, transportation, public services, natural resources, and infrastructure in a manner that addresses the needs of its people while managing the impacts of growth.
The city of Prior Lake, in concert with its forward-looking county, certainly does provide its citizens with more than ample opportunities to interact with nature and has set its sights on ever greater opportunities in the future. With so many community lots in Prior Lake, MN, this certainly is an outdoor lover’s paradise!
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