I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of a wonderful place by the name of Lebanon Hills Regional Park on the border of Eagan, Apple Valley, and Rosemount in Dakota County just a short distance south of Minneapolis. I was amazed by the tranquility of the place. Right in the middle of two major suburban cities there is a place where you can’t even hear the rumble of traffic or the roaring of planes flying overhead.
Lebanon Hills is truly an example of a wild place in an urban space. In just one short walk around Schulze Lake and during my drive to the visitor center I passed through oak savanna, prairie, wetlands, lakeshore, and deciduous forest habitats in only a couple of miles. The newly constructed Visitor Center caught my eye with its beautiful green roof made up of a variety of mosses. I sat on a bench overlooking the forest as a family waited patiently for the visitor center to open so that they could spend the day canoeing. The chatter of small children who were eagerly awaiting adventure on the lake filled the air.
The second thing that caught my attention was the sheer size of this park. I spent a couple of hours there and I barely scratched the surface of what this park offers to the public. With over 19 miles of hiking trails, 10 miles of equestrian trials, and 2.5 miles of canoe routes there are more than enough trails to get lost on. Not to mention that admission and parking is free.
I think the park slogan; “Forever Wild” sums this wonderful place up perfectly but us Lebanon Hills fans need to remain vigilant for the future of this park. There are many problems that can affect the serenity of this place in the form of invasive species and urban development. Dakota County Parks are always in need of volunteers to help control the spread of invasive species that threaten the natural ecosystems in the park. Invasive species such as buckthorn, garlic mustard, Japanese hedge parsley, emerald ash borer, common tansy, and spotted knapweed all have been trying to make Lebanon Hills their home.
The park needs your help to combat the spread of invasive species to preserve the natural beauty of Lebanon Hills Regional Park. The biggest impact you can have is to volunteer some of your valuable time with Dakota County Parks to pull and cut these invasive plants so that they can’t spread throughout the park and to other sensitive natural areas.
If you have any questions about volunteering please let me know and I will point you in the right direction to help keep natural wild places in our urban spaces.