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County acquires additional riverfront acreage

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St. Croix County secured more than 1,000 additional feet of riverfront acreage as part of its bluff line mitigation agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the St. Croix River Crossing project.

County supervisors unanimously approved the $3.2 million purchase of 114 acres from a private owner at their Oct. 3 meeting.

A $1.8 million transfer from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will foot the bill for a bulk of the purchase, along with the county's $863,000 bluffline mitigation fund, while greenspace mitigation funds will cover $200,000.

The acquisition's finalization will depend on the county receiving a $400,000 Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources, for which an application was submitted earlier this year.

The newly-acquired acreage neighbors an existing 52-acre parcel the county owns near the towns of St. Joseph and Hudson.

Ellen Denzer, the county's Community Development director, said the landowners, who live in California, contacted her after reading a news article about their previous purchase.

The sale, Denzer said, would offer the county "another outstanding opportunity to utilize our funds to create an even larger county park."

The county aims, through the acquisition, to preserve scenic, threatened and environmentally sensitive areas and open access to the public.

The site is home to at least 25 endangered species along with natural hard water springs, old growth elm and oak trees.

Although the land remains mostly undeveloped besides a cabin, proposed future uses include an overlook, observation tower and variety of outdoor recreation.

"This is another very rare opportunity— totally unexpected," Denzer said. "It's a very rare and special piece."