South St. Paul applies for grants to help with park updates

courtesy of South St. Paul • South St. Paul submitted an application for a Dakota County Environmental Legacy Fund grant that could help pay for phase two at Kaposia Landing, which would include a play area and group picnic shelter.

courtesy of South St. Paul • Another grant proposal is for improvements at the Wakota Scenic Trailhead and Overlook.

The South St. Paul City Council passed a resolution March 5 in support of the city’s application for Dakota County Environmental Legacy Fund grants, which would be used for park improvements.

Chris Esser, director of the city Parks and Recreation Department, said the city has a unique opportunity to apply for grant funding from the county because of having a landfill in the city.

Erin Stwora, Dakota County physical development assistant director, said in a March 7 interview that the county collects landfill host fees to help mitigate the negative effects of landfills. 

In 2015, the county instituted the Environmental Legacy Fund with several eligible uses for those host fees.

“Late last year, there were several commissioners interested in exploring the idea of a grant program that would be a portion of that Environmental Legacy Fund,” Stwora said. 

Dakota County has $3 million to allocate as grants. Cities with landfills or in close proximity to a landfill are eligible.

Projects that qualify for grants include a wide range of work that’s environmentally related, from gravel pit remediation to parks/greenway master plan improvements.

South St. Paul is one of five communities that qualify for the grant.

“We think we have a pretty robust chance of getting some type of funding,” Esser said during the March 5 city council meeting.

The council had identified projects that could use grant money at a prior work session.


Phase two for Kaposia 

Esser said city staff will submit one grant application to fund phase two of Kaposia Landing, but break it up into three segments that will have different priority rankings. 

The first priority is $200,000 for a play area development that’s part of the Kaposia Landing master plan. The second priority is recreation site amenities, which would include paved trails, volleyball courts and more.

The master plan also calls for a group picnic shelter and performance area, which is the third priority. 

“That is the most expensive thing so we decided to make it priority three,” Esser said, adding the request for that shelter is $500,000.

In 2014, the city council passed a referendum to fund the development of Kaposia Landing. The first phase of construction included four softball fields and a baseball field. 



Second option

The second application city staff put together is for the Wakota Scenic Trailhead and Overlook.

Currently, there’s a boat launch at the site. Esser said staff has a vision of creating more of an enhanced area, not only for the boat launch and a community garden area, but also the regional trail.

Esser said the city is looking at a trailhead similar to what’s at the Rock Island Swing Bridge. There would be amenities like a restroom station, fish cleaning area, expanded parking and upgrades to the boat launch area.

The grant request for that would be for over $750,000 with a local match of $510,000. Esser said the grants do not require a local match, but city staffers think having that will bolster the city’s chance of being awarded the grant by showing “it has some skin in the game.”

If one or both of the projects receive funding, Esser said work could begin as soon as 2019. 

Council member Lori Hansen asked Esser if additional parking options at Kaposia Landing had been looked at to go with the new amenities.

Esser said additional parking at Kaposia Landing is not part of the master plan, but it’s an option.

Council member Tom Seaberg asked what the timeline for the grant is, and Esser said after the March 16 application deadline, the county board won’t take a long time to deliberate. He said city staff expects to get notice relatively soon.

The council unanimously approved the resolution expressing its support.

Stwora said county commissioners will review the applications at their April 17 physical development committee meeting.

“This is a good opportunity to look at how we can mitigate the effects of the landfill with dollars collected through the landfill host fee,” Stwora said. 


– Hannah Burlingame can be at 651-748-7824 or

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