The Prescott School District is planning to sell the 14.6 acre parcel of land that is part of the overall trail corridor proposed in the City's CORP and the long-term vision of Coulee River Trails. Proposals for purchase were due November 13, 2023, so we need to act fast in order to ensure that this parcel remains accessible as a connecting corridor for the future.
We have appealed to the Prescott School Board to request that they reconsider the sale of this parcel and to work with us to reserve space for trails on this unique property. We would be grateful if you would add your voice to ours to express your support for trails. The Prescott School Board will be discussing this further at their meeting on Wednesday, November 15, at 6:00 PM at the Prescott High School library (see agenda here).
This 14.6 acre parcel is a key part of the trail system that we envision for Coulee River Trails. If it sells without trail easements included, we will need to adjust our trail plans significantly. This parcel includes trail corridor desire lines in the City of Prescott's Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and could contain some very nice natural surface trail for mountain biking, trail running, hiking, snowshoeing, etc. The wooded section could be utilized for school science classes and STEM classes as a school forest.
The timing of the proposed sale is very unfortunate. After three years of hard work, the vision for the trail system is starting to become reality. Many exciting developments are happening in other parts of the Coulee River Trails System (CRTS). We are securing funds to acquire a 76 acre parcel of land along the Mississippi River with the help of Landmark Conservancy and a $461,000 DNR grant. We have partnered with the City to create a mountain bike skills course at Magee Park, to clear new all-season multiuse trails, and to provisionally secure a $280,000 DNR grant to fund the construction of paved ADA-accessible trails, a paved parking lot, and other amenities following the concept plan that we created for the park. In addition, we are engaging in discussions with private landowners for access to develop other sections of the trail system that would connect to the school district property.
An immediate sale of the 14.6 acre parcel of school district property would have a dramatic adverse impact on the proposed trail design and future grant requests to fund continued work on the trail system and nature preserve.
In contrast, the development of a regionally-significant trail system like the one envisioned by Coulee River Trails could add tremendous value to the city and school district. The value includes economic, health, diversity, and conservation benefits. Proximity to trails positively impacts homeowner satisfaction, property value and salability. Trail systems are also economic drivers for local businesses. When complete, Coulee River Trails and the areas that it connects will attract social, financial and economic capital.
We have had many discussions over the last three years with various school representatives who were part of our Zone 1 Committee that explored trail design, outdoor educational activities, and ecological restoration efforts (including mitigation of invasive and problem species such as buckthorn and black locust). There is a rich history of options that we can bring to consideration to add long-term educational value to the natural and unbuildable areas of the school district property south of the high school building.
But don't take our word for it. Listen to our partner Barett Steenrod from the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program of the National Park Service talk about the potential he saw when he visited this very parcel in 2021:
We recognize that the Prescott School Board has many difficult decisions to make as they face challenges and opportunities of many kinds. As you reach out to them, please thank them for their leadership and express your appreciation for their service to the community.