Youth baseball fields and an indoor training facility are planned for a field near a protected natural area in Savage, despite objections from local residents about possible environmental effects.
The city council approved the project, presented by a company called MN MASH, on Monday.
The MN MASH complex, which will be located at 6510 130th St., will include a 68,000 square foot facility with an indoor baseball field, locker rooms and offices. A loading area and 100 parking spaces are also provided.
“This has been our vision since 2012,” said Steve McGuiggan, co-owner of MN MASH, or Making Athletes Sustainable Here, which has offices in Eagan and St. Cloud. “It has always been our goal to have a campus … where we control the framework.”
The new MN MASH facility and fields will be directly south of the 289-acre Savage Fen Science and Nature Area, owned by MNR. The Protected Area, between Minnesota Hwy. 13 and the Minnesota River in Scott County, is part of the more than 400 acre wetland complex of Savage Fen.
The proximity to this natural area has raised concerns among residents. “You have the environmental zone that will be affected,” said Charles Massie, who lives across the road from the bog. “It’s just kind of a pretty little sanctuary for [wildlife] and the locals are worried. “
MNR also asked if it had had sufficient time to comment on the proposal.
“Due to the short notice … we are still coming to understand the specific details of the project and respond with a thorough review of the potential impacts on protected species,” wrote Melissa Collins, regional environmental assessment ecologist for the agency. State, in an email to the city’s engineering firm. Limestone swamp “is the rarest and most protected type of land in Minnesota,” Collins said in an interview. “It’s just a very, very sensitive site.”
Collins said the developer should have contacted the DNR and consulted the Natural Heritage Information System, a database of information about plants, animals and other rare features in Minnesota, at the start of the project. This does not appear to have happened, she said.
Collins also raised concerns about the risks the nets used to trap fake bullets could pose to birds and bats. She mentioned concerns about the deep footings required for light poles and their impact on bog water quality, the effect of nighttime lighting on birds and recommended minimal tree removal. The project could affect Blanding’s turtles, bald eagles, rare snakes and rusty bumblebees on site, she said.
McGuiggan said the project will not be built in the swamp but nearby, and added that there are many city and MNR processes the company must follow.
“We’re just going to make sure we do whatever we need to do to make it go into this area,” he said. “I think it will be an asset to the community for sure.”
Council’s unanimous approval on Monday included the vote of Mayor Janet Williams, whose brother owns the field the baseball complex would occupy. She said she consulted with the city attorney and was assured she could vote because she had no personal interest in the case.
City Council member Bob Coughlen said the land will eventually be developed. “I would rather have something like this in our community,” Coughlen said. “I think that would be a good fit.”
Erin Adler • 612-673-1781