Demolition of the unused water reservoir just south of the historic Highland Water Tower will get underway this month. The large underground water tank will be removed and the site seeded over except where Ramsey County will be making parking lot and access improvements for the Charles M. Schulz-Highland Arena. The Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department is planning to create new ballfields there at a later date.

The City Council has delayed action on a related land swap involving the reservoir site and land adjacent to Pig’s Eye Lake. For the past 17 years, the Saint Paul Water Utility has used Pig’s Eye Lake park land to dump soil left over from its water line work. The soil has been dumped during the winter and hauled away each spring.

The proposed land swap would allow the water utility to use eight acres of city land near Pig’s Eye Lake as a staging area for soil for 29 years. In exchange, the water utility would lease the former reservoir site to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for the new ballfields.

The land swap is intended to meet the requirements of the city’s charter and parkland ordinance, which calls for no net loss of parkland. As part of the deal, the water utility would improve the three acres it currently uses at Pig’s Eye and add signs and possibly parking. Nevertheless, the plan is opposed by parks advocates on Saint Paul’s East Side, who view the water utility’s eight-acre soil staging area as an industrial use.

— Jane McClure

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