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A Scandia woman who died last year gifted 300 acres of land to Washington County for a public park, but the deal came with a catch. The bequest from the Joyce Heinisch Trust says that her daughter and granddaughter must be allowed to live out their lives on the land first, meaning any park opening could be decades away.

The unusual deal is unlike anything Washington County Commissioner Fran Mironhas seen during his tenure on the board, he said, and while commissioners are excited about the offer, it's come with "a lot of questions about what our role might be and the timeline."

The land is largely agricultural, but it comes with an easement from the Minnesota Land Trust that places restrictions on what the land can become. If agricultural uses are stopped, for example, they cannot be restarted under the terms of the easement, according to information compiled by county staff.

According to her obituary, Heinisch died at age 81 last summer due to cancer. She was born in Sterling, Ill., and graduated from Marquette University as a registered nurse. She worked as a school nurse and also farmed, managing a 280-head herd of beef cattle by herself. She was preceded in death by her husband, Roger; daughter, Veronica; brother, John; and sister, Elizabeth. She is survived by her children Theresa and Michael, eight grandchildren, and 15 great grandchildren. "Joyce wasn't afraid of anything and never backed down from a challenge," the obituary read.

Her daughter wasn't available for comment this week, but county documents say the land deal would make Theresa Frogner and Lyndsey Frogner life tenants of the property. The terms of the joint ownership would be that the Frogners, as life tenants, would be responsible for taxes, expenses and regular maintenance of the property; they would also be required to maintain insurance on the parcel and be liable for any incidents on the property during their occupancy.

The county, as the "remainderman" in the joint property ownership deal, would not see the land pass to its control until the deaths of the life tenants, according to county staff.

It's such an unusual offer that the county will need time to study it further before making any decision, said Miron.

"We're still putting together what all of this entails," said Sharon Price, the county's property acquisitions manager. Some potential liabilities include inactions or misdeeds that the life tenants or their guests do to the property, the potential responsibility for any hazardous or toxic substances left on the land, and questions about insurance, indemnification or any additional encumbrances on the land.

The county has no plans for parks in that area, said Price. And the city of Scandia, in its Scandia 2040 comprehensive plan, continues to show agricultural use for the land into the future.

Any future uses of the land would be bound by the Minnesota Land Trust easement, but those uses could include passive recreation such as hiking, cross-country skiing, and other recreational or educational activities that have a minimal impact on the land. Beekeeping and maple syrup collection would also be allowed.

Joyce and Roger Heinisch put the easement on the property in 2011, according to Andrew Moe, the Minnesota Land Trust's director of conservation stewardship. The easement runs in perpetuity and was designed to protect the conservation values of the parcel, which includes grassland, forest and some wetlands, said Moe. It will never be made available for development, he added.

Miron said the county will make its decision at a future board meeting, but nothing's been scheduled yet as county staff continue to gather information.