We did it all.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of our business, we rented a batch of cabins in Itasca State Park for our staff for three nights. We fished for crappies and northerns in the early morning. We biked the Wilderness Trail with it’s tall pines in the afternoon, ate supper during a narrated cruise on the Chester Charles and listened to the stories of an old logger around the campfire. We canoed to the Headwaters of the Mississippi and walked the infant waterway.
In the midst of all this fun, I couldn’t help but remember the fight it took to make it all possible. In the 1890s, this area was prime logging country, and the very idea of preserving any of it was considered foolish.
Parks and trails don’t come easy. It usually takes a good fight to make them happen.
Jacob Brower led a gigantic fight in the Minnesota Legislature to form Itasca State Park out of prime forestland surrounding the headwaters of the Mississippi River to become the second state park in the nation. Once passed, opponents marshaled an attempt to repeal the park.
Mary Gibbs was the first woman park superintendent in the nation, yet she was dismissed for standing up to the lumber interests that wanted to log off most of the young park. Her defiance drew national attention to the need to preserve this and other natural places.
Could you imagine if someone tried to turn the park back to the loggers today? It wouldn’t happen.
Ever notice all the beautiful log and stone buildings in our state parks? They were built during the depths of the Great Depression when unemployment hit 33 percent. While most people would have said there isn’t enough money to build buildings and conserve our forests, President Franklin Roosevelt started the Civilian Conservation Corp to put people back to work building a park system for the future. We’re still benefiting from that investment.
Building paved bike trails is like planting black walnut trees. You keep saying if only I would have planted this thing ten years ago; and once you do plant, it takes years to fully grow. I’ve seen people fight bike trails with all their heart and soul and come back to be big supporters.
Minnesotans have always been willing to fight that good fight to preserve our natural heritage. In 2008, Minnesota voters passed the Legacy Amendment, imposing a 3/8th of one percent sales tax, which will raise $1.3 billion over 25 years-millions for parks and trails-with a greater vote majority than any statewide candidate.
We still have projects to fight for.
This winter, the state announced the $18 million purchase of 3,000 acres of land next to the Soudan Underground Mine State Park on Lake Vermillion. Lake Vermillion State Park will be a new-age, state-of-the-art park, a crown jewel of the 72-park system preserving a classic lake experience.
Ironically; at the same time the state is about to approve the creation of several toxic metallic sulfide mines that could release dangerous sulfuric acid into several watersheds throughout the Arrowhead region. Over 80 percent of the sulfide mines in wetlands have created water pollution, making this process the number one polluter in the nation. Wisconsin has said no sulfide mines and so should we.
The proposed mining sites are surrounded by many precious places, such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Superior National Forest, Bear Head State Park, the St. Louis River, Lake Superior and the proposed Lake Vermillion State Park. The Friends of the BWCA and other organizations are putting up a good fight to slow down this process and to preserve one of the most beautiful regions of the nation. The risks are too great to justify these short-term gains.
Just as Jacob Brower and Mary Gibbs fought the lumber interests to save the pines of Itasca State Park, we need to lobby our legislators to protect this valuable resource.
Just as many citizens formed friends groups to bring about state parks and trails, we need to assist the Friends of the BWCA in their efforts.
Visit the website
www.friends-bwca.org and join us in fighting this good fight.