The year 2016 will be a year to remember and celebrate two great milestones in Minnesota history: the 125th anniversary of Minnesota State Parks and the 50th anniversary of Minnesota State Trails.
The first state park and the beginning of our great tradition was Lake Itasca. The word Itasca comes from two Latin words, veritas + caput or “true head,” and refers to the lake being the headwaters of the Mississippi River. It is also the true head or foundation for all the parks to follow.The DNR shares an interesting story on the origin of the park:
“In the late 1800s, Jacob V. Brower, historian, anthropologist and land surveyor, came to the park region to settle the dispute of the actual location of the Mississippi Headwaters. Brower saw this region being quickly transformed by logging, and was determined to protect some of the pine forests for future generations. It was Brower’s tireless efforts to save the remaining pine forest surrounding Lake Itasca that led the state legislature to establish Itasca as a Minnesota State Park on April 20, 1891, by a margin of only one vote. Through his conservation work and the continuing efforts of others throughout the decades, the splendor of Itasca had been maintained.”
One visionary citizen and one wise legislator made all the difference. We should all remember this as proof that individuals have the potential to make a difference for generations to come.
The park’s history is even more amazing with the contribution of one young woman. In 1903, Mary Gibbs, the 24-year-old daughter of the park superintendent, was appointed by the governor to succeed her father who unexpectedly died. She soon had to face down loggers who put up a dam and were flooding the park. It is a great story and one to be remembered too.
Over the past 125 years there are many other examples of such vision and courage. The year 2016 will be a good time to share these inspiring stories and to renew our commitment to join in this great legacy.
The parks had a 75-year head start, but the trails are now spreading out throughout our beloved state.
With our efforts today, Minnesota’s state parks and trails will be just as vital to people 125 years in the future.