Notched into a prime area for Charles A. Lindbergh State Park is a property that has been part of the Smuda family story for three generations, starting in the early 1900s. It occupies a critical place at the mouth of Pike Creek–a major water feature in the park. The creek widens and meanders here, blending into wetlands before passing under a bridge along Highway 52 and draining into the Mississippi River.
In 1999, the Smuda property was officially designated within the park’s statutory boundary, meaning it could be purchased if the owner wanted to sell. But, at that time, it was still serving as the home for Alvina Smuda, and would continue as such for another 21 years. Finally, in 2020 the former park manager, Ron Jones, upon learning that Smuda was contemplating moving, enlisted P&TC’s assistance.
“This property is the most critical natural resource-based inholding remaining in the statutory park boundaries,” he explained. On Sept. 9, 2020, P&TC finalized the sale and plans to hold the land in trust while the MnDNR secures the necessary funding.
The modest house, situated along Highway 52, is surrounded by a mown lawn to the north, which comes to an abrupt edge against the park’s forest. Behind the house, a collection of old sheds and barns dot the landscape, and a footbridge crosses the creek, whose shoreline and wetlands sprawl out in a relatively natural state. All these buildings will eventually be removed once the park takes ownership and begins to restore the entire property to a natural condition. The footbridge will likely be brought up to accessibility standards and integrated into the park trail system.
Smuda, 87, now lives in the nearby town of Little Falls and says she is happy the land will become part of the park. “I can go visit and maybe start another zoo,” she joked.
The county had previously purchased a small parcel from Smuda where they’ve built a public boat launch. Boats can be launched into the creek and pass under the highway bridge into the Mississippi River. A water trail on the Mississippi encourages canoeists and kayakers to paddle up the creek to a campsite in the park. According to Park Supervisor Barry Osborne, the landscape around the mouth of the creek offers attractive elevations. With this addition, park trails could be moved closer toward the creek to provide excellent views.