At the border of Frontenac State Park, near it’s entrance, lays 158.82 acres of land that holds outstanding natural beauty and a view to behold. Earlier this year the owner put the land up for sale, thus presenting a small window of opportunity to protect this land for future generations to enjoy as part of the park.
Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota exists to ensure these opportunities are not lost. We began discussions right away, knowing that if the landowner sold to a private entity that would likely put an end to any future use as parkland, perhaps forever.
If you’ve ever visited the park you’ve glimpsed this land, which is along Highway 2, just north of the bridge crossing the Pleasant Valley Lakelet and Creek. But to see the full extent of this land’s natural beauty, you need to climb its bluff, which looks out in the opposite direction from the park’s famous Lake Pepin overlooks. From atop this peaceful bluff you can see the meandering waters of the lakelet and creek that wrap around the southern end of the park and flow into Lake Pepin.
In 2015, Parks & Trails Council’s then-president Mike Tegeder first learned of the land and the owner’s interest in selling. At that time he had the opportunity to trek up the bluff and see the vista (photo above). It inspired a feeling that preserving this vista as part of the park experience was paramount.
Another year went by with P&TC vigilantly monitoring the land and discussing the potential with the MnDNR. It was clear that numerous obstacles stood in the way, limiting the DNR’s ability to even contemplate adding it to the park, yet the opportunity was now or never.
Building on the initial reaction that this land holds unmistakable beauty, P&TC’s board of directors weighed the land’s qualities along a rigorous set of criteria to determine its compatibility for enhancing the park, for which it clearly did. In May P&TC acquired the land.
It was an acquisition based on conviction—the conviction that we owe future generations access to land that showcases our natural heritage and that provide unparalleled opportunity to experience the outdoors. P&TC was founded on such conviction and this project continues that legacy.
In fact, Frontenac State Park itself, which was established in 1957, was also founded on such conviction. It became a park thanks to the effort of the local community who rallied and bought land with the vision that it would become a park. Today we all benefit from these visionary moves and we hope that such will be the fate of this new land.
At this point, while P&TC is focusing all our efforts on seeing this land become part of the park, there are no guarantees. We made sure the possibility is still alive, but the next steps could be the beginning of a long journey or a short one to adding it to the park.
While this land lies outside the boundary of the state park, it has been cared for in recent years in a manner that mimics the parkland around it. The previous landowner even invested significant resources in removing tons of old tires and restoring oak savanna and native prairie plant communities.
This addition would further secure the park’s status as a birdwatchers destination with both increased acreage and diversity of habitat. This relatively small parcel includes bluffs, oak savanna, prairie and rich creek shoreline.
Parks & Trails Council will hold the land in trust for the park. Meanwhile, we will lead the effort to advocate for this land’s incorporation. With the support of the local community, the elected officials at the state, county and local level, as well as the MnDNR, this land can become a valuable assets for this state park that serves all Minnesotans.