Deep in the forest at Temperance River State Park, lays 40 acres of land, representing the only parcel within the park’s entire 5,090 acres, that remains privately owned.
Late last year Parks & Trails Council (P&TC) purchased this parcel and we are working to transfer it into park ownership.
How did it end up as the final private parcel?
A look through the history records shows a purchase in 1919 by two unrelated men, each with half-ownership of the parcel. Records before then are not readily available, but at that time, the area was undergoing drastic changes. The logging boom had just come to an end, leaving behind denuded lands that nobody wanted. The road near this parcel, which is now used for snowmobiling, was originally built by the logging companies.
According to stories from the men’s descendants, the men purchased the land to be their hunting retreat. It continued for this purpose through several generations of inheritance. Today, however, the only sign of past human habitation are the remnants of what appears to have been a small cabin or shed, which is now decaying on the forest floor.
The 40-acres provide critical wildlife habitat, holding the headwaters of a perennial stream that flows into Lake Superior. This parcel also adds to the forested buffer protecting the backcountry experience for hikers on the nearby Superior Hiking Trail.
We purchased the land in a two-step process, starting by acquiring half-ownership from one descendant in 2013. Following up, we purchased the other descendent’s half-interest last year. So now, the full parcel is in the process of officially becoming parkland.
Temperance River came to be a park in a somewhat piecemeal fashion that momentarily left its fate in question. The main part of the park, along Highway 61, was previously owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. In 1957 they transferred ownership of this land to the parks division, prompting the establishment of Temperance River State Park. At only 200 acres, this park was nearly put on the cutting block for not complying with state park standards set out by a 1971 study. It was saved by a vision of connecting this park with the nearby Cross River Wayside. A vision that happened after the 1990s.
A third section of the park, known as the Carlton Peak area, was added in 1994. This area had been owned by 3M for a mining operation. But once the gravel turned out to not be the kind they needed, they transferred it to the park with the help of the Nature Conservancy.
Surrounding these three areas, is land within the statutory boundary that is owned by the Superior National Forest. (Note: The statutory boundary is established through a state legislative process to indicate which lands are authorized for potential inclusion in a park).
In other words, all the land within the park’s statutory boundary is publicly owned, but by different jurisdictions that have different missions. Eventually, the hope is that all this land will come under state park ownership.
This could be years down the road. In the meantime, visitors largely don’t notice the difference between state park land and national forest land.