Our involvement at William O’Brien began in 1971, when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR) began an effort to expand that park. They wanted to include the rolling, partly wooded area to the west of the park, which is now home to several miles of popular cross-country ski trails. As the DNR waited in limbo for the Legislature to authorize the expansion, a developer purchased a big portion of it and quickly moved to develop housing.
Led by then president Samuel H. Morgan, P&TC began a race against time to save the park from the impending development. To win this battle, Morgan and his group moved simultaneously on several fronts. They launched a major fundraising campaign while working to safeguard the land within the proposed 850-acre expansion area, by entering into buyer agreements. At the same time these land deals were being negotiated, P&TC’s leaders were working with the Legislature to ensure the park boundary expansion bill passed into law. Thanks to generous support from individuals and foundations, P&TC was able to acquire nearly all the land in this area in seven separate land deals finalized between 1972 and 1973. By 1973 the Legislature authorized the expansion and P&TCM conveyed the land to the state.