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National Park Service to restore land near Fort Snelling Land near Fort Snelling includes spring

National Park Service to restore land near Fort Snelling
Land near Fort Snelling includes spring
By Dennis Lien
dlien@pioneerpress.com
Updated: 12/03/2008 11:11:07 PM CST

The former federal Bureau of Mines campus near Fort Snelling should be cleared of abandoned buildings and managed by the National Park Service as part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, federal officials said Wednesday.

The 27.3-acre parcel along the Mississippi River includes Coldwater Spring, which was used as a primary water source for early soldiers and is a significant site for many American Indians.

The recommendation follows a period in which the Park Service looked into giving the property to other nonfederal agencies, colleges or universities. But none showed any interest, according to Steve Johnson, the MNRRA’s chief of resource management.

“The more we thought about it, the more logical it seemed that we could own and manage it,” Johnson said.

Once final approval is given, the property would be cleared of 11 abandoned buildings and restored to natural conditions. Johnson estimated that cost at $3 million.

The property is adjacent to Minnesota 55 and lies just south of Minnehaha Falls Regional Park and just west of the river. Bureau of Mines scientists researched an array of health and safety concerns for mine workers there until the site was closed as part of a national restructuring effort.

A key question, Johnson said, will be how to treat the spring, which still flows. Because it’s within the Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark area, authorities could choose to restore it to its presettlement state or to the more
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ornate state it was in while soldiers built and used the fort.

The Department of Interior’s “preferred alternative” could change between now and final action next year. But Johnson said the agency has effectively set its course.

Eight years ago, the Metropolitan Airports Commission voted to buy the land for $6 million but backed off after the Sept. 11 attacks. Under that scenario, most of the land would have been preserved for open space, wildlife habitat, and other scenic and recreational purposes.

Dennis Lien can be reached at 651-228-5588.