Friday, September 19, 2014

Kensington Runestone Replica R.P.A. / Runestone Park

County Road 82
Alexandria, MN

This roadside parking area is a bit unusual; it greets west bound traffic to Alexandria with a rune stone replica 5 times the size of the original, but there is no parking area. The site is best seen by taking city streets to the south side of the park.  This site was built in 1951 by the Minn Dept of Highways (MHD) and Cold Spring Granite Company.

The features include the rune stone replica granite marker, granite benches, flagpole, and mooring rock. The site is nicely planted with decorative plants.

'We are 3 Swedes and 22 Norwegians on an exploring journey from Vinland through the West. We had a camp by a lake with two rocky islands one day's trip north from this stone. We were out and fished one day; after we came home we found 11 of our men red with blood and dead. Ave Maria. Save us from evil.' On side of stone: 'We have ten of our party by the sea and two look after our ships fourteen days trip from this island. Year 1362.'"

The Runestone Museum

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cold Spring Roadside Parking Area

MN Highway 23
Cold Spring

This roadside parking area was built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration and straddles Highway 23 at the east bank of the Sauk River. When the 1997 survey was completed the site was considered eligible for the National Register. Visiting the site in September 2014, I was reminded that historical can mean something that existed in the past. The site appears to have been abandoned. There is no signage along the highway or the street that runs along the site. A parking lot exists, two actually; one at the south site and one at the north site. But the high weeds, dumped mattress and other trash was not encouraging. Nevertheless, several remnants of the site can still be seen.

The Overlook - south site
A muddy trail leads up to the top of the knoll where the overlook was built.

Typical trail at the site

Looking west at the overlook

Stairs at the west end of the overlook

The overlook appeared to be intact. Brush is growing against the sides and in the interior. The stone work is local Cold Spring granite and, like other sites of it time, well built.  A second trail goes down the bluff from the west end of the overlook. The trails converge near the river. The trail along the river can be followed north, under the highway bridge, and south for a short distance.

The Dam - Sauk River

The dam was also built by the WPA in 1936.

The Council Ring - north site

The council ring was in pretty good shape, a couple of stones were loose. Like the other areas of the site trash was strewn about.

Other features
I did not find the fireplace remains noted to have been in both sites. Perhaps a visit later in the fall would reveal more. I could not comfortably photograph the retaining wall under the bridge but it too, was built of local granite. I did not photograph the restroom building or the parking lots. I did not find the spring water features but did see the rip-rap area the water drains into. I did not see the stone ring on the north side. Again, a visit in late fall or spring might reveal more.

The Cold Spring Roadside Parking Area does not serve its original function any longer. I saw a few individuals fishing from the river banks within the site but saw no other visitors.  Hiking the trails is tricky especially when wet.

Cold Spring Roadside Parking Area, 1936 (Mn/DOT photo)
Susan Granger, Scott Kelly, and Kay Grossman. (1998, December). Historic Roadside Development Structures on Minnesota Trunk Highways. Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The photo above suggests this site was once park like with open spaces and visible features. These sites that nature is reclaiming (see the Pine-Hickory Lakes RPA), perhaps more than the intact sites, give me pause to think of the time in which it was built. This was a depression era site, a time some describe as the "make work" era. So be it. People had jobs and made enduring things. We don't do this anymore. Our rest areas are designed to be quick in and quick out. Little incentive to linger or have a picnic. This RPA was probably a terrific place for a picnic or storytelling around a fire and I can imagine it being a destination for those very activities.