Growing the Green: Cultural & Natural Resources Are Vital Roots of Economic Development

Lindbergh State Park, Little Falls, MN, January 2014.

Lindbergh State Park, Little Falls, MN, January 2014.

When President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act on June 6, 1906, he was formally acknowledging the importance of preserving significant cultural and natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Ten years later, President Woodrow Wilson approved legislation creating the National Park Service. While most acknowledge these landmark laws as important to preserving the country’s significant landscapes and heritage, what is often unrecognized and underrepresented is how cultural and natural resources contribute to economic health and vitality. Parks and cultural sites are economic catalysts. They are critical not only to social and physical well-being, they serve as green engines that encourage innovation, foster long-lasting vibrant change, and provide the foundation for resilient communities that are able to weather increasingly unpredictable storms.

Morrison County is rich in cultural and natural resources. Billig Park in Pierz, the Bowlus Fire Hall, Swanville City Park, the Ripley Esker Scientific and Natural Area, Hurrle Hall, Hennepin Paper Mill Park, Upsala’s Borgstrom House, Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the Morrison County Courthouse, Randall’s Bingo Park, the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site and Charles A. Lindbergh State Park (both of which are next door neighbors to MCHS) are just a few examples from the county’s long list. All provide important educational and recreational opportunities, help to protect the environment, and bolster the wealth and economic resources of the region.

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park is a good example of a cultural and natural resource that benefits the local community at multiple levels. The park brings visitors from across the state, nation and world to experience an important piece of Morrison County’s unique heritage. Set aside as a significant landscape, it preserves an important green space in an urban area, helps to protect the Pike Creek and Mississippi River watersheds, and serves as an incentive to prospective businesses looking to establish in areas that value cultural and natural resources.

The park was established in 1931 after the Lindbergh family donated the family farm to the State of Minnesota with the intent to create a natural park. While local and state leaders undoubtedly recognized the importance of protecting and preserving what was quickly becoming a valued community asset, they may not have fully realized the potential the Lindbergh site had as a basis for economic development. The family wanted to protect the property from being destroyed by souvenir hunters and looters. Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., the celebrated aviator, had become internationally famous virtually overnight after he completed the first solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927. The park was dedicated to Lindbergh’s father, Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr. Lindbergh, Sr. had served as a senator for Minnesota from 1907-1917 and run for governor of the state in 1918.

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park and the other parks and cultural sites found throughout Morrison County are demonstrated economic assets. The sites reflect the area’s significant landscapes and heritage, providing the region with a deep infrastructure that attracts talent and enhances business development potential. Though harmful disinvestment during postwar years in the mid to late twentieth century had a negative impact that can still be felt today, renewed interest and revitalization in the nation’s cultural and natural heritage has encouraged growth and diversity and showcased an inherent ability to adapt to change. Dynamic institutions, Morrison County’s cultural and natural resources play a vital role in the social, economic and physical well-being of the region and its residents. Let’s keep growing the green!

~ Ann Marie Johnson, MCHS Curator

This article was originally published in the Morrison County Historical Society newsletter, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2017.

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