The Dakota word "bdote" is used to describe the area where the Minnesota and the Mississippi Rivers converge, a place that has substantial spiritual significance for the native Mendota Dakota people as well as historical importance to Minnesotans in general.
It is also the name proposed for a national peace park that a local nonprofit is looking to build in the Fort Snelling historical area with the hope that, like the rivers, the various regional stakeholders will come together in support.
Stephanie Smith, CEO of Global Athlete Village, knows her idea is "big" and "audacious."
"There's all these different layers of bureaucracy," she said. "All of the cities are going after it independently, and I have the luxury of flying at 40,000 feet and looking down and saying, 'Is there a way we can do things better?'"
Her goal is to create the Bdote Peace Park with a centralized visitors center for the region, office space for nonprofits, athletic facilities and centers for health and wellness, education and historical interpretation. Some of the proposed development would reuse Fort Snelling's Upper Post buildings and grounds.
One estimate shows the historic rehabilitation for the Upper Post buildings would cost about $175 million, she said. Smith declined to give the estimated cost of the peace park project.
A major purpose of the park would be to host large-scale events like conferences and athletic tournaments that would generate revenue to be shared with partnering nonprofits, Smith said. It would also serve as a place for health and wellness education programs and other nonprofit programming focusing on youth development, she said.
Smith said she has been toying with the idea since 2006. Global Athlete Village, formerly the Northern Lights Athlete Village, is a faith-based nonprofit based in Bloomington. The organization tries to help nonprofits share resources.
Besides securing funding, Smith's challenge in pushing the peace park plan is getting the numerous entities with jurisdiction in the area on board with the idea.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns the Upper Post site, which lies within the National Park Service's Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The area is unincorporated.
Much is already in the works to develop the area. There is a joint powers agreement currently being discussed between several major stakeholders such as the DNR, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minnesota Historical Society, which operates Historic Fort Snelling.
There is also a master plan being developed by consultants contracted by Hennepin County that could feature offices, shops and museums to be incorporated into the Upper Post area.
The master plan should be finalized by the end of the year, said Dan Cornejo, the St. Paul planning consultant who is spearheading that effort.
"The widest range of uses short of industrial uses would be appropriate out there, especially ones that can reuse the existing buildings," he said.
Smith also is making the rounds talking to potential stakeholders about her plan. She said the restoration of the Upper Post buildings should be included with redevelopment plans for Fort Snelling, and any plans should encourage appreciation of the culture of the area.
"This is a missed opportunity if they continue to sit vacant," she said.
Nicole Norfleet • 952-707-9995