One of the largest and most spectacular additions to a Minnesota state park in the past decade was completed last week with the acquisition of a $1.7 million 454-acre parcel that includes towering limestone cliffs and two miles of trout streams at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.
The addition to the 2,973-acre park, about 45 minutes southeast of Rochester, is the culmination of five years of collaboration by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and a local family that has owned the land since 1947, according to the DNR.
“This is a spectacular addition to what’s already one of our most beautiful state parks,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said in a news release.
Here’s more from the release:
Located in Minnesota’s karst region, an area of fractured limestone bedrock that is rich in geological oddities such as sinkholes, seeps and springs, the property features segments of two trout streams: Forestville Creek and the South Branch of the Root River. It also includes a variety of habitats, including white pine forest, seepage meadow and oak forest.
“Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park has long been one of Minnesota’s natural treasures, but the land beside it was perhaps even more beautiful and impressive,” said Peggy Ladner, director of the Minnesota chapter of The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation organization that played a pivotal role in the acquisition.
The Nature Conservancy started exploring opportunities for preserving the property with the family that owned the land five years ago. The organization paid for an appraisal of the property and facilitated ongoing discussions between DNR and the landowner.
Joe Vreeman Sr., who raised five children on the land with his wife Roene, started acquiring the property in 1947 after returning from World War II.
With both parents having passed on, the family decided the best way to preserve it for their children and grandchildren was to sell it to the state, said Joe Dean Vreeman, one of the siblings who approved the transaction.
“It was a hard decision for the family to sell,” he said. “But we’re all very pleased it will be taken care of and preserved.”
Vreeman, who now lives in California, has fond memories of losing himself in the woods as a child for hours at a time, an opportunity that now will be available to all.
Funding for the acquisition was provided by the Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) program, which uses money from the sale of critical habitat license plates to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat.