Local governments in Scott County are collaborating to plan a trail through downtown Shakopee that will highlight Dakota history, early European settlements and how the groups' past and present intertwine along the Minnesota River.
"We think it's vitally important to our community to go back to where it all started — on the river," said Shakopee Mayor Bill Mars. "Some of it is painful, but we think it's an important history to tell."
The Shakopee Riverfront Cultural Trail is the first undertaking of the Shakopee Cultural Consortium, which includes the city, Scott County, the Scott County Historical Society, Three Rivers Park District and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Preliminary plans for the trail were completed in the spring.
"This is something that all five of these organizations have really wanted to see come together for years," said Heather Hoagland, executive director of the Scott County Historical Society.
The 2.5-mile segment, part of a longer DNR trail called the Minnesota Valley State Trail, starts at the Holmes Street Bridge on the western end of downtown and ends at the Landing, a model of an early European settlement and also a park.
The trail's theme is "Many people, many paths, one river" and it will contain nine "experiential zones," each featuring kiosks with written information and artwork.
Visitors can read about the Schroeder brickyard and see remains of lime and brick kilns. Further along, they can learn about brothers Samuel and Gideon Pond, missionaries among the Dakota who built a mission and mill and created the first English-Dakota dictionary.
The trail has a special focus on the Dakota people who dwelled in the area, establishing the summer village of Tiŋta-otoŋwe — which varied locations slightly over time — on the riverbank each year. The area is still sacred to the community.
Another zone will home in on Dakota agricultural practices and share information about indigenous food practices.
"A big part of this project is making sure we are bringing in a Dakota voice back to the riverfront," Hoagland said.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is acting as a cultural consultant on the project, said SMSC Chairman Keith Anderson.
"It is important to have a well-rounded, accurate portrayal of history. The Shakopee Riverfront Cultural Trail will be a way to build understanding of cultures," Anderson said in a statement.
Future plans may include an augmented reality app that will make exploring the trail even more lively, Hoagland said.
Written elements will be provided in Dakota, English, Spanish and Somali, she said.
The first phase of the trail project, now completed, was funded by a $96,000 Legacy Amendment grant. Officials are hoping to get a second Legacy grant to fund the upcoming schematic design phase.
Mars noted that a separate need looms large over the project — the need to stabilize the riverfront, which is rapidly eroding and becoming unstable.
"None of this can really start until we shore up the riverbank," Mars said. "We're losing shoreline every day."
Shakopee officials are hoping this year to get state bonding funds to complete that work, Mars said. A nearly $7.3 million request has been submitted to fund the cultural corridor, riverbank stabilization and access.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, who represents the area, has also requested $3.5 million in federal funds for the cultural area and for stabilization.
Mars said he has always sought a way to get visitors who come to Shakopee for Valleyfair, the Renaissance Festival or Canterbury Park to stay and explore downtown. The trail could be the amenity that draws them in, he said.
Hoagland also said she hopes to make downtown Shakopee a destination through the trail.
"This has always been, and will continue to be, a place that cultures come together," she said.