Kensington Runestone Park entrance migrates south
A 20-day work plan began on May 24 to move the Kensington Runestone Park entrance. An entirely new road has been cut through the wooded land. Factoring in rainy weather in early June, the project is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the month.
"It will be like walking back into 1898."
Al Lieffort, Douglas County Parks Superintendent
The current entrance near the Olaf Ohman homestead on County Road 103 is being moved south approximately 1,000 feet. Douglas County Parks Superintendent Al Lieffort said the impact on visitors will be minimal.
"We don't expect to close the park at all," Lieffort said. "Instead of driving up the paved entrance next to the barn, visitors will drive up a gravel road 1,000 feet south."
Lieffort hopes plans and funding will allow for paving of the gravel road next year. People will still have access to the discovery site of the Kensington Runestone, barn, picnic shelters and parking area from the gravel road.
The paved surface of the current entrance road will be dug up and removed. Land will be resodded and reforested to create a scene more true to the original homestead.
"We're actually simplifying the entrance," Lieffort said. "We'll have one way in and one way out."
The decision to change the entrance came about because the Kensington Runestone Foundation and surviving members of the Ohman family thought the story of the discovery of the Runestone could be better told by making the location more closely resemble the land from 1898 to 1925.
"It will be like walking back into 1898," Lieffort said.
Eventually a dirt drive will lead up to the home through the area where playground equipment currently sits. The equipment will be relocated to planned picnic sites near the new boardwalk on the 300 plus acre property. A new welcome sign is being constructed out of the sandstone saved from the Keystone Arch Bridge.
"We want to save the natural beauty and enhance it if we can," Lieffort said of the future park plans. There are secluded views and areas in the park where no cell towers or power lines can be seen, Lieffort said. Ideas for the property include pedestrian and bike friendly ways to the park from Kensington and a Discovery Day held at the park.
"There are a dozen stories of what happened out there," Lieffort said. "We want people to hear them all and draw their own conclusions."
The $290,000 entrance project was funded 90 percent by a Legacy Park grant and 10 percent from the county. Visitors can rent the picnic shelters and barn free of charge by reserving the structures with the county parks and recreation office, (320) 762-2966. Lieffort said there are approximately 70 events held at the park each year. Lieffort will be leading a tour group through the site on June 29.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.