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Kensington Runestone Park gets historical designation

Bulldozers and heavy equipment worked on a new entrance road to the Kensington Runestone Park last June. The park received historical recognition from the State Legislature this week. (Contributed)

Stating that it’s no April Fools’ joke, State Representative Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, introduced legislation Tuesday designating Kensington Runestone Park in Douglas County a Minnesota Historic Site.

The Kensington Runestone, thought by some to be a medieval artifact placed in the heartland of America at the north-south continental divide as a land claim by 14th century Scandinavian explorers, has sparked controversy, curiosity, skepticism, speculation and scientific study for more than a century.

What it also should generate, according to Atkins, a small business owner and chairman of the House Commerce Committee, is greater tourism and heightened interest in state history, immigration, geology, archaeology and legend.

“Whether or not one believes the stone’s runic message about a medieval Norse journey far predating Christopher Columbus, its lore is part of our state’s colorful history,” he said. “It’s thoroughly Minnesotan and its discovery site deserves official state recognition.”

Farmer and Swedish immigrant Olof Olsson Ohman found the Kensington Runestone in 1898 while clearing his land in rural Solem Township. The discovery site is the 193-acre Kensington Runestone Park, a Douglas County Park, and the homestead farm of the Ohman family. The historic site designation will complement the existing Runestone Museum in downtown Alexandria; it will not replace or displace it, Atkins said.