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Donations to Runestone Park doubly important

Most of the $490,000 needed for the development of Kensington Runestone Park has been raised.

But there is still a need for more, according to Al Lieffort, Douglas County park superintendent.

A while back, the William D. and Joyce E. Sexton Family Foundation provided a $20,000 grant to the Kensington Runestone Park Foundation.

However, there was one caveat - the foundation was challenged to raise the same amount in order to receive the $20,000 grant.

Lieffort noted that roughly half of the money has been raised, but the foundation still needs about $10,000. And, it would be best if the money was raised by the end of year, he added.

"We know this is a tough time of year to do fundraising," said Lieffort. "And we understand when people can't give, but there are people and groups out there that can give."

Lieffort believes that projects such as the rebuilding and upgrading of Kensington Runestone Park are designed to help revitalize the economy and that the park project is good for the whole county.

He also noted that the foundation and the county are hoping to qualify Kensington Runestone Park as a park of statewide significance so it would be eligible for funds from the recently approved Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.

Lieffort is planning to attend upcoming meetings about where the funding from the new amendment is going to go and believes he can make a pretty strong case for the importance of Kensington Runestone Park.

Background information about the park

Kensington Runestone Park has seen big changes over the years - buildings have been torn down and rebuilt, playground equipment has been erected, trees have grown taller and flowerbeds have been planted.

A more recent change was the addition of 140 acres purchased by the Kensington Runestone Park Foundation from David and Margaret Strand.

The land was purchased in December of 2006 by the foundation, a non-profit group organized for the development of the park. The park, however, is owned by Douglas County.

The plan for the park, noted Lieffort, is to get the Ohman farm - where the controversial Kensington Runestone was found - back to its "homestead shape."

The land and farm tell the story of what happened in 1898, he added.

"We want to get the land back to what it was like when Olof and Karin Ohman lived there," said Lieffort.

The Kensington Runestone was found clutched in the roots of an aspen tree on the Ohman land. Ohman, several of his sons and nearby farmers were clearing the land for plowing. Some believe the stone, which contains runic inscriptions, was left by early Scandinavian explorers in 1362, more than 100 years before Columbus discovered America.

Others believe it is an elaborate hoax.

Lieffort said the whole story is wrapped around the controversy and that the plan is to get "Back to 1898" and turn the area into a historic tourism destination. He said the parks department and the foundation want to restore the farm in a real "hands-on" way using the sciences of geology and archaeology to tell the story.

Contributions to the Kensington Runestone Park Foundation can be mailed to Ralph Gunderson, treasurer, P.O. Box 143, Kensington, MN 56343.