PUBLISHED: January 28, 2019
Pilot Knob/Oheyawayhe is on the National Register of Historic Places, but visitors to the Mendota Heights site wouldn’t know.
With no entrance sign, some have a hard time finding the historic site, which comprises 112 acres of public and private land on the east end of the Mendota Bridge, south of Minnesota 62.
“You have to be looking for it to know it’s there,” said Gail Lewellan, a founder and former board member of the all-volunteer Pilot Knob Preservation Association.
After the site was named to the National Register in March 2017 because of its cultural importance to Native Americans and significance in Minnesota’s statehood, Pilot Knob preservationists saw the need to enrich the experience for visitors.
Improving visibility, signage, access and visitor amenities on the 25 acres open to the public is the impetus behind the “Oheyawahe/Pilot Knob Landscape Plan,” a 73-page document drafted over the past year by a group of representatives from the Pilot Knob Preservation Association, the city of Mendota Heights, Dakota County and Great River Greening, a St. Paul-based nonprofit that manages Pilot Knob on behalf of Mendota Heights, which owns the public portion of the site.
The plan, which is still in draft form and includes $930,000 worth of recommendations, was prepared by SRF Consulting Group for Great River Greening. It is being funded by a $40,000 grant from the American Express Foundation.
Other contributors to the planning process included members of the Mendota Dakota Tribal Community, Jim Bear Jacobs of Healing Minnesota Stories, and Sherry Kempff, coordinator of the Center for Equity and Culture for St. Paul Public Schools.
Public comments will be accepted until Feb. 20 before the final design plan is presented to the Mendota Heights City Council for approval, possibly this spring.
“As soon as people arrive at the parking area they should be able to identify that this is a sacred place, a place to learn about Dakota stories, ecological stories and stories of Minnesota history, and in a way that is meaningful,” Lewellan said.
THE ‘HILL MUCH VISITED’
For centuries, the land was an indigenous gathering place and sacred burial ground, earning its Dakota name “Oheyawahi,” or the “hill much visited.” American Indians signed away land to the U.S. government on this hill in the 1851 Treaty of Mendota, and some may have been buried there, outside the two recognized cemeteries in the area.
But its rich past did not stop developers from targeting the site. In 2002 a developer was given conditional approval by the Mendota Heights City Council to build 150 townhomes on 25 acres, raising the ire of the Dakota and Ojibwe communities, historians, archaeologists, environmental organizations and nearby residents.
In 2003, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota identified Pilot Knob as one of the 10 most endangered historic places in Minnesota.
Pilot Knob in Mendota Heights was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 14, 2017. Fort Snelling’s in the foreground and the Minneapolis skyline in the background, photographed in 2010. (Courtesy of Bruce White)
The prospect of development led to the formation of the nonprofit Pilot Knob Preservation Association, which began fighting for protection of the land as a cultural and historic resource.
“It was almost a miraculous time in terms of diverse groups working together for a common goal,” Lewellan recalled last week.
After the developer’s plan faltered amid strong pushback, community groups and residents nudged Mendota Heights to start investing in the property. From 2006 to 2008, the city acquired 25 acres using grants and funding from individuals, organizations and governmental entities.
A 17-year push to keep developers away from historic Pilot Knob and restore the land to its natural habitat was just beginning.
WHAT IS PLANNED?
Over the past decade, the city’s land has been undergoing restoration to oak savanna, an effort led by Great River Greening to bring back the native vegetation that existed before European settlement.
A gravel trail allows visitors to experience the site’s historic vistas, including the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi river valleys, the Minneapolis and St. Paul skylines, and Historic Fort Snelling. But it isn’t accessible to all visitors because of slopes and uneven surfaces.
The proposed plan recommends a paved looped trail off the entrance, connecting to existing trails. Along the trail would be interpretive features, as well as areas for seating and enhanced native plantings.
A gateway area would be built off the main entrance at Pilot Knob Road and Acacia Boulevard, with a monument entry sign, a bus drop-off area, and an expanded parking area.
Pilot Knob is adjacent to the county’s Big Rivers Regional Trail that runs along Sibley Memorial Highway, but a ditch and steep bluff prevent most bikers from accessing the site, said Al Singer, the county’s land-conservation manager.
The pull-off has been identified for future funding in the county’s 2019-2024 parks capital improvement program, Singer said.“Greenways are more than getting from A to B,” Singer said. “They’re designed to have these proverbial jewels that people can experience along the way. And Pilot Knob is certainly one of them.”
Deborah Karasov, executive director of Great River Greening, said the overriding principle in improving the site is retaining the sacred and historical characteristics of the landscape.
“It’s really related to accessibility and education,” she said. “This is a never going to be a developed park.”
Besides what Dakota County has set aside, funding has not yet been identified, Karasov said. The plan is to seek grants and private funds to carry out the vision, she added.
To plan can be viewed online at pilotknobpreservation.org/.
In response to growing concerns over water quality and the decline of pollinators, Great River Greening expanded our work in 2018 to protect Minnesota’s waterways and build diverse habitat for our pollinators.
Safeguarding ground and surface water in Greater MN
More restoration of natural areas in the watershed is planned as part of a larger effort by GRG, Trust for Public Land, and Cannon River Watershed Partnership to protect and improve the land and habitat in this fast developing area.
Volunteers worked in the Anoka Sand Plain, a unique and vulnerable ecological region that acts as a critical filter for the aquifer that provides the Twin Cities’ drinking water. They planted 210 mature trees and 7,500 wildflowers and grasses in Carlos Avery WMA and along the Rum River Shoreline that will improve filtering strength of the soil.
In Seven Mile Creek, in St. Peter, GRG continues to lead a partnership of farmers, government, business, and residents in finding environmental solutions in this agriculturally-rich region.
In 2018, we worked with a dozen landowners to use more than 2,200 acres of land to significantly reduce runoff, phosphorous, and nitrogen from their farms. Solutions included installing buffer strips and cover crops, such as rye, turnips and wheat, planted in between rows of corn or soybeans.
Creating habitat for bumble bees & other pollinators
In 20 favorite urban natural areas throughout the metro area, volunteers pulled invasive buckthorn and planted common milkweed, butterfly weed, wild white indigo, lupine and other native species that improve soil conditions and attract butterflies and other pollinators. The sites include:
- Lebanon Hills (Eagan)
- Crosby Farm (Saint Paul)
- Doyle Kennefick (Elko New Market)
- Westwood Hills Nature Center (St. Louis Park)
- Oheyawahe/Pilot Knob (Mendota Heights)
- MN River, near the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge (Bloomington)
- Minnehaha Creek (St. Louis Park)
Kicking off a Pollinator Seed Initiative
In Woodbury, 75 Volunteers planted 5,000 pollinator-friendly plants in a species-style format, on communal space nearby a school that will also feature education signage.
In Shakopee, Xcel day of service volunteers planted four acres at the Xcel Energy Blue Lake Generating Plant.
Other Initiative site partners include Dodge Nature Center, Dakota County, Xcel Energy, and Washington County. Support is from The Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation.
Connecting kids and teens to the outdoors
Students from Laura Jeffrey Academy spent an afternoon at Hidden Falls in Saint Paul as part of Field Learning for Teens, where they planted pollinator-friendly wildflowers and tested the water for healthy microvertebrates.
In our Field Learning for Teens Program, 277 teens spent the day in this outdoor classroom focused on introducing and educating youth of color about the science of restoration, green jobs, and the role they can play in caring for the environment.
FLT: Andersen Corporate Foundation, The Beim Foundation, Capitol Region Watershed District, Ecolab Foundation, Mortenson Family Foundation, Subaru of America Foundation, and Terracon Foundation
Seven Mile Creek and Agricultural Watersheds Program: Clif Bar Family Foundation, McKnight Foundation, New Belgium Brewing Company, and Rahr Corporation.
Feature photo: Doyle-Kennefick is a planned regional park located in Central Scott County that features prairie, wetland, and forest. Great River Greening is restoring it in partnership with Scott County. In 2018, 150 volunteers joined us to plant 5,000 pollinator-friendly wildflowers and grasses. (Credit: Bruce Nimmer)
For immediate release
(January 15, 2019) A modest trail system with two interpretive signs welcomes visitors to Pilot Knob/Oheyawahe, and shares information about this historic blufftop, located in Mendota Heights, that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.
Funded by the American Express Foundation, plans have been drafted to improve the visitor experience as it relates to education and accessibility.
Community input is being sought on these plans, between now and February 20, 2019.
The draft from the steering committee of Pilot Knob Preservation Association, Mendota Heights, and Dakota County can be found here: Oheyawahe_Historic Landscape Plan
Once comments are incorporated, the plan will be brought before the Mendota Heights City Council.
More about Pilot Knob/Oheyawahe
It’s relatively rare for a site, rather than a building or structure, to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. But the land is of cultural importance to Native Americans and significant in Minnesota’s statehood. Today it offers dramatic views of both the Minneapolis and Saint Paul skylines. To Dakota people, who called it Oȟéyawahe, “the place much visited”, the location was strategic — as it was for early Europeans. It exists as public land today due to efforts made by the City of Mendota Heights.
In 2003 Mendota Heights owned about 9 acres of Pilot Knob/Oheyawahe and acquired 25 more between 2006 and 2008 using grants and funds from the state, city, county, organizations and individuals.
Efforts to restore the city’s parcel to its pre-European settlement state — prairie with stands of oak trees — began a decade ago, said Wiley Buck, program manager for Great River Greening, a nonprofit that does ecological restoration work.
Contact: Mary Anne Welch
Great River Greening
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –
FEATURE AND PHOTO OP
Invasive buckthorn is the fuel for a bomb fire at a community event in popular Minnesota wildlife management area
(January 10, 2018) Great River Greening volunteers will warm up this winter around a bomb fire of buckthorn, during a community event in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area. The 24,000 acres sanctuary of wetlands, forests & prairies, located 40 minutes north of the Twin Cities, is popular among hunters and birders.
- WHAT: Brush Pile Burn
- WHERE: Carlos Avery WMA Sunrise Unit, 6690 East Viking Boulevard, Wyoming, MN, 55092
- WHEN: Saturday, February 9, 2019, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Sixty volunteers will haul, stack, and burn piles of buckthorn, an invasive plant that chokes out Minnesota’s native plant species and threatens wildlife diversity. It is expected that many of the volunteers will bring their own lunch or marshmallows and roasting sticks to enjoy a meal around the fire.
The event is hosted by Great River Greening, an environmental nonprofit and state leader in community-based restoration. GRG has worked in Carlos Avery and other public lands in the Anoka Sand Plain since 2009, to protect this environmentally sensitive area that filters most of the drinking water for the TwinCities and east-central Minnesota. It also home to 967 Species in Greatest Conservation Need.
This project is made possible with support from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Outdoor Heritage Fund, and Connexus Energy.
About Great River Greening
Great River Greening is Minnesota’s leader in community-based restoration of the land and water that enrich our lives. We are devoted solely to stewardship, working side-by-side with 2,000 volunteers every year to transform degraded land into beautifully resilient habitat that supports wildlife and climate resilience. Since our beginning in 1995, we have engaged 42,000 volunteers and planted 485,000 native trees, grasses & flowers in 20,000 acres on 400 sites throughout Minnesota.
In 2018, Great River Greening launched Restore Minnesota, a multi-year campaign to address the current threats to our Minnesota heritage: By 2020, we will impact 10,000 acres of working lands, including critical wildlife areas; reduce water pollution entering 20+ of Minnesota’s rivers and lakes; increase resiliency, biodiversity, and pollinator habitat across 4,000 acres of public land, and inspire 3,000 youth, including ethnically diverse kids and teens, to care for our natural world.
In partnership with the Trust for Public Land and Cannon River Watershed District, Great River Greening has ambitious plans to improve water quality by planting a native forest near Faribault, Minnesota. The new natural area – called “Sunktokeca Wildlife Management Area (WMA)” – is 200-acres of mostly agricultural land with rich pockets of marsh, prairie, and emerging forest. It feeds into the Cannon River, which is a critical tributary to the Mississippi River.
What’s going on with Sunktokeca WMA?
Given its proximity to the Twin Cities, the community surrounding Sunktokeca WMA is a popular area for residential and commercial development. Although a sign of a strong economy, the booming population creates a huge demand on the area’s natural resources. The community’s prairies have slowly been plowed, its hardwood forests harvested, and its wetlands drained, resulting in serious threats to the natural landscape. For example, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reports that excessive bacteria, nitrates, mercury, and sediment severely threaten native wildlife. Impairments also make recreation, and in some cases drinking water, unsafe for residents and visitors.
We envision a beautiful natural area where hikers, sportsmen/sportswomen, birdwatchers, and boaters can connect with the outdoors; where wildlife is healthy and abundant; and where the surrounding community thrives alongside nature.
You can make this happen.
Sunktokeca WMA is one of many stories across our state – expansive natural areas at risk of degradation, or disappearing entirely, because they can’t withstand our changing demands and landscape.
Make a donation today and help us Restore Minnesota.
This project is made possible in part by support from Trust for Public Land, Cannon River Watershed Partnership, MN DNR
The Happiness Business
The subtle art of leading beyond the bottom line.
When TCB’s staff sat down to compare notes on the year’s big business events and think about leaders who really made a difference—in the community as well as in their own company—Hubert Joly was the first name to surface.
It’s not only that, as Best Buy chairman and CEO, he basically saved the Titanic in his turnaround of the company. It’s not just the unexpected moves, like partnering with enemy No. 1: Amazon. It’s his ability to look beyond the bottom line. To lead from the heart.
“We’re not in the retail business,” Joly told the crowd at Great River Greening’s annual business forum in October, where he spoke about the evolution of retail. “We’re in the happiness business.”
Joly’s knack for spotting the broader opportunity in every situation has proved a huge advantage for Best Buy, as quickly becomes clear in our profile by TCB senior writer Burl Gilyard.
Reducing his company’s carbon footprint by 60 percent? Good for the environment and for Best Buy’s bottom line.
Acquiring GreatCall, which provides health care services and devices for older people? A move to make Best Buy more relevant and useful to an aging population.
Improved store experience and delivery services? Joly explained this one to the Great River Greening crowd with his impression of all of us—himself included—at home with our fancy technology: “Honey, the Wi-Fi is down.” “Honey, the printer is jammed.”
“We’re your honey,” Joly says of Best Buy.
How sweet it is to see a Minnesota company that employs approximately 125,000 across North America find its footing again and become a shining example of purposeful leadership, from diversifying its board of directors to providing access and education to teens through Best Buy’s Teen Tech Centers, like the one in South Minneapolis where we photographed Joly for our cover. We’re looking forward to hearing Joly talk about Best Buy’s turnaround and his leadership philosophy at TCB’s Person of the Year celebration on Dec. 4 (visit tcbmag.com/events for more info and tickets).
That’s where you can also meet many of the emerging leaders, pioneers, and titans you’re going to want to keep an eye on in 2019. To learn why.
Our goal with the annual 100 People to Know list, which executive editor Adam Platt shepherds so meticulously, is not to create a directory of company presidents; rather, it’s to recognize some of the decision-makers you might not yet know and give you a taste of the stories we’ll be following next year.
One more person to meet: new columnist Alex West Steinman. (And if you’re wondering where Rajiv Tandon is, he’ll be back in the mix next month.) I met Alex earlier this year on a tour of new North Loop co-working community The Coven, which she co-founded with three other mission-driven entrepreneurs. I was so impressed by her moxie, her clarity, and her focus; she left a comfortable advertising career at Fallon to follow her calling to support women in business, widen inclusion efforts, and create opportunity for people and communities that are often marginalized.
How very “millennial,” right? Well, she is a millennial, and she’s proud of it. Her voice offers a valuable perspective for those of us further along in our careers. Take it from Joly, who talks about the business insights he’s gained through reverse mentoring.
If there’s a New Year’s resolution to cull from this jam-packed issue, it’s to be open to new perspectives. You may just find opportunity where no one else thought it possible.
Turning into Lebanon Hills Regional Park from a busy Cliff Road in Eagan brings visitors into a vast natural area with miles of trails, a dozen small lakes, a swimming beach, campgrounds, and a bustling education center.
Lebanon Hills is Dakota County’s largest park and people throughout the metro area rank it as a favorite for its beauty, accessible location, well-marked trails, and family-centric programs. Its popularity endures year-round, with people currently enjoying the cross country ski paths that wind throughout.
A Dying Oak Savanna
Despite the area’s intrinsic beauty, 75 acres of critical oak savanna habitat is at serious risk of degradation. Invasive buckthorn has overtaken the landscape, choking out hundreds of oak trees that provide habitat and sustenance to important wildlife. Upwards of 100 animal species depend on oak trees for survival, from tunneling ants to white-tailed deer.
Without a major restoration effort hundreds of oak trees – many of which are centuries old – will begin losing their leaves, bark, and extensive root systems. Over time, the area will slowly change from a diverse and healthy ecosystem into a field of invasive buckthorn. The native wildlife will die off, pests will grow abundant, and families will stop visiting the park to connect with nature.Simply put, we need your help.
“This work is made possible in part by support from the Outdoor Heritage Fund and Dakota County Natural Resources program.
The Individual Giving Officer secures funds for the organization by managing and expanding Great River Greening’s portfolio of individual donors. Overall, this position is responsible for identifying, qualifying, and stewarding donors, assuring that as many as possible are retained as continuing donors and are upgraded in their giving and involvement.
We’re looking for an outgoing, high-energy self-starter with extensive knowledge of individual giving. We have an ambitious strategic plan that necessitates increasing revenue from individual donors at all levels. This position works as part of a small development team, which includes a Development Director and Development Assistant. Additionally, there is frequent interaction and support from the Executive Director and Communications Manager.
The Individual Giving Officer is an exempt, full-time position. Salary is dependent upon qualifications, with benefits including health, dental, 401k, LTD, FSA, life insurance, and a PTO plan.
The position reports to the Development Director and offices from St. Paul, Minnesota.
Individual Donor Management (75%)
- Work with the Executive Director and Development Director to refine and implement a multi-year Individual Giving Plan that includes:
- Identifying current and potential major donors;
- Defining goals and a cultivation strategy for each individual or category of individuals;
- Cultivating and soliciting major gifts;
- Stewarding current and potential major donors;
- Maintaining and updating detailed profiles on current and potential major donors;
- Developing a donor recognition plan, including drafting acknowledgment letter templates;
- Increasing donor retention and annual giving levels; and
- Exploring a Planned Giving Program.
- Work with the Board of Directors to cultivate their support and the support of their donor prospects.
- Craft solicitations and fundraising appeals, both direct mail and online (e.g., Fall Appeal, Spring Appeal, and Give to the Max
- Day), working with program and communications staff to secure appropriate program information as needed.
- Help the organization accurately budget for individual donor revenue and expenses.
- Supervise volunteers and interns as needed.
- Work collaboratively and strategically with the Fundraising Committee and Development Team.
Special Events (20%)
- Work with the Fundraising Committee and staff to evaluate, plan, and implement the Clean & Green Gala and Business Forum Breakfast as it relates to individuals (primarily through individual table sponsorships and fund-a-need gifts).
- Coordinate monthly outdoor happy hour events to introduce new donors to Great River Greening and steward existing donors. Includes promotion, program design, logistics, and follow-up.
- Coordinate Party with a Purpose events, which includes house party fundraisers, alongside Board of Directors and Development Director. This includes soliciting hosts, evaluating/refining the evening program, logistics, and follow-up.
Administrative Support (5%)
- Use Great River Greening’s donor management system (Neon) to generate segmented mailing lists, manage appeal response rates, and report outcomes.
- Strong written, oral, and interpersonal communications skills.
- Minimum of five years of experience in a related position; at least three years in major donor development.
- Undergraduate degree required; advanced degree a plus.
- Ability to understand the needs and interests of individual donors of all giving levels in order to develop relationships between them.
- Successful experience in making cold calls as well as developing cultivation and solicitation strategies.
- Strong organizational skills including the ability to plan work, meet deadlines, and balance multiple projects and objectives.
- Willingness to work a flexible schedule that is adaptive to the needs of the organization.
- Self-motivation and initiative as well as ability and eagerness to work as part of a team.
- Strong teamwork ethic, flexible with positive, proactive attitude and a sense of humor.
- Strong personal commitment to Great River Greening’s mission.
- Ability to regularly travel within the Twin Cities metro area with and occasionally into Greater MN .
Send cover letter and resume that details your qualifications to:
Open until filled
ABOUT GREAT RIVER GREENING
Great River Greening is a leading environmental restoration nonprofit with a mission to inspire, engage, and lead local communities in conserving and caring for the land and water that enrich our lives. Our services extend throughout Minnesota in partnership with local communities, governmental agencies, conservation and agricultural organizations, and individuals.
Great River Greening has grown significantly in geographic scope over the past five years, expanding from the Twin Cities into areas of outstate Minnesota (e.g., Mississippi Headwaters, Nicollet County). As our footprint expands, so does the complexity and depth of our restoration services. Our talented and committed team of 16 staff members works collaboratively to restore 2,000 acres of habitat while engaging 2,000+ volunteers annually.
See www.greatrivergreening.org for more information.