Coldwater Journal is a record of personal observations and reflections from visits to the Coldwater campus.

Please feel free to submit your thoughts and reflections about Coldwater for posting here on the FRIENDS of COLDWATER site via email.
Coldwater Journal is chronologically reversed. The newest postings are first.
(click for 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 journal)
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Wednesday, 12.19.12
The Dakota Expulsion Act of 1863, Never Repealed
Congressman Keith Ellison's remarks in the Congressional Record:

Mr. Speaker,

I rise today in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the conflict, reminding us of this tragic era in Minnesota’s history, and how it has shaped the lives of the Dakota people to this day.

It is easy to consider history as a list of dates—a discovery, a war, a proclamation, an election. We forget the complex human interactions that shape the past and continue to affect our communities today.

What has come to be known as the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 has its roots in the rapid expansion of Minnesota’s population by white settlers, and the subsequent treatment of indigenous peoples. From 1850–1860, the numbers of white settlers in Minnesota grew from 5,000 to more than 170,000; in that same decade, Native Americans went from the majority of people in Minnesota to being outnumbered by whites 5–1.

Treaties made between the Dakota people and the U.S. government pushed native communities off their ancestral lands with promises of money, food, and commodities. Forced assimilation policies further marginalized tribes by requiring the adoption of European style dress, hair, and culture. Tensions escalated when the government failed to pay promised annuities, a drought decreased the supply of food leaving many Dakota families hungry, and the U.S. government took back land set aside for Indian reservations, reducing the remaining reservation size drastically.

The first violent acts of the conflict occurred on August 17, 1862, when four young Dakota men killed five people at a farm near Acton, Minnesota. These murders divided the Dakota community; some argued it was time to go to war with the settlers who now claimed ancestral Dakota land, but much of the community wanted to maintain peace. Nevertheless, Dakota leader Little Crow led his Nation to War, understanding that the greater power of the U.S. government would most likely prevail.

The weeks of violence that followed in Southern Minnesota led to over 1,000 deaths. The U.S.-Dakota War is one of the bloodiest conflicts between a Native tribe and the U.S.government, surpassing both the conflicts of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee.

The War’s end was marked by the largest mass execution in U.S. history, when 38 Dakota men were convicted in kangaroo courts and hung on December 26, 1862. Originally 303 Dakota men were tried and sentenced to death, but President Lincoln personally reviewed the cases and stayed the execution of those whose conviction was based on questionable testimony. Two additional Dakota warriors were forcibly returned from Canada and hanged at Fort Snelling in 1865.

Although the day of the execution stands out in history, the suffering of the Dakota people continued throughout the winter and into the coming years. Those Dakota who had surrendered to U.S. forces, many of whom opposed the war, were forced to march to an internment camp at Fort Snelling and suffer through a brutally cold winter filled with disease, food shortages, and assaults by soldiers and civilians alike.

Hundreds perished over the winter, and those who survived were forcibly relocated to Western reservations where similar conditions led to more deaths. Some 6,000 displaced members of the Dakota community relocated to Canada and Western states and territories, and by the end of the decade a majority of the Dakota tribe had left its ancestral lands.

The U.S.-Dakota War reminds us of how the events of the past continue to reverberate to this day. Dakota tribe members are still dispersed over several states and into Canada as a direct result of this conflict. Most unfortunate, the Dakota Expulsion Act of 1863, a federal law making it illegal for Dakota people to live in Minnesota, has yet to be repealed. In August of this year, members of the Dakota community took part in a walk through South Dakota to the Minnesota border, symbolizing the unjust forcible removal of all Dakota people from Minnesota in 1863.

The healing from the War is ongoing; honoring those we lost and remembering our complicated past should not be limited to anniversaries of the conflict. We should use this year of reflection to inform a more inclusive view of history, an appreciation of how far we’ve come, and recognition of all we must do to continue to support our Native communities today.
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Wednesday, 11.7.12
Where Has All the Water Gone?
Coldwater Springs Water Loss History 1998 to 2012
(Coldwater Springs) Coldwater Springs is the last natural spring in Hennepin County and was used as an emergency drinking water supply in 1976. Coldwater furnished water to Fort Snelling for a century, 1820 to 1920. The spring has been flowing for at least 10,000 years.

Less than half the 1998 flow is currently running into the reservoir, from about 130,000 gallons per day to 60,000. Here is the history of groundwater loss to Coldwater from July 1998, before Highway 55 reroute construction, to October 2012. There is a continuing downward trend.

1998-2000: Baseline Pre-Construction Coldwater Flow: 129,000 Gallons Per Day

Before construction dewatering, from July 31, 1998 through December 5, 2000, Coldwater averaged 89.9 gallons per minute (gpm) or 129,456 gallons per day (gpd).

2004-06: Highway 55 and 55/62 Interchange Construction: 102,000 Gallons Per Day

In the 20 months of court-ordered monitoring post-construction of the Hwy 55/62 interchange, from November 2004 through June 2006, the average flow was 70.77 gpm or 101,908 gpd. The difference is 27,548 gpd, a loss of about 20 gallons a minute.

2006 to 2011: 96,000 Gallons Per Day

According to Water Quality Specialist Udai Singh, Ph.D., Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD), the Coldwater flow averaged 96,000 gpd from June 2006 when court-ordered monitoring stopped to February 2011. So another 6,000 gpd has been lost.

2011 to 2012: 90,000 Gallons Per Day

Water monitoring figures by the National Park Service/Mississippi National River and Recreation Area from June 2011 through October 2012 reported an average of 60,000 gpd or 42 gpm out of Coldwater Spring House and about 30,000 gpd from the diverted creeklet south of the reservoir, or about 21 gpd.

This is 6,000 gpd less than the last MCWD figures. A continuous fall in water level is revealed by the government monitoring agencies.

With each land reconstruction we lose flow to this last natural spring in Hennepin County.

Coldwater Springs Water Loss History 1998-2012

The proposed reroute of Hiawatha Avenue will not impact the Camp Coldwater historic property of Coldwater Spring…" Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, April 29, 1999, MnDOT news conference

The project has been designed to avoid impacting the flow of groundwater to the spring. MnDOT will monitor both water quantity and quality during construction to insure that the spring is not impacted." MnDOT "Fact and Myth" sheet mailed to thousands of local residents in 1998.

MnDOT is confident that the construction of T.H. 55 will have no effect on the flow of Camp Coldwater Spring." G. Joseph Hudak, MnDOT Chief Archaeologist to Dennis Gimmestad, SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) Government Programs and Compliance Officer, April 28, 1999.

We stress the importance of taking the utmost care during the construction process to avoid disruption of the natural water source to this spring. You have addressed this issue with a redesign of a portion of the project, and, with your assurance that the water will continue to flow, the project should not affect the historical characteristics of this property. We understand that the Federal Highway Administration will also review the project design to ensure that effective measures are being taken to protect the natural flow of the spring." Britta Bloomberg, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, to G. Joseph Hudak, May 25, 1999.
These comments were made in writing, in letters between MnDOT and SHPO. The letters were part of the official correspondence between the two agencies as part of the fulfillment of the Memorandum of Agreement for the Highway 55 reroute and the 55/62 interchange.

The Lower Minnesota River Watershed District approved the 55/62 interchange project on November 15, 2000. The approval included the following assurance: "
MnDOT stated that they guaranteed there would be no adverse impact and if there were any, at any time in the future, MnDOT would make whatever changes are necessary to eliminate that impact."

Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 15, 2001
It is clear that MnDOT has chosen to fight the [Minnehaha Creek] watershed district where it might have found a compromise….It continues to blame the watershed district for delays that are partly its own fault. And having promised to mitigate any damage it does to the spring, MnDOT is trying to modify the [Coldwater protection] law to ease its obligations."

In an 11/16/01 letter to MnDOT's commissioner, the FHWA [Federal Highway Administration] called for more tests to determine the amount of groundwater flowing from the 55/62 interchange area to Coldwater Springs. Dye tests traced 30-percent of Coldwater's flow through the interchange.

2006-2012, since construction another 12,000 gallons per day has been lost. MnDOT will rebuild the worn out roadways in about 15 years.

So, where does 12,000 gallons of water per day go?

The water now blocked from flowing to Coldwater reservoir will find other paths to the Mississippi.

With only 60,000 gpd running through Coldwater reservoir more algae will grow earlier in warm months. The National Park Service assigns groundskeepers to sieve the crud (and goldfish) out of the pond.

The federal park's extensive clear cut of trees around the reservoir and both Coldwater Creeks will result in more evaporation. 30,000 gpd is channeled into the secondary creeklet south of its former flow.

Groundwater still flows, by gravity, downhill through the limestone fractures according to Kelton Barr. Water at the 55/62 interchange is funneled into the sewer system or into freeway ponds. The remaining "lost" groundwater is lost to us, and to the Coldwater wildlife and plant communities it formerly watered.

How Do You Compromise With Water?

Coldwater is part of the emergence landscape of the Dakota Oyate (nation/people). It is also the birthplace of the state of Minnesota, where the soldiers who built Fort Snelling lived (1820-23) and where the earliest Euro-civilian community assembled. Safe water is the first rule of survival.

In the past 14 years of Coldwater's 10,000-plus years, half the spring flow is…somewhere else. Despite the 2001 state Coldwater protection law mandating no diminishment of flow to or from the spring, all government agencies involved have unanimously followed the precedent of "progress."

For the Federal Highway Administration, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, federal and state judges, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, Lower Minnesota River Watershed District, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota legislature, the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service in St. Paul, Omaha, Nebraska, Denver, Colorado, and Washington D.C., the Minneapolis City Council and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, from federal to city level, the law is not "the law."

Among official herds no one agency is "responsible." What is the basis for this weight of government aquiescence on the continuing Coldwater diminishment? Money; the accounting method is short term. The alternative to "standard" economics is full or true cost accounting which incorporates environmental and social costs.

The question remains, how do you compromise with water? Water doesn't just disappear. It can be moved, engineered; it can be fouled.

Coldwater is not just water but limestone bedrock-delivered natural, clean, potable, high in calcium and magnesium mineral nutrients water. Water without chemical additives found in tap water. It is the only natural 60,000 gallons per minute water source in all of Hennepin County.

Additionally Coldwater has been declared a "Traditional Cultural Property" by a federally recognized Dakota tribe and a sacred site by various Dakota tribes, as well as Anishinabe, Iowa and other Indian peoples and is considered sacred by many non-Indians. Coldwater is a dwelling place and passageway for the Dakota God of the waters, Un K'te Hi.

The National Park Service has announced plans to "seal" access to the place where the groundwater pours out of bedrock. This would limit water collection for sacred ceremony and drinking to a metal pipe. In 1999 Dakota elder, the late Rev. Gary Cavender warned that "to block the sacred passageway would be courting drought and things of that nature that have to do with water, because after all, this is the God of the water."

Mendota Dakota Council member Greg Strandmark says a pipe or fence "is not a fitting entrance for a Dakota deity." If Coldwater were a church building rather than a natural watershed outflow the powers-that-be might be able to "see" it through Indian eyes.

With each development or "improvement" around Coldwater the flow to this last natural spring, this "medicine water," is forever gone. There are consequences.

—Susu Jeffrey

To comment: email, National Park Service Superintendent Paul Labovitz, or John Anfinson, Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources,, or phone him 651-293-8432 or 651-290-3029.
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Saturday, 9.1.12
Coldwater Park Opens
(Coldwater Springs) The land is flat and bare—a new vista for this place which was an urban wilderness with 12 abandoned buildings. The buildings and trees are gone. The Blue Moon-rise last night was spectacular.

In the daylight Coldwater is a suburban, corporate-style McPark with a 13-acre manmade prairie where "Broadleaf Forest" is labeled on maps. Prairie is faster and cheaper to grow. The question of why did the National Park Service (NPS) clearcut has never been satisfactorily answered, especially since the ancient spring is in the "no new trees" safety zone for the nearby Twin Cites airport.

Just after noon on opening day about 50 Coldwater supporters wandered in looking for shade. NPS had reportedly nixed a Dakota pipe ceremony which was held anyway. It was as effective as their dictum about not permitting any cottonwood trees to grow at Coldwater.

Indigenous trees and indigenous people have survived at this 10,000 year old spring despite the federal park plan to "begin history here in 1820" which is when US troops took over the water source. In fact, there is momentum to repatriate Coldwater back to the Dakota Oyate (people/nation).

Un K'te Hi: Dakota Deity of the Waters and Underworld

Spring water is flowing out of the reservoir now at 69,000 gallons per day (gpd). It was 130,000 gpd before the Hwy 55 reroute and the 55/62 interchange. That construction loss amounted to 32,500 gpd or more than 20 gallons per minute (statistics from MnDOT monitoring).

More water has been diverted with an excavated secondary creeklet flowing southeast of the reservoir with groundwater that used to empty into the reservoir. Monitoring has not been reported but it is doubtful that it carries 27,500 gallons per day. With each "improvement" Coldwater loses water.

The rebuilding of Highway 55 and the 55/62 interchange will happen in a couple of decades when the roads wear out. Part of the interchange is already sunk 6.5-feet into the groundwater table which feeds Coldwater Springs.

Huge limestone bedrock chunks have been cut and arranged for the two creekbeds to steer water downslope. With two creek outlets and the extreme tree loss, evaporation will be significant.

Chunky limestone steps now lead down around the Spring House to the pipe where water pours across the dirty floor and into the reservoir. There is a sign warning NON-POTABLE WATER DO NOT DRINK.

Access into the Spring House where the water flows directly out of the earth, where we have been taught to collect water, is still open although there are plans to seal it off. If NPS caps the Coldwater Spring House traditional sacred (and safe to drink) water collected directly from the bedrock would be impossible.

On opening day Coldwater supporters were inside the Spring House taking turns filling water jugs. The water tastes so…real. It's nutritious with calcium and magnesium leached from the limestone passages of groundwater through the veins of the earth.

One Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community Council member noted that closing access to the spring closes off the water-land pathway of Un K'te Hi. This is a First Amendment red flag. Native Americans are now US citizens (since 1924) with religious rights (guaranteed in 1978).

Coldwater's Future

Several white oaks (not burr oaks) have been planted beside the Coldwater diversion creeklet; they are 25-feet tall, stressed, skinny—but oaks. A new elm stands near the reservoir—between where the Grandmother Willow and the Spirit Tree lived.

All other landmarks formerly associated with the site are removed. It looks like it never was anything else—and also new and raw.

One of the NPS happy-talks is that the park is planned for 100 to 200 years from now. Two-hundred years ago, in 1812, the only non-Indians around Coldwater were French traders. Will the USA still exist in 200 years?—the National Park Service? the Dakota Oyate, the water?

Some architectural memories of the 1950-1991 Bureau of Mines days remain—steps to the Main Building, a row of tops of the old iron ore bins looking like a concrete caterpillar. From the Fort Snelling period, 1820 through World War 2, only the limestone Spring House and reservoir ruins remain. There is nothing else of human or geologic history.

The next step will be a determination about whether the Coldwater signature view of Spring House and reservoir will be fixed in place further limiting Coldwater history to nothing before 1820. Where Coldwater Creek empties into the Mississippi the bedrock is 451 million years old.

NPS wanted a "soft opening" for the park because the land is dirt fill with and not settled. Also not settled is the real history here. The Native American claim of Coldwater as Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) has been ignored by the NPS. Spokesman John Anfinson says the 2006 declaration by the Lower Sioux Indian Community that the site is a Traditional Cultural Property and "sacred" only applies to Lower Sioux Community people.

—Susu Jeffrey
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Friday, 6.29.12
Roundup Spraying at Coldwater
(Coldwater) Spokesmen from the National Park Service have been bragging about awarding Prairie Restorations Inc. the Coldwater contract. I called the corporation in Princeton, Minnesota, and asked how they prepared the land for planting.

"We use a lot of Roundup. We just spray it and kill everything."

FIRE: The Non-Toxic Alternative
Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community people have been suggesting the traditional practice of burning off the weeds resulting in ash fertilizer for the land. NPS spokesmen talked about using fire.

NPS did not talk with the Mendota Dakota Community, a concurring party to the Memorandum of Agreement—or to Sheldon Wolfchild from the Lower Sioux Indian Community, a federally recognized Dakota tribe that declared Coldwater to be a sacred site, a "Traditional Cultural Property" in 2006.

Wonderful plans have been talked about by NPS spokesmen who called Coldwater an "eyesore." However the land has been clear-cut and bulldozed by the tons into earth mounds, new creeklets and gentle grades.

The original NPS plan for Coldwater was an oak savanna. Then NPS clear-cut around the spring and reservoir in the "airport safety zone" where "no new trees" may be planted. No explanation was ever given as to why NPS officials ignored their own Environmental Impact Statement about airport rules or why sacred site status is not acknowledged.

Instead a new plan was talked-up in classic public relations style to avoid admitting past mistakes and only discuss the future. The language changed from trees to prairie although Coldwater is in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province, not a prairie zone.

The Big Woods bioregion of Minnesota is a forest of deciduous maple, basswood, elm and oak hardwoods. For prairie look 100 miles west and south. Planting a prairie at Coldwater is faster, cheaper and easier than waiting a century for a forest to develop but historically and geographically inaccurate.

Roundup mentality trades land wisdom for an instant result. Roundup would eliminate emerging oak trees, the sage planted by Hwy 55 encampment folks and Cup Plants around the former labyrinth. Rainwater is captured in the large leaves of the Cup Plant that join around a 4-to-10 foot tall stem. The sandpapery leaves were used by pioneers to scrub dishes and pots.

I've seen hummingbirds drinking from Cup Plants at Coldwater. Monsanto's Roundup is classified as "dangerous for the environment" and "toxic for aquatic organisms" by the European Union. Roundup mist will surely harm Coldwater's frogs.

National Park Service "reclamation" methods are brutal to the land, toxic to the water and executed on an industrial scale. Coldwater is only 27-acres, is the last natural spring in Hennepin County and is a legally recognized sacred site.

In Staten Island/New York the local NPS negotiated with Protectors of Pine Oak Woods to save a 28-acre park from clear-cut and herbicide spraying. The result is a phase-in transition beginning with a 2-acre pilot project at Crook's Point, a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, a flyway, like the Mississippi.

Please send any comments you have about National Park Service land treatment at Coldwater to

—Susu Jeffrey.
Photo: Friends of Coldwater
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Friday 05.04.12
Water Reality vs. Water Politics

(Coldwater: Wetland A) At Coldwater a recent heavy rain eroded some of the loose dirt of the newly created "Earth Mound" into the newly dug "swale." This is the area south of the reservoir where groundwater flowed year-around out from under a warehouse and into the pond.

The National Park Service has not just removed the old Bureau of Mines buildings but rearranged the land on an industrial scale and clear-cut the trees. The park service argues that it is "improving" the area, that Coldwater Springs is "disturbed" and no longer natural—man-made and not creator-made. Since the spring is more than 10,000-years-old it would appear to be a moot point.

However NPS filled the wetland with tons of crushed rock and dirt. The dirt fill is from Veterans Administration land where the Four Oaks Spiritual Encampment was located, 1998-99. From the frontage road off Highway 55 you can see bulldozer tracks leading into Coldwater parkland.

But then it rained hard. It is interesting how water has a leveling effect on the land.

Last evening the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District voted unanimously that Wetland A south of the reservoir is 100-percent or "solely" (the language of the rule) man-made. Mike Panzer, MCWD engineer said: "In the end this is a judgment call. There is not enough information that goes that far back" (before 1820, before European-American settlement).

MCWD administrator Eric Evenson previously urged the Board of Managers to vote with the National Park Service "because we have to work with them."

John Anfinson, NPS Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources, notes that "We begin history here in 1820"—the year Lt. Col. Leavenworth's 200 troops march up the Mississippi bluff and pitched their tents around Coldwater Springs, cut the oaks for firewood, mined rock out of the bluff, and built Fort Snelling.

During Highway 55 reroute construction and protest, a map of underground sources of water to Coldwater was created using ground-penetrating radar. The map shows a major straight line fracture intersected by sub fractures where Coldwater Springs (plural) outflow.

Where the lines meet, the most spring water erupts. When the groundwater, driven by gravity, meets impenetrable bedrock, it surfaces. There are a number of fractures, of different sizes, at different angles—some are "springs," others "seeps."

The area is a sieve. The subsurface water routes are literally written in stone. The water has been flowing longer than human habitation here.

Looking north to the Spring House and reservoir. Click image for a larger view.
Photo: Friends of Coldwater
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January 2012
Clear Cut at Coldwater

New York Environmentalists Stop National Park Service from Clear Cut and Herbicide Policy: How Can We Get Coldwater National Park Folks to Listen?
Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, a New York City/Staten Island environmental group, stopped the National Park Service from the kind of massive clear-cut and herbicide application that is being done at Coldwater. The "wrong kind of trees" were eliminated at Coldwater including indigenous cottonwoods, box elders, and sumac bushes along with invasive, non-native and "hazardous" trees.
MillionTreesNYC Initiative at Crooke's Point has Environmentalists Crying Foul
(Published in Staten Island South Shore, 1/18/12)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.— For decades, Crooke's Point has been an ecosystem in easy harmony, serving as a jumping-off point for migratory birds and butterflies and a favorite destination for nature enthusiasts.

Every autumn, the 28-acre peninsula [Coldwater is 27-acres] jutting into the Atlantic Ocean from Gateway National Recreation Area comes alive with the calls and colors of thousands of winged creatures, among them tree swallows and monarch butterflies, who congregate in the foliage-rich habitat before moving on to New Jersey and points south.

But the very composition of that plant life has come under scrutiny by the National Park Service, which has stewardship of the land, and the city Parks Department, which has tens of thousands of trees available as part of its much-touted MillionTreesNYC.

Despite the full-throated objections of local environmentalists, the agencies plan to move forward this month with a plan to apply herbicide and bulldoze swaths of the peninsula to wipe out invasive plant species.

Although the Parks agencies have yet to detail exactly what will be planted in their stead, environmentalists have wondered if one of the goals of the project is to remake the land into a home for a miniforest of native trees, which would count toward the city's million.

"We have protested as strongly as we can, so far. We think it's not needed, and that this will have the potential to get pesticides into the water table," said Ellen Pratt of the Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, who, along with anglers and concerned scientists, have attended five, three-hour meetings with the agencies begging them to rethink the project.

At a board meeting next week of the Protectors, the nonprofit borough environmental group will discuss appealing to lawmakers to pressure the agencies to halt the project.

The intended trees may not survive in the sandy, porous soil - the loose, dry composition of which could also allow the herbicide to seep into the surrounding water, said Ms. Platt.

"This project would destroy a metropolitan-area resting and refueling stop important to wildlife," she said, adding that Boy Scouts could remove the invasive species in a far less destructive manner.

As a result of the community's concerns, the Park agencies have made some concessions, agreeing to phase in the program and avoid killing off the endangered native plants that dot the peninsula.

"Here at Gateway, we are trying to restore examples of native habitats to serve as examples of what existed here in New York prior to urbanization. That is part of our mission as a national park," said Raina Williams, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service. "The overgrowth of invasive exotic species limits the variety of wildlife that can use the area for food or shelter."

The project does not have a budget as such, but the National Park Service will pay labor costs for its own employees. Trees and plants will be donated by MillionTreesNYC, she said. Work on the "two-acre pilot restoration" will start his month and continue through October 2013, and will include three separate applications of herbicide. [Note: only two-acres of their 28-acre site is being stripped.]

Ms. Williams said the chemicals used will be safe for sandy soil and applied by hand to avoid being carried by the wind. She gave assurances that marine life and the migratory birds and butterflies that alight on the other side of the peninsula will not be affected.

"The problem is they don't have a budget for this, so our question has always been, once you do this, how are you going to keep the invasive from coming back," said Ed Johnson, the curator of science at Staten Island Museum, who has made dozens of trips to Crooke's Point to inventory the plants life and plot the endangered species, so the agencies can avoid killing them off.

"In truth, a habitat like this without the invasives would be better; you'd have greater biodiversity," he said. "But the ecosystem has been like that for 50 years. Unless you can plan it so you are sure of success, maybe you shouldn't do it."
See the Protectors of Pine Oak Woods online.
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Sunday, 1.1.12
Reflections on the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Meeting re Coldwater, December 29, 2011 - Board of Managers Meeting*

What struck me immediately at this and previous meetings was for the most part that some of the managers did not have an understanding of what Coldwater is. Like the National Park Service (NPS), they see it as an object to be manipulated. There was a great deal of talk about wetlands, what they are and whether they are incidental or not because that was the question before them: non-incidental wetlands are natural, incidental wetlands are manmade.
The Board of Managers disagreed, 3-3, about whether Wetland A south of the reservoir is, or not. They think it makes no difference to the area which it is. They appear have no problem with re-routing the water that comes into the reservoir from the south/southwest into an artificial wetland of NPS creation. They (NPS) justify the re-routing of this water by saying that Wetland A is manmade (incidental), and therefore it doesn't matter if they destroy it.
The arguments all get very technical, and everyone admits that much has been done around Coldwater Spring that is manmade. Nonetheless, Friends of Coldwater contends that the water that comes into the reservoir from the south/southwest is part of the springs, and the wetland area created is not solely manmade. Three of the MCWD members agree. An early map shows two main sources flowing into the area where the reservoir and all the waterworks for Ft. Snelling were created.
While some of the managers seemed to think the grading for the railroad bed created the conditions for the wetland, not all of the MCWD members agreed. Some felt that the natural conditions existed for wetland long before the railroad bed was put in and that Wetland A is a natural or "non-incidental" wetland. As I said, the vote was 3-3. Three agreed that in spite of the manmade buildings and structure imposed on it, Wetland A is in essence a natural wetland.

There was much talk about a law that stipulates that if Wetland A is "non-incidental" (not manmade), then they have to create more new wetland. That is true. Instead of a ration of 1:1 in replacing the wetland they destroy, they have to create new wetland at a ratio of 2:1.
The purview of MCWD is very narrow, as mandated by law. I found the whole meeting extremely frustrating. First, the obtuseness of some of the members who were making the determination was annoying. It caused me to wonder if they had ever even been to Coldwater. And it was clear that they had spent very little time there if they had been there at all, not being able to see in the progression of seasons how a lot of water the water seeped out under the Building 4 and flowed north. Or how much water flowed into the reservoir from the south/southwest and flowed north, indicating a significant flow, not just some drainage.
Most of all, two things bothered me. The first was their assumption that what NPS was creating was an improvement of the springs and of the land surrounding the springs that is Coldwater, not only in creating the new wetland by rerouting the flow, but also by creating a McPark. While the full plan was not under discussion, it was mentioned by at least two of the members as being an "improvement" and could be assumed to inform the argument of those who voted to approve the permit that would support the NPS plan. 
The NPS plan is destructive. It does not "preserve" it destroys. It destroys an urban wilderness and turns it into just another manicured lawn. For those of you who are not familiar with the idea of "urban wilderness" I refer you to Thomas Urquhart, who wrote For the Beauty of the Earth, and who talks about urban wilderness and the need to preserve it.
He describes exactly and beautifully the struggle taking place over Coldwater. This struggle may have come down to whether or not Wetland A is incidental or not, but that is only the manifestation of a much greater struggle:
Finding  balance (it will not do to say the "right" balance,  because everyone's is likely to be different) between artifact and nature is an age-old conflict inherited from the first cave-dweller who decided to build his own hut and inadvertently replaced the gods of the land with the gods of the hearth. It is a Promethean struggle that reaches down to the very core of our being: between the reverence for nature and the need to conquer it, between the gratitude for its blessings and an insatiable appetite for more, between a wish to protect and a desire to exploit. Our connection to the land may start with what it offers us materially...its potential to meet our basic needs of food and shelter... but its capacity to nurture soon transforms itself into an emotional and spiritual relationship. (p. 95)
Urquhart says: "The fields in which humans and nature have played together over a long period of time are the landscapes that set our souls to singing."  (p. 95)  Coldwater is such a place. That "singing" may manifest itself as religion for some, for others a spiritual journey. Again and again as over the years I have taken people to Coldwater, they immediately recognize this quality. I have taken people of many faiths (or no particular faith) there, and they recognize that quality as a very special place, a place to "set our souls to singing."  
In my view (I have no religion, so this is not a religious view) a place that sets my soul to singing is a sacred place. And because it has that quality of "setting our souls to singing," is exactly why there is so much controversy over Coldwater. 
NPS has a vision for Coldwater, one that others do not agree with in total. Everyone appears to agree that the buildings must come down. Beyond that, there does not appear to be much agreement. Some support the NPS plan. Others do not. I cannot speak here for the many viewpoints.
Viewpoints include honoring Coldwater as a Traditional Cultural Property, a sacred site for the native people and others, which NPS has refused to do, despite professional recommendations to the contrary and the feelings and tradition of native peoples of Minnesota. Others want Coldwater turned over totally to the native people. And between the NPS plan and the idea of turning the land back to the native people are many other possible scenarios.
Urquhart goes on to quote Rachel Carson:
Almost fifty years ago, Rachel Carson was searching for "an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the source of  our strength."  (p. 298)
Urquhart continues:
As a larger and larger proportion of the population grows up in a city, and as the cities themselves overwhelm the open space around them, landscape that could nurture a sense of wonder is diminishing and slipping ever further over the horizon. Not only are we losing ready access to the woods and rivers and fields, but what is left is also being compromised, even the special places [underline mine]. (p. 298)
So certain things the NPS is doing are a violation of the land and water, such as routing the water through a pipe, such as the roads that surround the land, such as taking all the trees down (this is already done!) instead of allowing for a natural transition to oak savanna, and the overall plan that turns Coldwater into a well-manicured McPark that has no cultural or historical meaning beyond a few white-culture artifacts. Yet this is a field, a place, where “humans and nature have played together over a long period of time.” 
Urquhart quotes Edward Wolf:  “Conservation must be “’carried like music in the heart of the people.... The challenge is much more visceral than rational.’” (p.292)
He also quotes the then president of the Massachusetts Audubon, Jerry Bertrand:  “Effective conservation action must first be an affair of the head, but when it becomes an affair of the heart—that’s when things really get moving.”  (p. 292)
I know with certainty that Friends of Coldwater comes from the heart. And tries to use the head as well. I do not feel in recent interactions with NPS that much heart is involved, only head on their part, with rationalizations for the reason their plan is superior, although it denies for the most part the heart and soul of Coldwater. 
NPS refuses to recognize what Urquhart calls “the story of a people, written upon the land: a long dialogue between people and place.”  Or rather they recognize only a very small part of it, refusing to acknowledge in full the connection between a natural and cultural history that precedes the history of white people coming to Coldwater, accepting only what follows that invasion.  In the process of their McPlan they deny the significance of the core--the springs--and wish to change the flow. 
Perhaps there were worse alternatives than the McPark. For example, a parking lot for the airport (911 changed that plan). Or a private developer building huge condo complexes: the property in a cold calculation of that order is worth millions. Or rumors of a casino. 
But as NPS, you would think they would see the value of an emotionally nurturing landscape and try to preserve that value. After all, nationally NPS manages beautiful parks all over the country where people go expressly for that emotional nurturance. These are by no stretch of the imagination, city or citified parks. Yet Coldwater, an urban wilderness that includes not just the manmade mapped boundaries of what is called by NPS the Camp Coldwater unit, but as Coldwater Creek flows to the Mississippi, can be said to include all the area to the river. 
But NPS in their plans are clearly making it a McPark and destroying the natural connection that Rachel Carson calls "the source of our strength."  Coldwater should not be a city park. That is not at all what it is about. To do so is to degrade and destroy its natural and spiritual beauty.
So back to the MCWD and the decision they need to make regarding Wetland A and approval of NPS plans to reroute the springs and create a manmade wetland to replace Wetland A.
I have not mentioned the part (the second item I found upsetting) where MCWD appears to be running scared of NPS and are worried that they are so puny that NPS can intimidate them and take away all their power in regard to Coldwater, but that is exactly what has happened. I am as usual disgusted with such views when a moral imperative is so clear and politics and lack of backbone interfere.
Ultimately, MCWD decided to talk to the NPS. NPS should have  been present at the meetings. And I must agree that is the most civilized thing to do, to talk. What that meeting will bring is unclear at this point; I want to be optimistic, even as I am thoroughly discouraged and defeated. 
I feel sad for the willow, and the loss of its incredible beauty, and for the other beautiful trees that have been taken down., for the rape of the land and of the springs that is taking place even as I write this.
NPS has refused to let Friends of Coldwater or the native people have sigificant input into their plans. They have refused to hear anything that we, who have been the real stewards of Coldwater, have to say. They have hidden their plans from us; they have lied by saying that such plans did not exist. And if plans did not exist at that time, when they finally did exist, they would not share them with us. They are the bullies here. They have bullied their way to what they want, ignoring the voices of the people, not just Friends of Coldwater, but other voices as well. That is not how democracy is supposed to work.
For Coldwater,
Sue Ann Martinson
The book is 
For the Beauty of the Earth by Thomas Urquhart. (Shoemaker & Hoard, Washington D.C., 2004).
*Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board of Managers
A seven-member Board of Managers appointed by the Hennepin and Carver County Board of Commissioners oversees District activities. They develop regulations, policies and programs to protect water quality and prevent flooding.

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