A rare gem | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

A rare gem

Posted: December 9, 2012 - 3:49pm

Outdoor enthusiasts in the Brainerd area were all smiles last week as conservation advocates announced the final closing of the deal that will preserve and open to the public nearly 2,000 acres of forest land, along the Mississippi River.

Mississippi River Northwoods, located just northeast of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, will be a draw for a wide variety of people interested in hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, biking and canoeing. That’s a great deal of activity but supporters are confident the size of the property will be big enough to accommodate the varied interests.

The purchase of the former Potlatch property was made with funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was set up by voters’ support for a 2008 constitutional amendment designating money for restoration, protection and enhancement of natural areas. Crow Will County will serve as steward of the land.

Creating a large block of contiguous undeveloped forest land is a boon for wildlife, particularly since this property is located on the Mississippi River flyway, which is a travel route for 60 percent of North America’s migratory birds.

The protected area has 2.7 miles of riverfront and will connect with nearby properties to create a nine-mile stretch of protected shoreline.

An added benefit to prohibiting development in this area is related to its proximity to the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. When development inches toward a busy airport complaints and problems often ensue.

Outdoors advocates from around the state have also taken notice that this rare gem of natural area will be preserved for future generations. Ron Schara, host of television’s “Minnesota Bound,” and a member of the Lessard-Sams Heritage Council calls Mississippi River Northwoods “one of Minnesota’s wow spots.” Bud Grant, former coach of the Minnesota Vikings and a conservation advocate, said this was precisely the type of project Minnesotans envisioned when they passed the 2008 constitutional amendment.

With the nearby Cuyuna State Recreation Area — which is becoming a statewide destination for mountain bikers — and now the Mississippi River Northwoods, Crow Wing County is reasserting its reputation as the Minnesota’s go-to spot for enjoying the outdoors.

Mike O’Rourke