“What happens to the water happens to the people” is the call to action by supporters of Coldwater Spring in Minneapolis, Minnesota. September 2012 marks the opening of the redesigned Coldwater Park, Birthplace of Minnesota and traditional ceremonial site of local Native American tribes. From pre-contact hunting territory, to a U.S. military base, to a technical campus for the U.S. Bureau of Mines, Coldwater Springs has remained the salient feature on the landscape.
The National Park Service (NPS), who currently manages the 27-acre site, officially takes the position that there “…is scant evidence that Coldwater Spring was a significant ceremonial site to the Dakota.” Meanwhile, the State Historic Preservation Office takes an opposing viewpoint, arguing that the site should be listed as a Traditional Cultural Property on the National Register of Historic Places. For the NPS, cultural history at Coldwater Spring began in 1820 when American troops settled the area and began construction of nearby Fort Snelling.
The 1990s saw considerable activity around Coldwater Springs as the Department of Transportation (MnDOT) rerouted a nearby highway. Activists argued that the development would negatively impact the springs but MnDOT successfully utilized a liner to protect the waters. Later, management of the abandoned Bureau of Mines buildings and decisions about significant trees perpetuated the debate surrounding Coldwater.
Today, those buildings have been demolished, roads have been revegetated, and NPS, aided by the Conservation Corps, has restored the landscape. Invasive species have been removed, Coldwater Creek has been daylighted, and a new park is set to open. The park’s focus is the spring and its associated reservoir and historic springhouse. Designers have also recreated an earthen mound that reflects the tradition of Native American ceremonial earthworks in the area. The park will include a constructed wetland and employs native limestone around the spring.
Does the National Park Service do an adequate job of representing the myriad viewpoints of contested spaces?
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