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Extension > Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships > RSDP Newsletter > RSDP Happenings - Focus: Father Baraga's Cross

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RSDP Happenings - Focus: Father Baraga's Cross

June 2014

NERSDP works with residents on the North Shore to improve historic park

By Susan Seabury, CRS Marketing

Father Baraga's Cross

Father Baraga's Cross at the base of Cross River and Lake Superior south of Schroeder, Minnesota. (photo: CRS Marketing)

At the base of the Cross River just south of Schroeder stands the marker honoring the life of a man who had a major impact on northern Minnesota. Approximately 1,700 people pass this marker every day as they drive Highway 61. They see the highway sign for it yet very few stop. The marker is a cross which memorializes Father Frederic Baraga, a priest who gave up a privileged life in Central Europe to work with Native American peoples in North America.

In 1846 Baraga heard about a possible epidemic amongst the people of Grand Portage, and so he and a Native American guide braved a shortcut on Lake Superior by canoe, coming from the south, through the Apostle Islands. A violent storm nearly capsized his canoe, but they were blown ashore at the mouth of Cross River, and he erected a wooden cross in honor of their survival.

A group of Schroeder residents thought that the story of Father Baraga, who is credited with creating some of the first books in and about the Ojibwe language and who spoke out about many wrongs done to native peoples by fur companies and the government, was worthy of more attention. A stone monument now marks the site where Baraga and his guide landed. It is a peaceful place with nothing but the sound of the water against the rocks, but there are few amenities for visitors.

Schroeder residents have plans for this site. They worked with Cook County Extension to help create a plan for public input and the University of Minnesota Center for Changing Landscapes to find a suitable landscape designer. Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NERSDP), which helps connect local sustainability projects to University resources, provided funding and advice to help the group develop a concept plan for public consultation and assisted with the connections at the University.

Following public consultation town meetings over the past year, a final concept plan and timeline were presented to the residents on May 28th. According to project lead Greg Miron, the group's goals are to develop a vegetation buffer to curb shore erosion, install an ADA-accessible pit toilet, grade the top part of the parking lot down to the picnic area, and create an interpretive kiosk, a picnic shelter, fire pit, and better access to the lake. The project is expected to take 10 years to complete and is estimated to increase park traffic by 25 percent when finished. They will be working on obtaining funding for the engineering plans soon, according to Miron.

"Local communities are increasingly looking to their own history and heritage to help create sustainable outdoor places that can bring in visitors," said NERSDP Executive Director Okey Ukaga. "People appreciate a beautiful Lake Superior landscape, but even more, they appreciate knowing the story behind a place. This project will help local people and visitors alike connect with events of 170 years ago."

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