Monday, September 29, 2014

What Makes a Park

What makes a park? Trees and shrubs, grasses and flowers, water and sky. Perhaps a park’s most essential element is its people. On Saturday, Coldwater Spring’s people came.

By bike and shuttle bus, alone and in big groups, people streamed into the park for National Public Lands Day.The numbers are impressive: 168 volunteers planted 100 trees, 350 shrubs and 1,100 native prairie plants. But numbers can’t tell the true story.
National Public Lands Day is about people – people willing to pick up shovels, haul mulch, and get their gloves dirty.

Volunteers smiled as they stood knee deep in mud to plant grasses in a new wetland at the south end of the park.  A young U of M student showed up who had just recently arrived to Minnesota from his home in Malaysia. Volunteers who had never been to Coldwater came after hearing about the park from REI, a true steward of the park who provided snacks and sporty shirts for all. Every volunteer who came has a story. And all those stories become part of the park.

One family’s story runs deep within Coldwater. Four generations of Gospeters came on Saturday, from matriarch Mary to the toddlers who brought their plastic pails and shovels, twenty adults and eleven kids.

They came to plant a grove of trees they donated in honor of Bob Gospeter, who died in February at age 91. Bob worked for the Bureau of Mines for decades. He and Mary and their two daughters lived at Coldwater in old red brick engineer’s house from 1949 to 1951. Bob oversaw moving an Iron Range building to Coldwater where it served as the Bureau’s library.Today, in place of the library sits a wetland surrounded by an oak grove. Bob’s family planted more trees and shrubs around that wetland, strengthening their roots to this place. Bob’s daughter, Mary, says she’ll keep coming back to Coldwater to water the trees.

National Park Service staff and volunteers, including the Coldwater Crew, will continue to water and nurture the new plantings and restore the park. Dedicated Coldwater Crew volunteers come twice a week through spring, summer, and into fall. Tomorrow will be the final session for the Tuesday evening crew—it gets too dark from the night crew to meet. But the Thursday morning volunteer crew will keep coming to the park, working 9 to noon, until they decide it’s too cold. If you want to join the crew, contact Anna at

Whether you volunteer every week like the crew or once a year for
NPLD, you are one of the people of the park. We hope you’ll keep coming back, to visit your trees and shrubs and grasses. Stop by to soak in fall colors, and spy a butterfly. Come back to Coldwater in every season, to walk and play. What makes a park? People make a park.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Free T's, Fab Trees: 7 reasons to sign up for our biggest event of the year

1. It's a kind of a big deal. National Public Lands Day is the biggest single event at Coldwater Spring. Saturday, September 27 is a true park-building day when hundreds of volunteers join together to restore the park.

2. Free food and coffee. That's right, REI will be providing a light breakfast to fuel all of the good deeds happening at Coldwater.

3. Free shirt. Again, thank you REI! My friends love my shirt from last year because of the cool design and I've heard at least one person cite the quality technical T-shirts as a reason to volunteer again this year. Come for the Ts, then plant some trees!

4.  Burn off those free breakfast calories doing good work. We'll be planting about 100 trees and shrubs, and over 1,000 small plants. We've spent hundreds of hours taking the bad (invasive) plants out of Coldwater, now we get to put good ones in!

5. Parks need people. Volunteers have already donated some 7,000 hours to restore the park. They've planted more than 500 trees, along with hundreds and hundreds of shrubs and native flowers. Be a park builder-- then come back, and visit the trees and plants you planted.
6. Hang out with National Park Service rangers. It might be the hat, badge, friendly smiles, or fun facts galore, so don't miss your chance to hang out with the folks in green.

7. Boost our blockbuster barn-raising! We want to make this the largest National Public Lands Day yet. Help us meet our goal of 150 volunteers. So far, 112 people have signed up for what we think is the modern version of a barn-raising. Join our tree army, and tell your friends about it too! Register here. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Five fast facts about Coldwater’s storied past

By Kate Havelin

Permission granted for MRF use in 2014.
Copyright 2014 Linda L. Brown.
See history come alive at Coldwater Spring on Saturday, September 13, 9 AM to noon. Costumed re-enactors from La Compagnie HSP will be at the park to show what life was like in the 1830s.

5. More than 100 people lived at Camp Coldwater in the 1830s. Coldwater is considered Minnesota’s first American settlement. An 1837 census showed three blacksmith shops, stables, and a stone building that served as trading post, hotel, and school. 

4. “Brats, dolts and dunderheads” -– that’s what teacher Peter Garrioch called his students at Coldwater’s Baker school. The school didn’t last long.

3. A Multicultural village -- People came to Coldwater to trade, work, or get protection from soldiers at nearby Fort Snelling. Coldwater residents raised cattle and chopped wood for the fort, worked as blacksmiths or translators, or traded animal pelts they’d hunted and skinned. European fur traders married Dakota and Ojibwe women and soon, Coldwater was home to families of mixed European, Native American and African descent. One family, for example, was Swedish, Ojibwe, and African.

2. The end of an era -- By 1840, the army burned down Camp Coldwater homes to force residents to move east across the river. Coldwater residents went on to settle in what would become St. Paul, Minneapolis, and St. Anthony. 

1. Coldwater’s latest chapter –-Come see living history and the latest blooms in Coldwater’s prairie woodland. Kids can do a simple craft and earn their Junior Ranger badges and everyone can try scavenger hunts and explore a park that blends history and nature. Our Second Saturday Trading Post is free and open to all. No reservations; just show up, ready to play in the park. The Mississippi River Fund and National Park Service host Second Saturdays, which run through Oct 11. For details, visit