George Friedrich Park: Woods, wetlands and quarries

Friday, May 8, 2009

Water-filled granite quarry in George Friedrich Park at the east end of University Drive

Water-filled granite quarry in George Friedrich Park at the east end of University Drive.

Water-filled granite quarry in George Friedrich Park at the east end of University Drive Swimming-and-diving complex in a water-filled quarry east of campus Remnants of the former park at the east end of University Drive 

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Plans to improve University Drive are focusing attention on a little-known property that once was a popular park.

The City of St. Cloud has proposed extending University Drive east to U.S. Highway 10.

In between lies a tract of woods, wetlands and water-filled granite quarries, including 51 acres owned by St. Cloud State University since 1934.

View a photo slide show about the land.

The proposed route would skirt north of St. Cloud State's land, according to Steve Ludwig, vice president of administrative affairs.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the area was home to Gottfried Hilder's granite-quarrying business. During the Great Depression St. Cloud State Teachers College officials used federal work programs to create a park, complete with roads, decorative granite walls and a swimming-and-diving complex.

The City Council voted May 4 to add the University Drive corridor project to the master plan, paving the way for further study and pursuit of federal funding.

Parts of the project could begin in 2010. Other parts, such as connecting University Drive to Highway 10, might not happen for decades.

View a drawing of the proposed interchange (PDF) at University Drive and Highway 10

View video of testimony at the May 4 council meeting, including testimony by Rebecca Bierbaum, Friedrich's granddaughter

In the mid-1970s the park was closed. Since then, the property has been posted. Despite no-trespassing signs, visitors use it for walking, biking, dog exercise and social gatherings.

Faculty have used it for, among other things, plant-identification activities.

In 2003, the university conducted tours for alumni during Homecoming. The university also collaborated with a local environmental group that year to open the park to the community for a weekend.

Time has exacted a toll on the property:

  • Granite walls and steps built by Works Progress Administration and National Youth Administration laborers are overgrown and, in some cases, crumbling.
  • Quarries and trails have been used for dumping.
  • Litter, such as cans and bottles, has accumulated.
  • Non-native species such a buckthorn and Siberian elm have flourished.

From the maze of trails one can see mature red pine and white pine trees and an array of deciduous trees, including oak, aspen, cottonwood, cedar and ash.

The pine trees were planted at the urging of biology professor George Friedrich, who is credited with persuading the college to purchase the parcel. Friedrich served on the State Conservation Board and helped push landmark conservation bills through the Legislature in the 1940s.

In 1951, the park was formally named George Friedrich Park.

Some information in this story was drawn from a 10/6/03 story in the University Chronicle and from the Web site for Baldwin Township, Sherburne County, Minnesota.



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