If rock outcroppings could talk, the work Carl Colwell has been doing in recent years would be a lot easier.
Nonetheless, the Morton native and history enthusiast continues to share his passion for local history with anyone who is willing to listen.
An audience of conservation-minded individuals representing the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) recently listened to Colwell as he talked about the natural history asset known as Morton gneiss during a multi-site tour that allowed members of the commission to see for themselves how funds that have been invested are used.
Standing atop a huge rock outcropping, Colwell talked about “the oldest rock on planet earth” and the intrinsic value it offers to anthropologists, geologists, physicists and myriad others who have come to study the geological formations.
“I have brought hundreds of people up on these rocks from around the world who want to study them,” he said, adding the Dakota called the rocks the keepers of all knowledge.
Colwell said even though as a kid he was not convinced of that, today he is.
“I believe if we look at the rocks and ask the right questions we will find answers,” he said, adding we have a lot to learn.
The Morton site has become a scientific and natural area (SNA), and it was acquired in an effort to preserve it for future generations. According to Brad Bolduan, who works with the SNA program through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), LCCMR funds have been used to help restore the area just west of the old Morton school now known as the Minnesota Valley History Learning Center.
Those Minnesota River Valley rock outcroppings can be preserved through various programs including one that allows agencies, like the soil and water conservation district (SWCD), to acquire permanent easements on the land putting it into programs, such as Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM).
According to Jason Beckler of the Renville SWCD, there are more than 1,500 acres of the rock outcroppings in the valley that have been preserved.
“If we don’t put it under easement there is the potential for it to be mined,” said Beckler. “We know when a wetland is drained it can be restored. When the rock from here is mined it can’t come back.”
Members of the LCCMR group, as part of their two-day tour, were able to see firsthand how the dollars being allocated are used. Among those members were two who represent the Morton SNA area.
District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms and District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson both said it is good to get those legislators and other members of the commission out to areas like this.
Page 2 of 2 - “This gives us a chance to see what has been ac-complished,” said Dahms, adding many of those on the visit have never been out to this part of the state.
Torkelson added it is good to know the LCCMR funds, which are the proceeds from the Minnesota lottery, are actually coming out to this part of the state.
The environmental trust fund dollars are allocated based on a recommendation of the commission and finally approved by the legislature. The next round of dollars are going to be allocated for 2014. Applications for those dollars have been accepted, and later this year (late summer or early fall) the commission is going to begin the review process to determine which projects to fund with the new allotment.
A funding request for a trailhead in Morton that would help to connect the SNA with other historic sites in the Renville and Redwood counties area has been made to the LCCMR.
“There are a lot of beautiful places in our area we who see them all of the time take for granted,” said Dahms. “It is good to see these folks from the Twin Cities come out and see all that we have to offer.”