The planned Northwest Sands tour would bring history and ecology to the streets

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September 14 – Parishioners gathered at the Highland Town Hall on Saturday, September 11th to explore the idea of ​​a car tour of the Northwest Sands. Also known as the Sandy Deserts, the area stretches from St. Croix Falls in Polk County to Madeline Island in Bayfield County.

The tour would be created as a mobile app or brochure – a handheld guide to the home of the Ojibwe, the fur trade, mining, wild rice, homesteads, farming on the St. Croix Riverway, the Brule River, logging, art, music, the conservation movement, and more.

The 1,900 square mile Northwest Sands area, formed from sand deposited by glacial meltwater, is a globally endangered habitat with a diverse ecology. It is also home to significant geological sites and carries a rich history.

A former Native American footpath, the sandy desert area was used extensively for travel before trains and automobiles, and at times of the year when river trips were not ideal.

A car tour that envelops all three levels of meaning would take visitors to sights and attractions and sensitize them to this unusual landscape from the seat of their car.

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“The barren areas of Northwest Sands are a combination of people and places; how we live and how we have lived here is a reflection of the land itself,” said Jane Anklam of Friends of the Bird Sanctuary in Solon Springs. “And telling this story is a way not only to protect the amazing places, but also to create connections in our community.”

The idea began with groups of friends who were dedicated to the various sandy deserts along the way, such as the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary.

Your motto? “If you love a place, you will protect it.”

“We wanted to make sure that the people who came here didn’t just fly by and fly up to Lake Superior. We always felt like we were competing with Lake Superior,” said Anklam. “We wanted people to accept it and know about it so that they could be careful with it.”

Their original idea was to highlight the area’s ecology on placemats in local bars and restaurants. You’ve whirled around the idea of ​​a car or bike tour. Then Anklam met Brian Finstad, who wanted to highlight the history of the area on a similar tour.

Momentum built when historical societies stepped in, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources joined in and applied for a $ 2,000 grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. A draft map has been created showing the possible route and tentative locations that should be highlighted.

Due to COVID-19, the group was incapacitated for a year and began holding meetings in communities along the tour route in July. Fifty people attended a meeting in Burnett County; 30 showed up at Douglas County Town Hall in August. Half a dozen people attended the meeting on Saturday.

“I’d love to be more involved with the project. It’s really nice,” said Steve Lynch, president of the Barnes Area Historical Association.

For Finstad, who grew up in Gordon, the meetings are a chance to uncover and add historical, ecological or geological nuggets.

“We don’t know everything,” said Finstad. “All of this is just made up at this point. This is all a draft.

Left to right, Catherine and Steve Lynch of the Barnes Area Historical Association speak to Jane Anklam while Brian Finstad speaks about historic sites with Ted Eastlund, also of the Barnes Area Historical Association, at the Highland Town Hall Saturday, September 11, 2021 Meet on a suggested car tour of the Northwest Sands area. (Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram)

Left to right, Catherine and Steve Lynch of the Barnes Area Historical Association speak to Jane Anklam while Brian Finstad speaks about historic sites with Ted Eastlund, also of the Barnes Area Historical Association, at the Highland Town Hall Saturday, September 11, 2021 Meet on a suggested car tour of the Northwest Sands area. (Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram)

Seven more meetings are planned, including in Solon Springs and Iron River. Contact Brian Finstad, [email protected], 612-594-1854 for more information or to suggest a site to add to the tour.

Upcoming meetings

October 9: Bird Sanctuary Club House, Solon Springs, 1 p.m.

October 23: Iron River Community Center, 9:00 a.m.

A draft map detailing a planned auto tour that would take visitors to areas of environmental, geological, and historical importance along the Northwest Sands of Madeline Island to St. Croix Falls. Contributed / Brian Finstad

A draft map detailing a planned auto tour that would take visitors to areas of environmental, geological, and historical importance along the Northwest Sands of Madeline Island to St. Croix Falls.

Contributed / Brian Finstad


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