Embracing Community History Through Cultural Resources

Embracing Community History Through Cultural Resources

Every community has a unique history and story to tell. At Bolton & Menk, we believe that identifying and protecting cultural resources is key in being able to tell that story for years to come. Before a project can start, it’s extremely important to survey the land for any physical evidence of people who lived, worked, and played in that area in the past. This not only gives us a clue into what the land was used for, but similarly gives our communities a sense of place and history to be celebrated.

The potential impact of finding cultural resources during an archeological survey is broad with layering levels of significance. Sometimes, like in River Bluffs Regional Park of St. Cloud, Minnesota, a survey proves a project must be re-routed to avoid historical traces. During this project, Bolton & Menk detected two unidentified archeological sites, in addition to previous sites that had never been reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office or the Office of the State Archaeologist. This survey also led to the discovery of an expansive 20th Century waste and debris site. Research into the site indicated more than 260 tons of waste had been removed, leaving traces that could tell us about how previous occupants lived. Through coordination with the city, the trail was re-routed to avoid the two archaeological sites and run along a critical alignment through the former waste site. Rerouting the project allowed the trail be built and inform trail users of the historic context, while preserving lasting cultural resources.

“It’s beneficial for our firm to have cultural resource specialists because it makes it easy for us to reach out directly to project managers and let them know what we’ve found. We can easily work together to shift elements of a project’s design to avoid impacting those resources, and still deliver the right solution to the client.” said Jammi Ladwig, cultural resource specialist at Bolton & Menk.

The City of North Mankato, Minnesota is home to beautiful rivers and bluffs, so a new overlook in Bluff Park was proposed to take advantage of the beautiful views. Bolton & Menk was brought in to complete an archaeological survey of the site prior to project design. While the site of the overlook was relatively small, it was still essential that no cultural resources in the area would be disturbed. After subsurface testing, the site was cleared as no archaeological materials were identified. The overlook was built while preserving the area’s natural setting for future generations.

View of North Mankato's River Bluff Park

Cultural Resources are not always found in the exact project space they are surveyed for, but that does not make their presence any less influential to an area. Every town, city, and state have a rich history from those that occupied various landscapes in the past to make these places what they are today – often leaving their mark on the land. Cultural resources are finite and important to the history of the people’s of the land , so it’s very important to advocate for them when they are found. Through acknowledging the multiplicity of voices, experiences, and histories represented by a place, we can better understand the past in a more meaningful and contextualized way. Cultural Resources professionals take great care in identifying those resources and educating folks on why they matter and how we can safeguard them for many years.

“A sense of place is needed in a sustainable community and that is largely derived from relationship between people and places. When we can anchor people in a place by an identifiable resource like an archeological site, historic swimming area, neat building or structure, or even a solemn place for quietness in a city, and manage them appropriately, we can help our clients define their identity in a way that is compelling.” said Austin Jenkins, a senior cultural resource specialist at Bolton & Menk.

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