St. Paul residents debate future of part of the Bluff Trail

The debate over the future of the Bluff Trail in Indian Mound Regional Park in St. Paul continues. 

Dozens of people came to a listening session in St. Paul to talk about a proposal to remove a stretch of park trail that sits between sacred Native American burial grounds and a steep bluff to the Mississippi River.

The stretches of trail are in the Indian Mound Regional Park in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul. The 111-acre park includes several sacred Native American burial mounds that are marked off with fencing and historical markers. There are also several trails that weave through the park. Some of those trails run along a steep bank leading to the Mississippi River.

Alice Messer with the St. Paul Parks Department explained that as part of the city’s master plan, they are looking to improve their park trail systems. She said part of that plan includes removing stretches of trail that sit close to the steep embankment.

“The bluff could change over time if we have different rain events just thinking about how we keep people safe on the trail and pull them away from the edge,” Messer said.

The proposal to remove the trail has sparked some debate in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. Some want to see the trail restored or moved but because of its proximity to the burial grounds, city officials say that isn’t an option.

At a listening session Monday dozens of people expressed their concerns for the project. Many people from the neighborhood said they came to the session because they were confused about the project. Others said they were there to fight for keeping the trail as it is.

“It’s such a unique part of the city,” Dayton’s Bluff resident Nancy Hebquist said. It’s just peaceful and beautiful. I would like to see the views opened up. I feel that was one of the reasons it’s a sacred burial ground in the first place because of the beautiful vista of the river.”

Many people from the Native American community were at the meeting to express their concerns for keeping the burial grounds protected for future generations.

“There’s a lot of history here that maybe your average St. Paul resident may not know but that’s why some members of the Dakota community and people from preservation offices wanted to get involved,” said Maggie Lorenz. 

At Monday’s listening session, many people from the Native American community expressed their concern for preserving part of their culture and respecting their ancestors. Many neighbors said they have respect for the burial grounds but are concerned about losing the park altogether because of its cultural significance.

Messer with the St. Paul Parks Department said she could not confirm if the plan had already been finalized. She said the city is continuing to listen to the people impacted before making a final decision. She said there are still trails in the area for people to walk on and that improvements to those trails could be another part of the plan.

To learn more about the project visit the page on St. Paul's website