Women share love for public lands, memories of bike trip, to State Fair audience

The Commissioner of the Minnesota DNR announced Friday as Public Lands Day in the state.

“When you think about living in Minnesota, if it wasn't for public lands, and we had to endure winter like we do here, I think people would just say, 'Well, lets go to Iowa,'” said Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

Governor Dayton made the proclamation official Friday because of what these public spaces provide for Minnesota’s economy, recreation and tourism.  

Off all the interesting people to meet at the fair, a group of young women interested in the topic of public lands will tell you their journey here started almost exactly one year ago.

“Last fall, myself and 3 other Minnesotan women biked 5,300 miles across the United States for federal public lands. We started in San Francisco, California in the beginning of September and ended in Columbia, South Carolina at the end of December,” said Hannah Field, of Mahtomedi.

It took Hannah, Arianna, Katie and Alex 94 days to go coast to coast on bikes.

“We were biking to advocate to raise awareness on the importance of these lands that they have for all Americans, environmentally, culturally, but also to raise awareness on the threats facing them,” Field added. “We learned about a variety of threats. Not just federal land transfer but threats facing these lands from climate change, budget cuts, over visitation in some cases.”

The four were recent college grads with a mission and a name: “Women on Wheels for Wild Lands, or “Wow-full.”

“I've always been kind of an adventurous spirit and doing something like biking across the country was exciting and pretty easy to do,” said Ariana Amini, another bicyclist in the group.

Along the way, the women documented their experience online including the beauty they saw and the people they met.

“Remembering the hospitality and the curiosity of just random strangers along the way was really amazing,” Amini added.

To a crowd gathered to hear their story at the fair, they shared how those months together changed their perspective.

“It's very easy to take them for granted, and I never really thought about how many people there are out there actually working to protect these places on a daily basis,” Field said.