The first environmental legislation in Minneapolis?

Minneapolis has acquired parks in less time than it’s taken me to start this blog. No joke. I was planning to get this blog going well before the park board considered acquiring the Scherer Brothers site along the Mississippi River in Northeast. Now that acquisition is completed. Brilliant, by the way. A no-brainer. Above the Falls will someday be as spectacular as Below the Falls. Different, but spectacular — nearly 100 years after the first suggestions that the park board acquire the banks of the Mississippi above St. Anthony Falls. It’s happening bit by bit. As in the early days. It took the park board several attempts and nearly twenty years after its creation to acquire the river banks below the falls. The goal then was to preserve land for public use, to prevent it from being destroyed. Now it is to reclaim it.

Which brings me to an interesting bit of information on early preservation and environmental protection efforts in Minneapolis. On February 26, 1879, four years and one day before the Minnesota legislature created a Board of Park Commissioners for Minneapolis it passed Chapter 339 of the Special Laws of Minnesota, entitled “An Act To Preserve The Purity Of Certain Lakes In Hennepin Country By Prohibiting The Discharge Or Deposit Of Impure Or Deleterious Matter Into The Waters Thereof.”

The law declared it unlawful for any person to “deposit, place or empty” into the waters of Lake Calhoun or Lake Minnetonka any “putrid or decayed animal or vegetable matter, or impure liquid, or to erect any building, stable or outhouse on the bank or shore of either of said lakes, from which any deleterious deposit or matter may fall into or reach the waters of either of said lakes, or to discharge or drain into either of said lakes any impure liquid or substance whatever which shall defile the waters thereof and render the same impure for drinking or household use or in any wise deleterious to health.”

Was this the first “clean water” legislation in Minnesota?

In a later post I’ll provide one good reason why Lake Calhoun was singled out in Minneapolis. And, yes, it does have something to do with railroads.

David C. Smith


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