Expansion of Chengwatana State Forest to Offer Recreational, Water Quality Benefits

Trust for Public Land, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Xcel Energy, and Wild Rivers Conservancy announced today that nearly 250 acres along the St. Croix River will be preserved for public use.

“Protecting this segment of the St. Croix Watershed is critical not only for providing residents and visitors with public access to hiking, hunting, and wildlife viewing, but for ensuring water quality benefits for surrounding communities,” said Bob McGillivray, Land Protection Director for Trust for Public Land. “Trust for Public Land is thrilled to continue to work with Minnesota DNR and our partners to ensure more people can get outdoors and enjoy the benefits of nature.”

The 241-acre property is located within the Chengwatana State Forest and borders National Park Service property along the full length of its eastern boundary. Trust for Public Land (TPL) has conveyed this land to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to be managed by its Division of Forestry.

“We’re thrilled to manage this land as part of Chengwatana State Forest for the public’s benefit for decades to come,” said DNR Division of Forestry Director Patty Thielen. “Not only will it provide recreational opportunities to many, but its high biodiversity and location along the St. Croix River make it an important piece to protect.”

The property had previously been leased to YouthCARE/Camp Sunrise as an outdoor adventure camp for underserved youth across the Twin Cities, until the organization closed its doors. Protecting the property means that people can once again access this beloved landscape.

“For decades the property had been leased at no cost to YouthCARE/Camp Sunrise as an outdoor adventure camp for underserved youth from Minneapolis and St. Paul,” said Craig Luedemann, Camp Director. “Camp Sunrise was proud to partner with Xcel Energy, the National Park Service and many others for over 45 years, a partnership that provided tens of thousands of urban youth from diverse background and cultures with leadership opportunities and outdoor, environmental and intercultural learning experiences. Although Camp Sunrise unfortunately dissolved in 2021, alumni campers, staff and volunteers appreciate the Trust for Public Land’s role in preserving this special place for use by the public.”

In June 2022, TPL helped protect over 700 acres of the St. Croix Watershed that are now managed as part of the State Forest. Xcel Energy owned the land for roughly a century, and TPL led the effort to purchase it using a grant funded by the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund. The Fund is part of the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy amendment passed in 2008 to increase the sales tax by 3/8 of one percent to, among other things, protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat.

“Xcel Energy has a long history of working to preserve the St. Croix Riverway,” said John Marshall, Regional Vice President at Xcel Energy. “Since 1968, Xcel Energy has donated or sold over 25,000 acres of St. Croix riverway land to Minnesota, Wisconsin and the federal government. We’re very happy to work with Trust for Public Land to make sure that Camp Sunrise will be available for public use long into the future.”

“The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, one of the original eight wild and scenic rivers and part of the national park system, provides a narrow ribbon of protection to the remarkable yet vulnerable St. Croix River,” said Craig Hansen, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Superintendent. “Long-term protection of the river depends upon preservation of the St. Croix River Watershed, and this land conveyance is a key achievement in our shared efforts.”

The acquisition of this land on the outermost portion of the Twin Cities metropolitan area is part of TPL’s St. Croix Watershed Program, a subprogram of the Minnesota Rivers Program. The watershed’s landscape contains large swaths of unspoiled ecosystems including rolling barrens and brushlands containing threatened species.

The Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway is a federally protected 252-mile system of riverways located in eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, including the St. Croix River on the Minnesota- Wisconsin border. It is one of the original eight National Wild and Scenic Rivers. In partnership with others, TPL has completed 24 land protection projects protecting 6,369 acres in this area.

About Trust for Public Land

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org.