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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary

For more than a century, Saint Paul residents have known Trout Brook Valley as nothing more than a noisy, polluted rail yard. Located just north of downtown Saint Paul, the valley was a once a source of life to the Mdewakanton Dakota, providing important natural resources like maple sugar, wild rice, and fish. It was home to bear, fox, bison, and 600 year old trees. European settlers described the river, which flowed from Lake McCarrons to the Mississippi, as “picturesque a ravine as one can find this side of the Rockies.” 

Children playing at Trout Brook circa 1875
As Minnesota’s population boomed in the mid-1800s, the valley’s hills were leveled and it’s streams and marshes were filled in to make way for a railroad into downtown Saint Paul. By the 1950s, Trout Brook’s crystal clear waters were a distant memory for Saint Paulites, buried almost completely underground and diverted through a storm sewer. The neighborhoods connection to the natural environment was completely lost.
Until now, that is! Thanks to concerned citizens and generous donations, Trout Brook once again sees the light of day, this time in the form of the Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary. The Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department has purchased approximately 42 acres west of I-35E, north of Cayuga Avenue and south of Norpac Road; the project is already around 75 percent complete. A grand opening is scheduled for spring 2015. To date, the stream bed and wetlands have been restored, invasive plant species removed and native flowers, grasses, and trees have been planted. Trails, overlooks, seating, and restroom facilities have already been developed.  The sanctuary will eventually connect Saint Paul’s North End community to downtown via an extension of the Gateway Trail, which is scheduled for completion in fall 2016.

View of downtown Saint Paul from Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary
Laura H., a North End resident, recently described her first experience visiting the new park with her son: “When I walked down the path, I had my head down. When I looked up, I experienced the most beautiful sight with all my senses. Downtown in the distance, wonderful natural space all around, birds frolicking in the stream, and although it was rush hour and I-35E construction is going on, I could hardly hear the traffic in the close distance. My seven year old son really enjoyed sitting on the benches and leaning over the bridges to inspect the water. As he was sitting in the shade on one of the benches, he said ‘I bet there is a lot of wildlife that lives down here’.  On our way back we saw two turkeys and an alert Buck in the brush. We look forward to years of memories in this wonderful natural space. It is exactly what our community needed.”

Photo of a Monarch butterfly and caterpillar taken during a nature survey in July 2014
Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary’s main parking lot is located at 1200 Jackson Street on the north east corner of Maryland Avenue and Jackson Street. Pedestrian entrances are on the west side of the park at Maryland Avenue, Rose Avenue, Geranium Avenue, Magnolia Avenue, and Jenks Avenue, with future entrances at Jackson Street and Cayuga Avenue.

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