The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 7, 2014

Design allows for up-close view of Minneopa bison

Open house set for April 22

Visitors would be able to drive through the Minneopa prairie containing a herd of bison, view them from atop the Seppmann Mill hill or watch them from a new hiking trail ringing the enclosure.

The details of a proposal to bring bison to Minneopa State Park are in a Department of Natural Resources draft management plan for the park.

The DNR will host an open house from 5:30-7 p.m. April 22 at the Blue Earth County Library in Mankato. The public can make comments on the plan until May 5.

A copy of the plan can be found by going to dnr.state.mn.us and in the search bar typing "minneopa bison."

Minneopa is best known for its waterfall — the largest in southern Minnesota. But it is the nearby section of the park, along the Minnesota River, that would be home to a bison herd. About 350 acres of prairie would be fenced with visitors able to drive through the enclosure on the existing park road that goes to Seppmann Mill.

The hill where the mill stands would serve as an overlook and a turnaround area. A well would be drilled with a natural-appearing "prairie pothole" created below the hill for the bison to water at.

The hiking and skiing trail now along the river bluff will be expanded to encircle the entire bison enclosure.

The exact size of the herd will be determined after more study is done this spring on the available grassland, but it's believed the range could support the equivalent of about 50 adult bison.

The bison would come from Blue Mounds State Park in southwestern Minnesota, which has a unique herd that is among the most genetically pure in the nation. If the bison come to Minneopa, it would be a homecoming of sorts. Sibley Park in Mankato once had a zoo that was home to bison. When the zoo was destroyed in the 1965 flood, those bison were moved to Blue Mounds, meaning their genes are among those at Blue Mounds today.

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