DNR responds: Manfred legacy to be honored, but structure cannot be saved

Guest Editorial

We appreciate the opportunity to clarify the Minnesota Parks and Trails project to redevelop Eagle Rock Vista at Blue Mounds State Park. 

First, it is important to note for context that the Frederick Manfred house site is an important and valued area within Blue Mounds State Park. It reflects the contributions of a famous American author to the community of Luverne and his family’s legacy.

As part of the redevelopment project, DNR has assessed the potential for saving the house. However, the extensive damage and environmental hazards caused by the quarried cliff being incorporated into the building has resulted in the conclusion that the building is unsafe and unsustainable.

The full "Existing Conditions Assessment of the Frederick Manfred House" is now available on the DNR website. The report goes into great detail about the considerable structural deficiencies and public safety issues associated with the structure. 

Further, because of the design of the structure incorporating the quarried cliff and the resulting persistent water intrusion, saving the structure in its current form is not only costly, but impossible. 

Due to the ongoing water intrusion over the years, the only feasible way the building could be made sustainable would be to rebuild the facility functionally separated from the cliff wall and would likely cost over $2 million. 

And finally, if it were rebuilt, it would no longer reflect the original architecture of the building.

It is also important to point out that during the 2017 Blue Mounds State Park Citizen Advisory Group process, group members learned about the state of the building and generally agreed the site needs to be repurposed for a different use in the future. 

The name “Eagle Rock Vista” was suggested by a wayfinding group from the Luverne Economic Development Office, because the large rock in the immediate vista area is named “Eagle Rock,” and is rumored to have been named by the Manfred family.  

Because the focus of the area will shift from a visitor center building to more of an interpretive, reflective site and trailhead location – the name “Eagle Rock Vista” was recommended. 

To effectively honor Frederick Manfred’s legacy while enhancing the natural landscape and space for public use, education and appreciation, the DNR Parks and Trails Division requested proposals for professional architectural, site design, and engineering services to redevelop the Manfred House-Eagle Rock Vista trailhead area at Blue Mounds State Park

The resulting concepts that are being reviewed today effectively retain the footprint, foundation and stone face that were prominent in the structure while also celebrating the splendor of the rare natural plant communities in the area along with the spectacular views from the exposed cliff for which the site is known.

 The DNR has undertaken a lengthy process of engagement of stakeholders including a series of group meetings in the community to discuss a variety of issues pertaining to the park, including the Manfred house. 

Among various outcomes, the citizen advisory group requested that they be engaged in considering alternative options culminating in the current opportunity for public comment on the design concepts. 

And there have been multiple communications with advocates for saving the Manfred house about the condition of the house and plans to redevelop the area into a trailhead dating back to at least 2019. 

The assessment, performed by licensed architects and engineers, substantiated the expectation that the house would need to be deconstructed.

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