It started with Bruce Vento’s View a couple weeks ago. We drive by the entrance all the time. It’s at the southern corner of Cherokee Regional Park. It’s a great overlook where you can see all the way to Minneapolis (“look down on Minneapolis,” as I later heard someone say). The overlook itself has some stones set up like theater seating, and appears that the stones were salvaged from old buildings. While we were there we saw a trail that descended the bluff but we didn’t have time to check out.
Yesterday we did. I had the not-so-brilliant idea that we’d bike down there and worst case scenario I’d have to walk the bike back up the hill. I didn’t realize how steep the hill would be or account for the fact that the bike, the buggy and Lexi weigh a lot.
So we checked out the ribbon-cutting ceremony, complete with musical performance by the Eddies, quick comments from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and City Council Member Dave Thume, some birds released back into the wild, and some snacks. Lexi made some friends, including the mayor’s dog.
After the ceremony we took a walk down the trail and heard more about the history of the area. The Twin Cities Brick Quarry operated in the area for more than 100 years, ending in the early 1970s. Their work excavating clay left a lot of the cliff side exposed and now the area is great for fossil digging (but you need a permit). There’s also the man-made Echo Cave, which has been used for mining, growing mushrooms, making cheese, and now is a winter hibernation resort for the big brown bats species, complete with a bat gate to protect the bats and keep people out (yes, it’s our very own Bat Cave). There’s also the remains of a brick oven.
We were joined in our walk by a group of YWCA girls who had the privilege of camping in Lilydale park the night before, something that’s not ordinarily allowed. Some of the girls were enamored with Lexi and were eager to show her Echo Cave. Lexi hammed it up for them.
The trail itself used to be the road the brick company used, so it’s fairly wide. The Parks & Rec people also put down some gravel that’s apparently flakes from recent work on the Lafayette bridge. With all the clay and brick activity, there are a lot of remnants of an earlier time lying around. According to the maps there are a few waterfalls and regions we didn’t explore, so it definitely deserves a few more trips just to see it all.
Update: Welcome 2010 St. Paul treasure hunters! Hope you’re finding the info on Lilydale Regional Park helpful. Just wanted to take a quick moment to point your attention to a fundraiser I started last week where kids are coloring pictures to help Haiit. Make a donation, get a picture: Color4aCause. Hope you’ll consider making a donation.