Farm where Runestone was unearthed awaits major improvements
Kensington Runestone Park has seen big changes over the years - buildings have been torn down and rebuilt, playground equipment has been erected, trees have grown taller and flowerbeds have been planted.
A more recent change is the addition of 140 acres purchased by the Kensington Runestone Park Foundation from David and Margaret Strand.
The land was purchased in December of 2006 by the foundation, a non-profit group organized for the development of the park.
Kensington Runestone Park, however, is owned by Douglas County.
Because the foundation could act faster than the county, it bought the land from the Strands, according to Al Lieffort, Douglas County park superintendent.
For now, the county leases the former Strand property with a goal of someday purchasing it. Lieffort noted that the county applied for and received a Federal Lawcon 50/50 grant. This means that the county will receive $206,000 from the Federal Land and Water Conservation fund if it can raise the same amount of money locally.
The park foundation has stepped up to the plate and is helping to raise the money by hosting a "White Elephant Auction" at the park on Saturday, September 20 at 1 p.m.
Charlie Olesen, president of the Kensington Runestone Park Foundation, noted that 100 percent of the proceeds from the event will be used for park development.
During the event, tours of the newly purchased land will be provided.
"We want to show people the property so they can see why we are so excited about this," said Lieffort.
The plan for the park, noted Lieffort, is to get the Ohman farm - where the controversial Kensington Runestone was found - back to its "homestead shape."
The land and farm tell the story of what happened in 1898, he added.
"We want to get the land back to what it was like when Olof and Karin Ohman lived there," said Lieffort.
He explained that the Runestone Museum in Alexandria does a great job of letting the public know what is happening with the Kensington Runestone itself, but not what was happening on the Ohman farm at the time it was discovered.
The Runestone was found clutched in the roots of an aspen tree on the Ohman land. Ohman, several of his sons and nearby farmers were clearing the land for plowing. Some believe the stone, which contains runic inscriptions, was left by early Viking explorers in 1362, more than 100 years before Columbus discovered America.
Others believe it is an elaborate hoax.
Lieffort said the whole story is wrapped around the controversy and that the plan is to get "Back to 1898" and turn the area into a historic tourism destination. He said the parks department and the foundation want to restore the farm in a real "hands-on" way using the sciences of geology and archaeology to tell the story.
Besides tours of the land, the event will feature the "White Elephant Auction," which Olesen said is an "anything and everything that's sellable sale."
Items can still be donated to the sale, he said, as long as they're in sellable condition. Items will be accepted through Friday, September 19.
A lunch, provided by the Kensington Café, will be available for purchase from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the park fund.
For more information on how to donate items, contact Charlie Olesen at (320) 677-2548, Ralph Gunderson at (320) 965-2565 or Brent Bennet at (218) 685-4680.
Kensington Runestone Park is located three miles north of Kensington at 8755 County Road 103 SW. From Interstate 94, exit 100, go west on Highway 27 for about 14 miles, turn left on County Road 103, go about one mile - watch for signs.
The park includes 12 miles of active cross-country ski trails, an important access point to the 400-mile DATA snowmobile trail, and facilities for winter and summer activities, such as family reunions, corporate social outings, Girl and Boy Scout projects and more.