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MnDOT plans to rehab Highway 14 spring wayside

Weather permitting, restoration work on the New Ulm spring wayside on Highway 14 will begin March 1 with tree removal, expected to last a week without major traffic impacts. The goal of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) project is to bring the site to potentially eligible status for the National Register of Historic Places.

NICOLLET COUNTY — With favorable weather, a project to restore the New Ulm spring wayside on U.S. Highway 14, a mile east of the city, will begin with tree removal the first week of March.

Tree removal may take up to a week without major traffic impacts, according to a news release from Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) District 7 Public Affairs Coordinator Rebecca L. Arndt.

Hillside tree clearing needs to take place before protected bats make their homes, according to the news release. The spring rehabilitation project will take place later this summer. Project completion is expected to be in September.

The project includes repairing the stone wall, walk, and parking area with a new, curbed island and right in/right out access.

Two picnic areas up the slope will be stored with a natural surface trail connecting them. A new accessible picnic table will be added near the stone wall. Interpretation and accessibility improvements will be included.

The project is in coordination with Highway 14 improvement plans from New Ulm to Nicollet that begin in 2022.

“There are large buckthorn, lots of linden trees, some elm and ironwood and one hackberry tree (on the site),” said MnDOT Historic Roadside Property Program Manager Andrea Weber.

Tree removal estimated to cost $10,000, will be done by Leenerts Tree & Mill of Granite Falls. Weber said bids for the rest of the project have not come in yet.

The wayside built by the National Youth Administration in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Highways in 1938 and 1939, is not currently eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. A goal of the project is to bring the wayside to potentially eligible status.

Weber said project plans don’t include restoring the actual spring itself, which was closed a couple decades ago due to contamination.

The site was developed at the base of a large hill, (about two square miles), that was known locally as “Old Redstone.” The hill was a source of quartzite, a hard crystalline sandstone, that was quarried near New Ulm beginning in 1859, according to the MNDOT Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory.

“A famous outcrop of rock . . . known as Old Redstone, is a conspicuous hill of about two square miles uplifted into the wide valley of the Minnesota. Older than the glaciers, this mass of pink quartzite, one of the hardest and oldest of rocks, survived the weathering of the Paleozoic era and stood out — a lone island in the Cretaceous seas that leveled the land and deposited a thick layer of what is now limestone,” according to the 1938 Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The ambitious employment and infrastructure program was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, during the bleakest years of the Great Depression.

Perhaps best known for its public works projects, the WPA also sponsored projects in the arts. The agency employed tens of thousands of actors, musicians, writers, and other artists.

Notable WPA architecture included the Johnson Park baseball field in New Ulm, the Hoover Dam, the John Adams Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and the San Francisco Mint.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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