Junior Pioneers plan park shelter, improvements

Project donations sought

The Junior Pioneers Board of Directors recently approved a project including a new shelter and other park improvements. The park is located at the south end of Washington Street.

NEW ULM — The details of a proposed Junior Pioneer Park shelter project were revealed at the Junior Pioneers annual meeting at Turner Hall Friday.

Executive Board President Larry Mack said the 30 feet by 50 feet shelter is planned to be built next year in time for the park’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2023.

Mack said the park improvement project estimated to cost $450,000, includes a shelter, kitchen, picnic tables, benches, an information kiosk, ADA (American Disabilities Act) walkways, and restrooms.

He said the organization is excited that members Pat and Loren Kraetz donated $100,000 for the project, a $200,000 matching donation and $35,000 endowment fund for future park maintenance.

“It’s a treasure,” Mark said of the park. “Not many organizations own a park for more than 100 years. We’re hoping people see the opportunity to develop the park. The board wants to proceed with this.”

Brown County Historical Society Executive Director Kathleen Backer talked about the history of the park purchased by 14 settlers in 1872. The land was originally used for target practice.

“The settlers who bought the original 4.6 acres of park property on the north bank of the Big Cottonwood River (at the south end of Washington St.) for $60,” said Backer. “The settlers often met at Peter Mack’s Milford Township farm to hunt but wanted another place to target shoot and practice hunting,” said Backer.

The Junior Pioneers formally organized on Feb. 25, 1912 at Turner Hall to begin plans for a pioneer homecoming at the 50th anniversary observance of the 1862 U.S.-Dakota Uprising. A monument of the organization’s creation was placed in the park on Oct. 3, 1987.

The 500-member organization that unites members as a social and benevolent society was created to “keep green the memory of the early pioneers who settled New Ulm and the vicinity, and to preserve the usages, customers, languages and ideals of the early settlers.”

“It’s a gorgeous park with a significant legacy,” said Backer. “It’s a place to relax and get away from the humdrum of everyday life. What a legacy it would be to continue it for another 100 years and build a shelter for the 2023 anniversary.”

Society membership is open to anyone who is a direct descendant of pioneers who lived in the New Ulm vicinity by 1870. The vicinity includes the City of New Ulm, and the townships of Cottonwood, Lake Hanska, Linden, Milford, and Sigel in Brown County; the townships of Bernadotte, Brighton, Courtland, Lafayette and West Newton in Nicolllet County; and Cambria Township in Blue Earth County.

For more information, visit the Junior Pioneers of New Ulm, Minnesota on Facebook and a number of other online sites including jpofnu.blogspot.com.

(Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@



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