Donation expands St. Olaf Natural Lands
A 30-acre land donation from Post Consumer Brands has expanded the reach of St. Olaf College’s Natural Lands, providing new opportunities for research and recreation.
The property, located near Post’s distribution facilities south of Highway 19, is tucked between two parcels of land owned by the college for decades. Because the property includes portions of Heath Creek as it flows into the Cannon River, faculty members in the college’s Environmental Studies Department identified it as an ideal location for a learning laboratory. Managers of the Natural Lands and the college’s recreation activities, meanwhile, saw potential for linking the trails that run from Highway 19 to Dundas Boulevard.
In early 2020, St. Olaf approached Post about buying the property. But after several conversations, the college and the company struck a different kind of deal: Post would donate the land to St. Olaf.
St. Olaf Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jan Hanson says the agreement is one with clear benefits to both St. Olaf and Post, which has operated in Northfield for nearly 95 years. The company’s ties to the community date to 1927, when it began producing Malt-O-Meal hot cereal in Northfield. It now employs more than 600 people at four sites in the area.
Hanson says St. Olaf was “delighted” when it became clear that Post was interested in donating the land and supporting the college’s plans to integrate Heath Creek more fully as a learning laboratory and connect the existing trails.
“It speaks to Post’s acknowledgement of their importance within the Northfield community and their support of the college,” she says.
The deal was finalized in November, and St. Olaf will soon begin restoration work to help make the property ready for conservation studies and student field research.
Current and former St. Olaf Natural Lands directors Charles Umbanhowar Jr. and Kathy Shea, both professors of biology and environmental studies, say they are excited about the possibilities, sharing that “in addition to providing the opportunity to study and manage local forest and stream ecosystems, this beautiful area will serve as a space for exercise and spiritual and emotional renewal.”
Hiking trails that run through the property will be maintained for public use.