Tribe approves design of Mission Creek cemetery


The Reservation Commercial Council for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa approved the plan on February 26 for the cemetery located in the Fond du Lac neighborhood of Duluth.

The landscape architects behind the project, Urban Ecosystems of St. Paul, announced approval on Monday.

“We are delighted that the community response to our design changes and our community process has been positive and we are working hard to keep things moving quickly,” said Samuel Geer, President of Urban Ecosystems.

Tribal members influenced the design in two rounds of town hall meetings, overwhelmingly declaring that they wanted something simple.

Since the desecration, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has been working with the Fond du Lac Band, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and the Office of the State Archaeologist to restore burial remains in a reconstructed cemetery . The work could be completed in 2020, said Randy Costley, MnDOT project manager.

“The schedule for this work is tight and we hope to complete the work before the freeze-up,” said Costley. “However, depending on the weather, this may be forced to roll over to next season.”

The architects’ concept included a border wall including a wooded cemetery with few markings. The design would also restore a natural spring that is currently underground.

Ultimately, the disturbed hillside cemetery will be replanted to grow over time with smaller and larger trees, and additional ground cover vegetation made up of native plants resistant to climate change.

The Tribal Council has also requested that a structure and space be constructed near the proposed new access road which will be 134th Street West. The short road is being built by MnDOT this summer and will replace West Fourth Street, which is being abandoned as it passes through the existing cemetery.

The additional design and planning process for a structure at the end of the road will be seen as a separate phase of the project, the architects said.

It could be included in mitigation costs budgeted as part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s overall $ 20 million budget. Since the project began as a replacement for Minnesota’s Highway 23 bridge over Mission Creek, costs have risen sharply due to extensive salvage work.

District Engineer Duane Hill, a senior MnDOT official in Duluth, said he had budgeted $ 2 million for mitigation.

“This is an important step,” he said in February, describing federally mandated action required when historic properties are disturbed. “We are going to have to (publicly) document the cemetery and other cultural property in the impact area.”

There may also be salvage work to be done this summer on the stockpiles of earth created when excavations began in 2017. The piles are located outside the site of the central cemetery where the work of salvaging the remains, Funeral objects and artifacts were completed last year.

The Reservation Business Council also approved a request that a member of the Fond du Lac community be appointed to co-lead the interpretive design process, with Urban Ecosystems to determine the final message and the form messages at the cemetery will take.

The architectural design team is in the process of developing construction-level design plans. The final design plans are expected to be completed in time for the project to go to tender in July. By mid-September, landscaping could start at the earliest, Costley said.

The bridge replacement project has also been relaunched, with hopes of construction by 2024 at the latest. The estimated $ 4.2 million project has already been the subject of a public meeting in February.


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