The GMRPTC held the April Commission meeting in Brainerd at the Northland Arboretum, a beautiful facility of more than 600 acres, located right in the heart of Brainerd. A lovely facility surrounded by acres of trees and wildlife.
Following the meeting we had the opportunity to tour one of Greater Minnesota’s designated parks, Milford Mine Memorial Park, located in Crow Wing County. The park is unique in the Greater Minnesota system. The park honors and preserves the memory of 41 miners who perished in the worst mine disaster in Minnesota.
On February 5, 1924, 48 miners were working their typical shift at the Milford underground mine at the 165 and 175-foot levels. Just 15 minutes from the end of their shift the mine was suddenly flooded with water and mud. And in less than 20 minutes the 200-foot deep mine shaft was filled to within 15 feet of the surface. Only seven of the 48 miners were able to make it to the surface, the other 41 men died in the accident.
The park is a beautiful tribute to the miners and serves as a stark reminder of the perils of underground mining. A beautiful boardwalk over the water that now covers the area of the mine. Along the boardwalk are planks etched with the name of each of the miners who died as well as the seven miners who survived the disaster.
Visitors traverse the boardwalk to the site of mining activities and the mine shaft that has been fenced off for safety but does not inhibit viewing. Building foundations have been uncovered and throughout the park interpretive plaques provide information and context about the site.
One of the most touching aspects are the plaques that describe each of the miners, their age, where they came from and most heart rendering, the details about who they left behind. Most of the miners were married and left behind not only grieving wives, but among them 88 fatherless children.
The park has been built in phases beginning in 2010 and completed in 2017. It’s a beautiful spot in nature and while it commemorates an awful tragedy, it also celebrates the lives of those lost.
When you’re next in the Brainerd Lakes area, or enjoying a ride at Cuyuna, take a little detour and visit this gem of a park.
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