The New Ulm Spring Roadside Parking Area offered varied functions: picnicking, hiking, drinking water, and scenic river views.

Looking to the Future

Mn/DOT's roadside development study began as a simple inventory and has become a much more comprehensive undertaking. As Mn/DOT realized the number of historic properties that it owns, their significance, and the threats they face, the inventory report became a launching point for additional studies, management and treatment plans, and National Register nominations.

While the research was valuable in its own right, the study has already yielded many practical benefits. Mn/DOT estimates that by evaluating the roadside properties collectively, the agency has saved almost 40% over individual determinations of National Register eligibility. In addition, since the initial inventory was completed more than a dozen sites have been reviewed during the early planning phases of roadway reconstruction, rather than after final planning was underway.


The popularity of roadside facilities is shown in this view of the Christmas Lake Roadside Parking Area from c1940. The wayside includes an overlook, council ring, historic marker, picnic facilities, and athletic field.

Minnesota's former Commissioner of Transportation, Elwyn Tinklenberg, commented that, "Mn/DOT is constantly looking for ways to improve the way we conduct business. Research such as this is a valuable design tool because it saves us both time and money. It maximizes the information known early in our planning and reduces internal and external review times. It also facilitates informed development decisions when we know a property's historic significance and improves maintenance and management decisions associated with a resource. In fact, this research has proven so valuable, we are currently conducting a similar historic study regarding farmsteads, and plan to do the same with railroads."

Maintaining and preserving historic roadside facilities will be an on-going challenge. Preservation efforts can be costly and must compete with other transportation projects for funding. But armed with its new preservation planning tools, Mn/DOT will be in a much better position to make informed, careful decisions about the future of these special resources.

Minnesota's historic roadside facilities are tangible reminders of early auto tourism and the emergence of our modern highway system. Their compelling designs represent the work of some of the state's best landscape architects and reflect the unique architectural philosophy of the National Park Service. Those built by New Deal federal relief workers remind us of the devastating Great Depression and the unprecedented federal response. Moreover, most of these facilities are still in use and appreciated to this day. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is committed to seeking partnerships and responsibly caring for these properties so that the traveling public can continue to experience their unique historic qualities.

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