Information provided by Morrison County Public Works Director Steve Backowski.
Belle Prairie County Park (BPCP) was originally owned by the Belle Prairie Franciscan Sisters and, after changing ownership a few times, became the first county park in Morrison County in 1980. BPCP is 145.3 acres of park land situated along the east bank of the Mississippi River, adjacent to County State Aid Highway 76 (formerly State Highway 371), and serves 16 cities and 30 townships within the county.
BPCP is unique in its balance between the natural landscape and man-made areas of play. It has been a priority of the county, as well as the previous owners, to maintain and protect its distinct ecological features. The park is a convergence of native prairie, virgin white pine stand, oak savanna woodland and floodplain terrace (black ash-silver maple).
Since taking possession of the property, Morrison County has focused on preserving the majority of the park for its high biological diversity along with its geological, historical and archaelogical significance. Projects that control undesirable and invasive species utilizing prairie restoration have been ongoing for many years. Restoration of the oak savanna began in 2013 with Great River Greening conducting outreach to provide the community opportunity to learn more about the park and participate in thinning the woodland and removal of undesirable species.
Located within the floodplain terrace is a site designated as an “area of high cultural-resource sensitivity” with what looks to have been a Native American tool workshop. Many stone fragments of what appear to be from the Archaic Period were found on this significant prehistoric cultural resource.
You can learn more about BPCP on the Morrison County Parks, Trails & Facilities webpage.