Over the past several years, NCC has built and maintained a dynamic relationship with Sherburne County. NCC has won contracts to complete improvements at Bridgeview Park, the William H. Houlton Conservation Area, and the Sherburne History Century; consistently providing high quality, on-time products. This work has required NCC to work closely not only with the Sherburne County Parks and Recreation Department, but also with various Tribal Historic Preservation Offices.
The largest of these projects has involved the County’s intended purchase of a 426-acre tract of land near Elk Lake. NCC was contracted to complete Phase I Archaeological Survey in March of 2020 after completing a comprehensive literature review the previous winter. Research on the project demonstrated a strong need for coordination with local and state agencies including the Office of the State Archaeologist. This beautiful tableau of fields, grasslands, woods, and waterways, which make this location an ideal spot for Euro-American homesteading and recreation, has also made it an important location for people for the last several thousand years.
A total of 151 shovel tests and approximately 140 acres of surface survey were completed by team members in the areas with the highest potential for archaeological sites. Archaeological survey documented nine distinct archaeological site locations with materials ranging from the Archaic through recent Historic periods. Several of these locations have the potential to be eligible to the National Register of Historic Places. The entire area could be nominated in the future as an archaeological district. This portion of the County has seen a variety of habitation and resource gathering activities for centuries.
The project has been a huge success with strong buy in from current landowners, neighbors, and County managers. Sherburne County is currently in the process of processing and curating project archaeological materials for future research and analysis. As the project moves forward, they will work closely with archaeologists to make sure documented locations are respected through avoidance and minimization as well as potentially interpreted alongside trails and park future park improvements.
Recently, Sherburne County received a Minnesota Legacy Partnership Grant to work with three Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and move the overall project in a surprising new direction. Instead of using archaeological methods to evaluate the locality, Sherburne County will instead rely on the work of elders and tribal community members to recognize the area as a Traditional Cultural Property which will then be added to the National Register and provide the protections, acknowledgements, and respect this location truly deserves. Although archaeological efforts will be restricted to non-invasive methods, NCC has still been asked to assist in the project in an advisory role. This could open the door to a new way of cooperatively completing compliance projects in the county and state.