First tourism association in area started in 1938

By : 
Mary Jo Dathe

Back in 1938, the Root River Valley and surrounding area in southeastern Minnesota was called "the Little Switzerland" of the area!  Can you believe the gentlemen of the surrounding towns had banded together to form the nucleus of a "scenic association?" This led to the interview on KSTP radio by several local gents with Ed Shave of the State Tourism Bureau. The gents were: Lud Gartner of Preston, president; M.O. Bue of Lanesboro, vice president of publicity; Tollef Sanderson of Harmony, treasurer; B.F. Banbenek of Spring Valley, vice president of finance; and Frederick F. Lindsay of Preston, secretary.

The southeastern corner of Minnesota, which includes the drainage basin of the Root River, was a plateau millenniums ago before the dawn of history.  It has an altitude of 1,400 feet above sea level at about the center of Mower County where rises the north branch of the Root.  Water from the springs slightly dip towards the Mississippi valley.  During the ages, erosion has formed the deep valley of the Root between bluffs, often 500 feet above the riverbed, making it resemble "Little Switzerland of Minnesota." 

The brochure goes on to explain the scenic beauty of this area: like southern Wisconsin, the Root River area is a great glacial deposit of loam and clay; dependable rainfall is due to its Mississippi River Valley proximity; and there has never been a crop failure in the area.  The luxuriance of its crops, timber, flowers and flowering shrubs surpasses that found farther north.  The presence of the southern red bird, the Kentucky cardinal, attests the southern characteristics of the region, since it remains throughout the winter.

With more than 600 miles of trout streams, there is plenty of room for trout fishermen.  Sinkholes are scattered throughout the area, evidence of the subterranean chambers and passageways. Doubtless there are others equally interesting features -- one at Forestville -- the Mystery Cave follows the Root River where it plunges into a bluff and reappears some distance away.  There is talk of making it a state park someday. 

“We are on the way to receive and interest crowds of tourists and visitors.  There is need of playgrounds and wading pools for children, swimming pools and artificial lakes, bicycle and hikers’ paths to nearby glens and rocky gorges, and for visitors to be guided to these attractions.  There should be a few herds of deer, securely pastured, plus several colonies of beaver, game birds, and wild life for camera and gun.  We must reach the press and do some movie and radio work, and put some roadside signs at junction points.  Each town in the valley should at once assemble material and good pictures."

While no salaries are contemplated, there will be some expense..the Root River Valley group depends on a united planning and advertising effort by the whole area.  It is duly provided that in the regular meetings of this association, each town or community shall be represented by a voting delegate, to the tune of every 500 of its population, and shall pay $50 per year.

Standing committees are thus:  1) Publicity: prepare folders, movies, radio, press, etc. 2) Finance: provide funds for association operations and activities; 3) Parks, Paths, Pools, Roads, etc.: investigate, determine and recommend respecting such objectives.  4) Camp Sites, Cabins, Hostels, etc. Study re: sanitation, pure water, food, health, safety and accommodation about living quarters for visitors.  5) Legislation: prepare procedure and care for all-valley interests in town, county and state involvements.  6) Entertainment: women's organizations to study summer pageants, sports and entertainment generally for own people as well as visitors, campers, bikers, etc.  7) The Cardinal: plan and direct its protection and encouragement, and direct visitors to see this interesting southland bird.  8) Landscape Beautification: supervise the purchase, planting, display and care of flowers and flowering shrubs.  9) History and Museums: study and recommend in respect to preserving the past for the benefit of the present and future.  10) Trout fishing: sportsmen and others to help preserve, improve and stock the more than 600 miles of trout streams tributary to the Root.  11) Game Birds, Semi-wild Animals: study and protect all birds, squirrels, beaver, deer, etc., to make them valuable to all classes of people.   12) Information Bureau:  filling stations, oil companies and garages to act as bureaus of information and cooperation for all travelers.

Such as it was for 1938.   We will plan to use some of the later issues of Spring Valley brochures — interesting! Keep watching for the spring opening of the Methodist Church Museum and associated buildings on Memorial Day weekend.