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BRAD DOKKEN: A ‘pine-sized’ Minnesota

Hidden in Beltrami Island State Forest just off the Stony Corners Trail southwest of Baudette, Minn., this Minnesota-shaped forest stand designed more than 25 years ago was only visible to pilots before the advent of Google Earth. Now, it captures someone's eyes every couple of years or so, as it did last week, when a story about the stand appeared in the Twin Cities publication, City Pages. This overhead image of the stand, as seen from 200 feet, was taken from Google Earth.

Time was, Dana Carlson says, when only Marvin Windows pilots and a few people with small airplanes knew about the distinctively shaped stand of red pine hidden in Beltrami Island State Forest south of Williams, Minn., just off Stony Corners Trail.

The advent of Google Earth changed all that, and now, the stand of red pine shaped like Minnesota gets people talking every couple of years, said Carlson, area forestry supervisor for the DNR in Baudette, Minn.

The latest buzz ignited a couple of weeks ago when Google Earth images of the stand showed up in the Twin Cities publication, City Pages.

And yes, Carlson says, it’s real. He’s been getting phone calls for the past couple of weeks.

“Somebody in the metro area noticed it, and the speculation starts again,” Carlson said. “There’s a lot of people who think it’s Photoshop, but they’re wrong.”

According to Carlson, a DNR forester who now is retired designed the miniature Minnesota in 1987, using the old-time tools of the survey trade: a map of Minnesota, a compass and a hip chain.

The site covers about 24 acres and is less than a quarter-mile wide, Carlson says.

“He took a map of Minnesota and calculated the angles it would take to go around the state and measure the distances and expand it,” Carlson said.

 When the forester walked the perimeter of the site using his calculations, he finished within 4 feet of where he started, Carlson said — without the aid of GPS or any other modern technology.

 “There was a bit of skill involved in that,” he said. “The guy who did that tends to be a bit of an artist and a bit of a perfectionist. He took it upon himself one day to try something just a little bit different.”

Despite its design, the ultimate purpose of the project was to clear the site of old, deteriorating jack pines. Following his design, Carlson said, the DNR then identified timber tracts to be cut, and the site was logged in 1990.

That left a Minnesota-shaped void surrounded by larger pine trees, but the DNR planted red pine — Minnesota’s state tree — into the appropriately shaped site in 1991. The trees now are more than 12 feet tall, Carlson says, and the shape of Minnesota is clearly visible on Google Earth.

The surrounding area, which was cut several years after the red pine was planted, now is covered with small jack pines. The evolution of the site can be followed using the time machine feature on Google Earth, Carlson says.

The City Pages story identified the forester as Bill Lockner, who lives in Baudette, but they weren’t able to get him to comment.

That’s no surprise, Carlson says.

“He doesn’t want to talk to folks,” Carlson said. “He’s kind of embarrassed by this.”

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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