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Former Lawmaker's View: Lawmakers can honor history by investing in Fort Snelling

Many know I'm a Navy reservist on the verge of deploying for a year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan. My deployment has caused me to think about Minnesota's veterans, including the brave soldiers of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.

Roger ReinertIn April 1861 Minnesota became the first state to offer troops to defend the Union, and those volunteers fulfilled that pledge. Later generations of Minnesota soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines mustered and trained at Fort Snelling in St. Paul to answer our nation's call to duty for other conflicts. Minnesotans in the Greatest Generation began their journey at Fort Snelling before fighting and winning battles on multiple continents to defeat fascism in World War II.

Time and again, such stories connect to Historic Fort Snelling.

Thousands of people drive to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport every day. Whether they are departing, arriving, or picking up friends and family, they likely pass Historic Fort Snelling. Some recognize the fort's upper post by its multi-acre cemetery; others know it as a military base.

Truthfully, many don't know much about Fort Snelling at all.

The truth is that Historic Fort Snelling is in urgent need to revitalization. Its buildings and grounds are not serving the public well nor preserving critical parts of our Minnesota history. The current visitor center is dilapidated, and the dramatic blufftop views of the confluence of the Mississippi River and Minnesota River is hidden.

My former colleagues in the Minnesota Legislature can solve this problem. They are currently debating the 2018 bonding bill. Investing in revitalizing Historic Fort Snelling is the right thing to do for future generations of Minnesotans and will provide the sort of long-term value for Minnesota for which bonding dollars are intended.

With funding from the Legislature, the Minnesota Historical Society will be able to tell more stories about the fascinating history spanning 10,000 years at the site. Important stories will be able to be told of veterans, the important history at the confluence of these two great rivers, and of the Dakota who are deeply connected to the area around Fort Snelling that they call Bdote.

Fort Snelling's history is a centerpiece of our state's history, a history that has inspired me and many other civilly minded Minnesotans. Let's seize this opportunity to honor that history and continue Minnesota's traditions by investing in Historic Fort Snelling. Doing so will help ensure future generations can continue to learn from our past.

Roger Reinert of Duluth served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2009 to 2011 and was a Minnesota senator from 2011 to 2017.

Roger Reinert

Roger Reinert is a Duluth resident.