Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My prairie place of peace in Faribault July 8, 2019


I’VE FOUND MY PARK in Faribault. The place of wildflowers and waving grasses, of songbirds and waterfowl, of gravel trails that curve around bodies of water.



Faribault Energy Park reminds me of southwestern Minnesota, the prairie place of my roots. Located on the city’s northwest side and visible from Interstate 35, this Minnesota Municipal Power Agency park invites visitors to walk paths in an ever-changing natural landscape.



Even with the steady drone of I-35 traffic in the background, birdsong breaks through the noise. The memorable voice of the red-winged blackbird, especially, sounds a sensory delight.



I’ve visited the park mostly in the evening, when the golden light of sunset falls upon ponds, angles through grasses and flowers, and slices between tree branches.



Daisies, milkweed, clover, Iris and other flowers familiar but not identifiable to me by name populate the landscape in clusters of white, clumps of purple, flashes of yellow. Focusing my camera causes me to slow down, to notice blossoms I might otherwise miss while following the winding dirt paths.



But visitors can’t miss the wind turbine towering above the park next to a hillside block of solar panels. Informational signage explains how wind energy converts into electricity. Faribault Energy Park, though, is a dual fuel (natural gas and fuel oil) facility, not primairly wind-powered, and runs during periods of high demand for electricity.



This park serves also to educate, welcoming students to tour the plant each May, to view the control room, the steam turbine and then to walk those wetland area trails. Tours are also available by appointment.



For folks like me simply seeking a place to escape into and photograph nature, Faribault Energy Park wetlands park offers a respite of natural beauty. Some also come here to fish, although I’ve yet to see an angler pull in a catch.



But I’ve observed geese and ducks claim this property and swim these ponds. I’ve glimpsed, too, an otter gliding through the water.



And I’ve rested in the gazebo.




In the chaos and busyness of life, reinforced here by the sights and sounds of adjacent I-35 traffic, I still find peace in this place reminiscent of my native southwestern Minnesota prairie.



FYI: Faribault Energy Park is located at 4100 Park Avenue. The wetlands park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “My prairie place of peace in Faribault”

  1. wyonne Says:

    Hi Audrey, It seems like it’s been a few days since I’ve gotten “news” from you. I’m so grateful for this reminder of the peacefulness found in nature, when one takes time to look for it and appreciate it! Your bloggs keep me in touch with the beauty and peacefulness of Minnesota when I’m living in Norway.

  2. Doreen Says:

    A totally lovely environ! Stepping out our back door gives me similar respite (sans water feature, however!). Your beautiful description is why, after 45+ years, we are still in love with our farmlet!

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    A new park to explore…I’m glad you found it for your place of peace.

  4. Philip Holum Says:

    I like the way they’ve combined the beauty of nature with mechanics and industry. There is a lot of beauty in a wind turbine and sometimes even a factory or power plant. We are so accustomed to ugliness in our cities that we forget that we are responsible for the ugliness and can change it. More power to Faribault for this accomplishment! Phil

    • You make some really good points, Phil, because I struggle with fields of massive wind turbines. The Minnesota Municipal Power Agency has done, as you note, a fine job of adding beauty to the energy plant.

  5. Nice picture of the milkweed. A critical food for monarchs.

  6. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Looks like a perfect place for you Audrey, peace, nature and photo-ops. I especially love that 2nd photo, whoever thought the setting of an energy park could be so pretty.

    • I know. An energy park pretty? But it is and few people seem to have discovered it. I have yet to encounter anyone on the trails, except for the time the guy in the van drove the trails and let his dogs loose to jump on me. I hope never to see him or his dogs again.

  7. Joan Nordquist Says:

    Drove out on Park Ave and Park Drive. Energy Park was on Park Drive and did not see where to drive in to observe nature.

    • I’m sorry, Joan, that you couldn’t find the park entrance. It is not marked. Drive in like you are driving to the plant office/main complex. You will see a large sign for Faribault Energy Park/Minnesota Muncipal Power Agency on your left as you turn onto the plant grounds. Take an immediate hard right and follow the asphalt road along the side of the building. The wrought iron gate should be open and you can drive right into the park. Park in one of two asphalt lots.

      I visited the park last evening and was disappointed to see that someone had mowed, destroying many wildflowers in the grassy landscape. The park looked much more manicured than wild. Disappointing. That said, flowers still grow, just not as abundantly. And the mowing changed the feeling of the park. Less native prairie like.

  8. Bella Says:

    Indeed you did capture the serene beauty of the landscape. Particularity like the milkweed photo-thanks for sharing your talents with readers.

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