For years, bicyclists travelling between downtown St. Paul and south Minneapolis have lamented the poor conditions of the bike trail along Shepard Road. It was cracked, broken up, and bumpy from strong roots that had burst through the asphalt. It was a poor reflection on the city and the state’s environmental heritage. Then just last year with some federal, state, and Legacy dollars, the trail was repaved, relandscaped, and redesigned in a way that truly reflects what’s important to Minnesotans and to the man whose name that trail honors, Samuel H. Morgan.
“Other areas needing preservation remain—especially now. . . I leave that, dear readers, to you.”
Samuel H. Morgan
Morgan is one of the true champions of Minnesota’s great outdoors. Born in Duluth in 1911 and raised in St. Paul, the intelligent and hard-driving young man would graduate from Harvard Law School in 1936.
Just prior to his passing on October 17, 2000, Samuel H. Morgan penned these words in a memoir he was asked to write describing his devoted advocacy for parks and nature preserves in his beloved Minnesota.
Taking the path less traveled, he did not follow his fellow classmates off to jobs in New York or Washington but instead returned to the landscape of his youth in a Minnesota that was part of his soul. After building one of the most dominant law firms in the Twin Cities and the nation in that of Briggs and Morgan, he used those skills to set about preserving the beauty of his state.
Through his energy and vision he helped bring about one of the nation’s most integrated and conservation minded park systems. Morgan was instrumental in the creation of Afton State Park by creating the Afton Land Company to purchase the lands that would become the Park. The Company successfully purchased 827 acres and donated the land for the creation of the park by the Legislature in 1969. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Lilydale Park and the Fort Snelling State Park. Additionally, he was influential in a major addition to William O’Brien State Park, an addition to Lake Bemidji State Park, and the acquisition of the Fredrick Manfred house at Blue Mounds State Park.
With the help of Morgan, the Metropolitan Park Reserve Board was created in 1969 and charged with coordinating a metropolitan park and open space system guided by the Metropolitan Council. In 1967 he was a moving force behind the creation of the Minnesota Parks Foundation to help in the acquisition of critical parkland. He also served on the Minnesota Council of State Parks (MCSP) that was formed in 1954 by Minnesota State Supreme Court Justice Clarence Magney, who had a key role in establishing a number of parks along the north shore of Lake Superior. Morgan was MCSP president for several years in the 1960s. The MCSP and the Minnesota Parks Foundation merged in 1987, forming the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council. In 2000, the year he passed away, the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council became the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota which remains one leading voices in preservation of our state’s parks and trails. When the Parks and Trails Council began there were 32 state parks in Minnesota and no state trails. Thanks in no small part to Morgan, we now have 67 state parks and over 1,100 miles of state trails.
On April 2, bike riders will start from the St. Paul city limits on Mississippi River Boulevard to Shepard Road, along the Morgan trail, to Smith St and Cherokee Park to honor the man and the Legacy dollars that established and protected these trails.