Anoka has paid tribute to a longtime business leader in the community.
Friday the city dedicated the Federal Premium Ammunition Wildlife Conservation Area on King’s Island, recognizing the company’s role in the community as an employer as well as Federal’s commitment to wildlife conservation.
“This is a big day for our community and for a company that has been in our community for many, many years,” said City Manager Tim Cruikshank in a special ceremony alongside King’s Island and the Mississippi River.
King’s Island is located along the north side of the Mississippi River and south of Highway 10, across from Anoka Technical College. It is a 70 acre natural area surrounded by a creek fed by the Mississippi River. It has been protected by the city as a conservation area.
This fall, the city will allow archery hunting for deer on the island for the first time.
Councilmember Carl Anderson pointed out that Federal has been a key contributor in the community and has provided salaries to support families that have in turn invested in the community.
“I cannot even begin to name all the contributions Federal has made to the city of Anoka,” said Anderson. “That’s why I say our gesture here is small compared to their very large contributions.”
Highlights include Federal’s donation of Anoka City Hall, as well as the city’s swimming pool, both spearheaded by Charles Horn, who led the company for 55 years.
Once known as Federal Cartridge Company, the ammunitions maker is currently celebrating 90 years in business. Federal currently employes approximately 1,500 people. It is currently owned by Eden Prairie based ATK.
Federal’s Conservation and Government Affairs Manager Ryan Bronson said 90 years ago when Federal was formed, wildlife population numbers were at an all time low.
“There was not a lot of wildlife to shoot at,” Bronson said.
He said Federal quickly realized, “if we’re going to be an ammunition manufacturer we have to be involved in wildlife conservation.”
Bronson is a second generation Federal employee and the company’s third conservation manager.
“This is why having a wildlife area named after us – there’s nothing better,” Bronson said.
Last month the Anoka City Council passed a resolution approving the name dedication.
Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look pointed out the Anoka zip code has the highest number of hunting and fishing licenses per capita in the state. He commended the ammunitions maker for its legacy of employment in the area and its role in the success of the community.
“Federal has enabled families to be prosperous, to grow,” Look said.
According to research done in 1978 and shared by Todd Mahon, executive director for the Anoka County Historical Society, the Kings were early settlers, farmed near the area and were friends with the well-known Cutter family.
“Children in the area called them ‘Uncle Charly and Aunt Sereny’,” said Mahon. The 1860 census shows a Charles and Serena King living in Anoka Township.
In more recent times, the island was owned by the adjoining farms, said Mahon.
In 1959, brothers Leeds, Andrew and Mark Cutter built a bridge to the island so they could set up for Leeds’ high school graduation party.
Eventually, the island came into public possession through a series of transactions.
Mahon said he spoke with a number of Anokans who have memories of the island.
“For nearly all, it was a place that they thought was a secret, yet everyone seemed to know about it,” he said. “It was a place to explore and to be a kid.”
Mahon said the island hasn’t changed much and will continue to look like it used to look.
“Future generations will come here and see many of the same things that were seen for hundreds of years,” said Mahon. “This will be history that you can truly experience.”
Recently the city designated a waterfowl hunting zone along the island in addition to opening up an archery deer hunt.
Public Services Director Greg Lee highlighted a list of recreational opportunities that lie ahead for King’s Island.
This includes a trailway through the island, connecting the cities of Anoka and Ramsey, which has received federal funding and financial support from Anoka County.
This will be part of a national trail system following the Mississippi River, starting at the headwaters in northern Minnesota and running all the way to New Orleans, said Lee.
The city has also secured state funding to restore the oxbow channel by removing the land bridges that stop the flow. The channel will be 3 feet deep and 40 feet wide.
“We’re doing some pretty exciting things to enhance King’s Island,” Lee said.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]