LA8201 Anthropocene Futures
University of Minnesota Department of Landscape Architecture. Fall 2016.


The“Old Lead Belt” district of Missouri provides the setting for the work of LA8201 in the 2016 fall semester   Located approximately 1 hour south of St. Louis, the district is comprised of a network of small towns closely interspered among the rolling landscape of the eastern Ozarks.  Lead mining in the area dates back to Euro-American settlement and the earliest mining consisted of small surface mines scattered throughout the landscape wherever the lead ore was near the surface.  In the early 20th century the district attracted the investments of American industrialists and- along with advancements in mining technology- the district quickly became the leading producer of US lead ore for over six decades. Today, little mining activity remains in the area, but the legacy of lead mining is prevalent in the place names, special events and the landscape itself. Mining has left a complex environmental, ecological, and cultural history that poses significant challenges and opportunities for the future of the district. 

The studio will examine potential future alternatives for a portion of the district including the Missouri Mines Historic Site (MMSHS).  The 25-acre site includes the structures, equipment and site of the former Federal Mill No.3 complex and over 300-miles of (now flooded) underground mines. The MMSHS and the adjacent 8,500-acre St. Joe State Park are managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Both properties were owned by the St. Joesph Mineral Company until 1972 when they were donated to the state.  

In addition to the historic development of the site and surrounding communities, the site can also be characterized from an environmental and human health perspective. Since the start of the industrial revolution, lead and lead-based compounds have become one of the most common minerals in industrial and domestic use.  While the EPA and CDC have established guidelines to lead exposure, their is no “safe” limit to lead. Thus, in addition to the historic role lead has played in the region’s development, lead also plays a significant role in the health of humans and the environment of the Old Lead Belt.  Areas near lead mines and lead refining facilities are faced with a particularly complex challenge in that lead mining and refining wastes were typically used as a fill material in road and rail base courses and surfacing,  land development earthworks, soil amendment in agricultural fields or simply stored in large chat piles or tailing slime reservoirs in areas adjacent to the mines and surrounding residential neighborhoods. All of these post-mining effects are prevalent within the Old Lead Belt district leaving a toxic legacy that has necessitated the district to be a US EPA CERCLA site (i.e. Superfund)..  Notably, over 1,000-acres of the adjacent St. Joe State Park, along with several industrial and residential areas in the  surrounding communities, have been identified for additional clean-up with a growing tension between the future vitality and health of the region and the unique lead mining heritage of the region. 


Matthew Tucker, ASLA
Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture