The world discovered last week that there is a Minnesota-shaped forest in Williams, Minnesota, which you can check out yourself on Google Maps.
But one question remained: How did this come to be? We contacted the state Department of Natural Resources and scoured historical photos of the site on Google Earth, and we think we have the answer.
The shape was created by a DNR forest technician named Bill Lockner. We reached out to Lockner through numerous channels, but so far he has humbly refused to step forward and take credit for his work. Nevertheless, we have been able to retrace his steps.
According to DNR spokeswoman Jennifer Teegarden, Lockner cut down several thousand acres of stagnant Jack Pines in order to create the state's shape in the early '90s.
"The only tool used to lay out the sale was a compass and hip chain," explains Teegarden, meaning that the feat was accomplished without the use of GPS.
The earliest photo on Google Earth dates from May 18, 1991. Although the photo is black and white, you can clearly see that the shape of Minnesota has recently been cut out of the trees:
The next shot is from September 8, 2003. Not only is it in color, but you can see that the Minnesota cut out has started to grow back. "The site was planted to Red Pine and is surrounded by naturally regenerated Jack Pine," Teegarden says.
Jump ahead to February 2007 and you can see what the budding Minnesota red pine forest looks like in the snow:
By September 14, 2008, the trees had grown back enough that the shape of Minnesota is starting to disappear:
But the DNR wasn't about to let that happen. When it came time to cut the Jack Pines again, they preserved the outline of Minnesota and created the Minnesota-shaped Red Pine forest, which you can see in this September 29, 2009 shot:
This is the most recent image on Google Earth, from November 2010:
And this is what it looks like presently on Google Maps:
I made a Vine that shows the time-lapse progression over the course of 20 years: