Passwords: Baileys turn misused land into environmental model

Jerry and Mary Jo Bailey are co-conspirators of sorts. They are in the process of doing their part in a national, if not a world-wide, green

Dick Gray, Freshwater Society founder

Dick Gray, founder of the
Freshwater Society, has
written the Passwords
column since 1968.
The columns are based
on Gray’s belief that we
must use our vast
knowledge to work
toward the preservation
of water.


Horrors, you say? No, hurrahs, I say. Their revolution is a much needed one.

Twenty-four years ago, Jerry Bailey bought 17 poorly developed acres of marsh and misused land in the suburban Township of Minnetonka, southwest about 12 miles from downtown Minneapolis. The bog and lowland were bordered on the south side by a railroad, a busy freeway on the east side and to the north and west a motley collection of small buildings that included a petroleum asphalt plant. It was a wild mess. Jerry’s avowed purpose was to recreate this spoiled property into an example
of an ecologically friendly business
and nature preserve. He was certainly successful.

With pluck, vision and determination and common sense, plus an attractive name of Skyridge Business Center and Nature Preserve, Jerry and Mary Jo have created a modern, low-profile, attractive and sensible series of three two-story multi-use office and light-commercial buildings sprinkled around within the 17 acres.

The old bog is now open water, surrounded by trees, flowers, graveled paths, sculptures and slabs of granite quarried by the Cold Springs Granite Company of St. Cloud. The polished stone is beautiful, dappled and streaked with pink feldspar and black biotite plus an array of other igneous compounds that are evidence of intense volcanic activity of untold years.

Mary Jo, (Italian, her maiden name was Sgro, no middle vowel) and Jerry Bailey, live life to the fullest. Their home and office on the property has a wall of windows with a view to the east of their accomplishments. A gushing water fountain in the center of open water within the marsh is the centerpiece for an array of canary grass and cattails, with mallard ducks, rare-to-the-area yellow-headed blackbirds (common to the west in potholes of the prairies), Great Blue and Lesser Herons, wood ducks, red-wing blackbirds and other marsh birds.

Jerry and Mary Jo Bailey
Jerry and Mary Jo Bailey, with Sadie

The Baileys are a most engaging couple, now in their twentieth year of marriage. Mary Jo is from Rhinelander, Wis., Jerry from Fairmont, Minn. They first met on a boat ride on Lake Minnetonka and married soon afterwards. Both are avid naturalists and determined to do their fair share of preserving the environment on behalf of their two daughters and mankind.

The enchanting 17 recovered acres of Skyridge is likewise a wonderful paradise. The graveled winding pathway through and around the property encourages neighbors and business tenants to stroll at their own pace past metal sculptures, glacial boulders strewn and stacked here and there. A pretty pink granite slap etched with a large white trillium flower joins various flowers planted to add color and joy to the walkway.

A “Ring of Fire” small park juts into the east potion of the reclaimed marsh with raised granite slabs for seats and a table-a meeting area blessed by an Ojibway Indian. Another pleasant eating and conversational area is on the west side of the marsh, hard by one of the office buildings. A small waterfall plunges over rocks and more granite to the feet of a sculptured sow with three piglets. Somehow or another, it seems fitting to have them there.

There is an organization based in Washington, D.C. called the “U.S. Green Building Council”- -which was co-founded in

A fountain highlights open water on the Baileys’ land

1993 by David Gottfried and Rick Fedrizzi. It’s a non-profit trade organization to promote the green building industry, beginning with design, then construction and finally operating, using environmentally responsible materials and sustainable architecture techniques. The “Green” movement is a powerhouse. Within the USGBC is a program labeled “LEED” Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which was developed in 1994.

Mary Jo and Jerry Bailey have been working for 2 ½ years to achieve a LEED designation, and they’re almost there.

An environmentally friendly property is a win-win for everybody. It has been proven a healthy land and water environment contributes to a healthy life. Why not choose that route?