Leaving the Legacy of a Wild St. Croix River

Jack Pattie passed away recently, after a career spent protecting land along the St. Croix.




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Jack Pattie receives the Department of Interior's Meritorious Service Award in 2003 from Assistant Regional Director David Given.
Jack Pattie receives the Department of Interior’s Meritorious Service Award in 2003 from Assistant Regional Director David Given.

The man who helped the National Park Service protect the shores of the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway has passed away. Jack Pattie died peacefully at his home in Lawrence, Kansas on December 29, 2014.

Pattie came to the St. Croix in 1974 to help the government buy land on the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers. When he retired (for a second time) in 2004, Mary Divine reported in the Pioneer Press that Pattie did a difficult job with caring and respect:

Pattie was on the front lines of the battle to create the 252-mile Riverway, which includes the Namekagon River in northwestern Wisconsin. The Riverway was established in 1968 as one of the original eight rivers under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

“You’d never get it done today,” said his boss, Fred Suarez, chief of land resource for the Midwest Region in Omaha, Neb. “It’s something that will last forever. If you had to pick one person who made that happen, it would be Jack. There is no one more responsible for preserving that Riverway than Jack.”

When Pattie first began contacting landowners about the Park Service’s controversial plan to purchase land and scenic easements along the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers in 1974, not everyone was happy. Some landowners formed groups to “keep the Park Service from acquiring anything,” Pattie said.

“But Jack treated them with respect,” Suarez said. “With Jack, they had as good as an experience as they could have when the government comes knocking at your door. It’s a very emotional time when the government comes in to buy their property, but Jack has always been so caring in the way he does it. Jack goes out of his way to treat people in the way you’d like to be treated.”

Pattie retired for the first time in 1987, but returned part-time in 1988 and continued working for the Riverway until 2004. He received the Department of Interior’s Meritorious Service Award in 2003.

Randy Ferrin worked with Pattie at the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, and was deeply impressed.

“He was an inspirational and gracious mentor for those of us who worked with him and he did so much to protect the land and resources of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.  In my opinion, there is no equal in the history of the Riverway,” Ferrin said. “Of all the people I worked with in the NPS, no one impressed me more with his work ethic, care for people, and enthusiasm for doing the right thing.”


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Leaving the Legacy of a Wild St. Croix River