Be A St. Croix River Steward This Earth Day

The global environmental event owes its existence to a son of the St. Croix River, and the legacy lives on locally.




3 minute read

“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human being and all living creatures.” – Senator Gaylord Nelson, 1970

Gaylord Nelson overlooking the St. Croix River Dalles.
Gaylord Nelson overlooking the St. Croix River Dalles. (Photo via Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin)

Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin senator who is considered the founder of Earth Day, is a native son of the St. Croix River region. He was born and raised in Clear Lake, east of New Richmond. He went on to not only found the defining event of the environmental movement, but also led the charge to pass the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act in 1968 – it included the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers in the eight inaugural rivers designated.

“There was a special adventure to being a young boy in northwestern Wisconsin,” Nelson said. “There was the adventure of exploring a deep green pine forest, crunching noisily through the crisp leaves and pine needles on a sharp fall day, or taking a cool drink from a fast running trout stream or a hidden lake.”

His legacy lives on today, despite the fact that Nelson passed away in 2005, with Earth Day falling on Wednesday this week, April 22.

Children of Earth Day

Rock & River Art Bench
Rock & River Art Bench in St. Croix Fall (Photo via Art Bench Trail)

In St. Croix Falls, a trail along the river starting at the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway headquarters is named the “Gaylord Nelson Riverwalk.”

A bench along the path, created by local elementary school students in 2006, teacher Amy Klein, and artists Jim and Kim Shoop as part of the Art Bench Trail, pays homage to the man whom many thank for the wild and clean St. Croix River.

“We talked a lot about Gaylord Nelson, what he meant, all that he contributed to preserving the St Croix,” Klein said. 

Inspired by the homegrown environmental leader, the Art Bench group created their project based on the concept of “the importance of keeping the natural environment intact, the past of the natural environment, the hope for its future and the great beauty of St. Croix Falls.”

Empowering the Earth

Teresa Wolfe
Teresa Wolfe

Trying to make the transition to a new era of Earth Day, local food scientist and environmental educator Teresa Wolfe is launching an initiative called Project 1 this Earth Day.

Project 1 is about inspiring people to take action to help heal the planet. Designed for both adults and children, Wolfe says she wants everyone to feel like they can help make things better.

“This Earth Day event is a great opportunity to teach kids that their ideas count,” says organizer Teresa Wolfe. “They don’t have to feel hopelessness or despair about the environment because they are too little to do anything about it. Not true! They are needed and necessary to help restore the planet. This event will empower kids (and everyone else) to discover the wisdom that already resides within themselves.”

Project 1 asks participants to take a minute this Earth Day to take one action for the planet. Some suggestions include:

  • Pick up ONE piece of trash
  • Write to ONE restaurant to introduce recycling bins
  • Make ONE phone call to a politician
  • Write ONE check to a non-profit organization that promotes a healthier environment
  • Buy ONE thing from a local farmer or business

Readers can learn more and join the cause at


St. Croix 360 offers commenting to support productive discussion. We don’t allow name-calling, personal attacks, or misinformation. This discussion may be heavily moderated and we reserve the right to block nonconstructive comments. Please: Be kind, give others the benefit of the doubt, read the article closely, check your assumptions, and stay curious. Thank you!

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.” – Bill Bullard

One response to “Be A St. Croix River Steward This Earth Day”

  1. Teresa Wolfe Avatar

    Great article, Greg. Thanks for helping me to spread the word about Project 1! Namaste, teresa


You may republish this article online or in print under our Creative Commons license. You may not edit or shorten the text, you must attribute the article to St. Croix 360 and you must include the author’s name in your republication.

If you have any questions, please email


Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlikeCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike
Be A St. Croix River Steward This Earth Day