Long-time St. Croix River public servant passes away

Jim Harrison worked to protect and preserve the St. Croix starting almost 50 years ago, and leaves a legacy of stewardship.




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Jim Harrison (left) with Senator Walter Mondale and Capt. Bill Bowell on a St. Croix River paddlewheeler. (Photo courtesy MN Historical Society)

An individual who was instrumental in protecting the St. Croix River since the 1960s has passed away. Jim Harrison, 80, succumbed to complications related to pulmonary fibrosis on October 20 at his home in Shoreview, Minn.

Starting in 1971, Harrison served as director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission, an organization which coordinated St. Croix River protections between the two states which share it. He remained in the position for 30 years. He also served as President of the St. Croix River Association, among other contributions.

In his tenure at the commission, Harrison successfully advocated for the addition of the Lower St. Croix to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers system, and convened the St. Croix Basin Water Resources Planning Team, an interagency, interstate group formed in 1993-94 to coordinate protection of the water of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers.

He was also a supporter to many river stewards. Deb Ryun, executive director of the St. Croix River Association, said he was instrumental to her success since she joined the organization in 2009.

“He was a wonderful resource for me when I first started,” Ryun said. “Jim contacted me first thing to share the wealth of information he had. He was a good friend, and mentor. I will miss him.”

Last year, Harrison was given a lifetime achievement award from the St. Croix River Association, recognizing his “years of work on behalf of the Riverway insure a better protected River for today and for future generations.”

Nominator Randy Ferrin, a former chief of natural resources for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, said Harrison devoted most of his career and retirement years to protecting the St. Croix River, especially the Lower St. Croix.

“He inspired a lot of people to do good things for the river,” Ferrin told the Pioneer Press. “I never heard him say a bad thing about anyone or any situation. He was always positive and always looked for the best way to solve an issue. He was a statesman.”

Harrison grew up in Worthington, MN, attended Carleton College, and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He started his career with the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce before joining the Boundary Area Commission.

A visitation will be held on Friday, November 10 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell Funeral Home, 515 Highway 96 W., Shoreview. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 11 at 11 a.m. at Bethlehem Baptist Church – North Campus, 5151 Program Ave., Mounds View.

Memorials are preferred to: The St. Croix River Association, P.O. Box 655, St. Croix Falls, WI 54024 or Friends of the Mississippi River, 101 East Fifth Street, Suite 2000 Saint Paul, MN 55101.

Harrison is survived by his wife of 56 years, Sharon; children, Gretchen (Tim) Held and Guy Murray Harrison; grandchildren, T. Peter (Renee) Held, Joseph (Katelin) Held and Caroline Held; and great-granddaughter, Riley Held.


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Long-time St. Croix River public servant passes away