Minnesota legislators want to rename Interstate Park for river protector Walter Mondale

Bipartisan bill introduced to honor Wild & Scenic Rivers Act champion by putting his name on the popular Taylors Falls park.

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View of the St. Croix River from Minnesota Interstate Park (Photo by Aaron Fulkerson)
Walter Mondale (Photo by MN National Guard)

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers has introduced a bill that would rename Minnesota’s iconic Interstate Park on the St. Croix River after Vice President Walter Mondale.

The honor is being proposed to honor Mondale for his work as a Senator to pass the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, which provided protection for the St. Croix still being enjoyed today.

“Without this designation, the St. Croix would likely have become heavily polluted and overdeveloped,” the legislators said in a statement.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, a Democrat from Golden Valley, and Senator Karin Housley, a Republican from St. Mary’s Point, are the lead authors of the legislation.

“We are honoring Walter Mondale’s lifelong devotion to public service and his foresight in preserving the St. Croix Scenic Riverway as a national treasure,” said Majority Leader Winkler. “Vice President Mondale has left us a legacy of rugged and pristine beauty which we will enjoy for generations to come, and so it is fitting that we recognize him in this way.”

The legislators say they hope Wisconsin may follow suit, and rename the Wisconsin side of the park after Senator Gaylord Nelson, who partnered with Mondale to protect the St. Croix as Wild & Scenic.

The pair of parks is considered the first bi-state park in America. The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was also notably bipartisan, passing Congress by wide margins. It’s a legacy the legislators say they want to celebrate today.

“It’s only fitting that we renew the spirit of bipartisanship that led to the park’s creation by naming the Minnesota portion of Interstate Park after its original champion, Walter Mondale,” Senator Housley said.

In 2012, Interstate was the fourth most popular state park in Minnesota, bringing more than 300,000 visitors.

The House bill is numbered H.F. 1963. Other legislators from the St. Croix Valley and beyond have also signed on as co-sponsors, including Reps. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) and Shelly Christensen (D-Stillwater). A Senate companion bill is expected soon.

Minnesota Interstate Park was created in 1895, first named Dalles of the St. Croix State Park. Wisconsin followed suit in 1900 and created the companion preserve across the St. Croix.

Mondale served as Minnesota Attorney General from 1960-1964, US Senator from 1964-1976, Vice President from 1977-1981, and Ambassador to Japan from 1993-1996.


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14 responses to “Minnesota legislators want to rename Interstate Park for river protector Walter Mondale”

  1. Peter Nordgren Avatar
    Peter Nordgren

    Great idea. Complicated by the fact Wisconsin already has a Governor Nelson State Park, near Madison.

  2. Stephen Anderson Avatar
    Stephen Anderson

    Minnesota State Parks moved away from naming facilities after politicians, why the change in policy? Interstate is an appropriate name as two states have a park named for the cooperative preservation effort.

    1. Anthony Minnichsoffer Avatar
      Anthony Minnichsoffer

      Thank you for the brilliant comment. Let’s not discard the marvelous history and tradition in the Interstate name.

  3. Robert Walz Avatar
    Robert Walz

    Not now. Not for any living person. Later would be more appropriate.

    1. Anthony Minnichsoffer Avatar
      Anthony Minnichsoffer

      Not now, not ever. Let’s keep Interstate.

  4. Len Brisley Avatar
    Len Brisley

    Not excited about the idea. Helped legislate taking our land and family cabin 🙁 Hate to be bitter, but I read recently how much he enjoyed looking over the River from his land…

    1. Anthony Minnichsoffer Avatar
      Anthony Minnichsoffer

      Yes, I knew a lot of folks along the river who faced what you did. It’s interesting that on recent decades Fritz Mondale ended up buying his own “occasional” home in the protected area.

  5. Max Wilson Avatar
    Max Wilson

    Waste of tax dollars…

    1. Anthony Minnichsoffer Avatar
      Anthony Minnichsoffer

      You are absolutely correct. Changing all the signage and maps will cost megabucks!

  6. Jim Lindberg Avatar
    Jim Lindberg

    Just no.

  7. Anthony Minnichsoffer Avatar
    Anthony Minnichsoffer

    As much as I love Fritz Mondale and Gaylord Nelson and what they accomplished for the Saint Croix, they are human politicians not saints.Let’s not get carried away with syrupy sentimentality.

  8. Anthony Minnichsoffer Avatar
    Anthony Minnichsoffer

    Well said!

  9. Lyle Johnson Avatar
    Lyle Johnson

    I think it would be dishonorable to the pioneers who created the Interstate Park in 1895 long before Mr. Mondale was even born.

    1. Anthony Minnichsoffer Avatar
      Anthony Minnichsoffer

      Well said. I agree.

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Minnesota legislators want to rename Interstate Park for river protector Walter Mondale