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.