State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to honor former Vice President Walter Mondale by renaming a park after him that sits along the banks of the St. Croix River, a river that Mondale is credited with helping to preserve decades ago.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, and Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, are sponsoring legislation to re-christen the Minnesota portion of Interstate State Park as Walter F. Mondale State Park.
The measure was introduced Monday in the House.
“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,” Winkler said in a written statement. “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.”
Interstate State Park straddles the St. Croix just south of Taylors Falls and includes state parks of the same name in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Housley, whose east metro district is lined for 50 miles by the St. Croix, said in her statement that it was the first such interstate park in the nation.
“For decades, Minnesotans have marveled at its storied history and natural beauty,” she said. “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 State Park after its original champion, Walter Mondale.”
Mondale is one of the best-known Democrats in Minnesota history, serving in public office at the state and national levels for 20 years. He was vice president from 1977 to 1981 under President Jimmy Carter, and U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996.
Interstate State Park is within the boundaries of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, one of the country’s original National Wild and Scenic Rivers under the auspices of the National Park Service. Mondale and Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, also a Democrat, together sponsored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, which created the St. Croix riverway.
In his 2010 book “The Good Fight,” Mondale writes about Nelson approaching him to cosponsor the bill because he was from Minnesota.
“What he didn’t know was that the St. Croix is where Joan and I had our first date, an afternoon of canoeing. I loved that river,” Mondale wrote, referring to his late wife, who died in 2014.
Housley and Winkler said in a news release that they hope the Minnesota bill will inspire Wisconsin legislators to rename that state’s portion of the park after Nelson, a well-known environmentalist who died in 2005.
Interstate State Park dates back more than a century; Minnesota established its state park in 1895, and Wisconsin followed suit in 1900. The threat of mining prompted Minnesota and Wisconsin leaders to create the park, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.