A former longtime Democratic lawmaker says she’s not in favor of renaming a state park after former Vice President Walter Mondale. At least not yet, anyway.
That’s because there’s a Minnesota law against legislators naming entities — including buildings, roads and facilities — after a living person. Former state Rep. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis authored the 2009 law and thinks it’s still sage advice.
“It’s hard to object about such a wonderful person as Walter Mondale but the basic premise is, let time be our guide and not rush into this,” Kahn said Wednesday.
However, a sponsor of the bipartisan bill that would rename Interstate State Park said that he and others prefer to honor Mondale, who is 91, sooner rather than later.
“The vice president will enjoy it a lot more now,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, said in a written statement.
Winkler and Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, this week proposed re-christening the Minnesota portion of the dual-state park on the St. Croix River as Walter F. Mondale State Park.
Winkler introduced the bill on Monday, and Housley has agreed to carry it in the Senate.
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. In 1968 Mondale, then a U.S. senator, and Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, also a Democrat, together sponsored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which created the protected St. Croix riverway.
Housley and Winkler said in a news release that they hope the Minnesota bill will inspire Wisconsin legislators to rename that state’s much larger portion of the park after Nelson, a well-known environmentalist who died in 2005.
Kahn said she pushed for the 2009 law restricting naming because she saw firsthand how it could cause problems.
After Minnesota voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council was established by the Legislature to recommend how to spend some of those dollars.
The council was named after Robert Lessard, a longtime Democratic state senator from International Falls who left office in 2002. But Kahn said the name created confusion about Lessard’s authority and role, and she felt that it gave him “undue influence.”
Minnesota seems to be in something of a renaming frenzy.
Lake Calhoun, the biggest lake in Minneapolis, last year was renamed Bde Maka Ska, its original Dakota name. The lake had been named in the 1800s for John Calhoun, a South Carolina segregationist who ordered the building of Fort Snelling when he was secretary of war but otherwise had no ties to Minnesota.
And the University of Minnesota is considering renaming four campus buildings that bear the names of former U leaders who espoused prejudicial campus policies.