Martin N. Kellogg, a visionary conservationist whose love for pristine wilderness inspired him to play a leading role in the creation of two iconic Minnesota parks and several environmental nonprofits, died of complications related to dementia on March 21 in St. Paul. He was 88.
With relentless drive, charisma and business acumen, Kellogg helped broker the land deals and generate the public support that led to the establishment of Voyageurs National Park and Grand Portage State Park in northern Minnesota, at a time when the state park system was expanding. He also helped found several nonprofits that continue to promote wildlife conservation.
"Were it not for Martin and his steadfast advocacy, Minnesota would not have one of the best park systems in the country today," said Steve Thorne, a former deputy commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.
Kellogg was also an avid outdoorsman who never wasted an opportunity to share his enthusiasm for public lands. Starting in 1968 he made at least one, and usually two or three, canoe trips each year to the North Woods with his wife, Esther, and four children. His favorite destination was Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, with its remote beauty and challenging portages, family members said.
There were times when Kellogg and his children, just 8 or 10 years old, would bushwhack for miles along unmarked trails, with only a compass and map to guide them, and not reach their destination until sundown.
Joe Kellogg, one of his sons, said he can recall feeling joy, even giddiness, in the days leading up to a canoe trip with his father. "I heard Dad say many times, 'I was born 100 years too late,' " he said. "Down, down deep, he just loved getting out there into the untrammeled wilderness."
Kellogg was born in St. Paul. He attended Central High School and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1953 with degrees in industrial engineering and business administration, followed with master's degrees in accounting and economics. He joined the Marines in 1954, becoming a captain. He met his wife, Esther Swanson, at a dance for engineering students and they married in 1956.
Following his military service, Kellogg worked in several construction and accounting firms before becoming treasurer of Tennant Co. In 1983, he joined United for Excellence (UFE) Inc. in Stillwater, where he eventually became chief executive and co-owner.
In the late 1950s, Kellogg discovered his love for the outdoors, primarily by canoeing and fishing on the Snake River in east-central Minnesota. He noticed a growing number of real estate ads for riverfront properties and became increasingly concerned by the disappearance of wild spaces. "Martin could see what was happening — that pretty soon the whole country was going to be divided up into lots," said Esther Kellogg.
In the mid-1980s, he negotiated the land deal with businessman Lloyd K. Johnson that led to the creation of Grand Portage State Park. He also organized broad public support to protect the wild Kabetogama Peninsula; that campaign eventually led to the creation of Voyageurs National Park.
Along the way, Kellogg helped expand the membership and political influence of the nonprofit Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota, which has continued his legacy by buying and preserving land for the public's benefit.
"Our descendants should have a much greater legacy than our fading photographs, our trophies mounted on walls, and a few parks and zoos," Kellogg wrote.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by children Joe, Doug, Bill and Jeannine; a sister, Christine, and seven grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Hope Presbyterian Church in Richfield.