Park Board attorney says it can't change Lake Calhoun's name

  • June 13, 2011 - 8:15 PM

Lake Calhoun or Lake Humphrey? Never mind, an attorney suggests.

In a three-page opinion addressing a potential renaming of Lake Calhoun, Brian Rice, attorney for the Minneapolis Park Board, says he believes the board "has no authority to change the name of a lake."

That power, he wrote in a letter last week to board members, belongs to the state's commissioner of natural resources. And in the current case -- a citizen's proposal to honor Hubert H. Humphrey instead of John C. Calhoun -- even the commissioner is powerless.

That's because state law prohibits the commissioner from changing a name that's existed for 40 years, Rice says.

As secretary of war 1817-25, John C. Calhoun ordered the establishment of Fort Snelling. But it was his standing as a passionate pro-slavery orator that prompted local Civil War history buff John Winters to suggest the name change.

On Monday, Winters said Rice's opinion may not matter because he's now thinking of trying to put the issue before city voters in 2012. Rice said that strategy may not work either, but he will defer to the city attorney on that opinion.


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