A new riverside park in Stillwater has not yet had its grand opening but is drawing a fresh round of criticism for its name: Lumberjack Landing.
A group of residents last week presented a petition to the Stillwater Parks and Recreation Commission, urging that group and the City Council to reconsider the name and replace it with one that better honors the area's history.
Set on a narrow strip of land north of downtown with 3,500 feet of St. Croix River shoreline, the park was once the private residence of the Aiple family before Stillwater bought it for $4.3 million.
The city held a public naming contest, schoolchildren submitted names, and the city's Parks and Recreation Commission twice suggested names. Then the council, in a five-minute conversation in 2021, came up with the Lumberjack Landing name on its own.
"Somebody pulled that name out of a sock at a council meeting," said Ruth Alliband, a Stillwater resident who presented a petition signed by 32 people to the Parks and Recreation Commission last week.
There's nothing to suggest the park property was a more popular landing for lumberjacks than any other spot along the river, she said. The name creates "a cartoon" of Stillwater's logging history, ignores Native American names for the land that existed long before Stillwater, and doesn't recognize anything about the park's natural beauty, she said.
"The reason we go to parks, one of the reasons anyway, is to absorb what's beautiful about the place and what's special," she said.
After a lengthy discussion, the Parks and Recreation Commission passed a motion asking the City Council to reconsider. The council is expected to take that up at its meeting Tuesday, but it won't be the first time.
In 2021, a petition to change the new park's name organized by Tracy Maki, Greg Seitz and Heather Rutledge gathered about 70 signatures.
"They made it clear they weren't interested," said Seitz, a blogger who writes about river issues on the St. Croix 360 website.
Seitz said he and others who signed the petition felt the name was one more reference to lumberjacks in a city that has plenty.
"It had a theme park vibe to it which I don't think is what the people of Stillwater wanted," he said.
The name has its fans, however, including the woman who donated $1 million for the renovation of the two-story Aiple house that still sits on the north end of the property.
Geri Freels, a Stillwater resident who made the donation in 2021, said she wanted the city to use the money to fix up the house. She and her late husband, Frank, who died in 2012 at the age of 95, were longtime boaters on the St. Croix, and Freels said her donation was intended to make the river more accessible to the public, whether by renting a kayak at Lumberjack Landing or using a fishing pier at the park.
"It's a beautiful, beautiful wild river and my husband absolutely loved it and I did, too," she said.
Freels said she has a city resolution commemorating her family's donation, and on the paperwork the park is called Lumberjack Landing. She said she wants the name to stay.
"At this late date, this is rather ridiculous," she said.