MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.
But the vote is just one step toward an official name change.
So, what does it take to change the name of a lake?
“Some are fairly easy to change or name,” said Pete Boulay of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Sometimes it’s an unnamed lake to put a name on it.”
Boulay oversees the naming and renaming of Minnesota’s geographic features, like lakes, streams and islands.
It happens four or five times a year. Towns and cities are renamed differently because that process involves taxation.
Sometimes a renaming corrects a misspelling, like when Willmert Lake in Martin County was renamed Wilmert Lake.
Other times, the process is more controversial, like renaming Halfbreed Lake to Sylvan Lake, or Keewahtin Lake, in Washington County.
State law lays out the process. First, a petition of 15 registered voters must be signed and forwarded to the county. In Lake Calhoun’s case, a vote and several hearings by the Minneapolis Park Board and its Citizen’s Advisory Committee would precede any petition.
Once the proposal is before the county, the county holds a public hearing and a county commissioners’ vote. If approved there, it’s then forwarded onto the commissioner of the Minnesota DNR who makes a decision.
From there, it heads to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. That federal board does reach out to Native American tribes for their input as well.
Boulay estimates the entire process generally takes between nine months to a year. In Lake Calhoun’s case, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner John Erwin says it’s already taken 17 months at the local level and input from 2,226 people.
“Most of the time, the state will agree with the county and the locals,” Boulay said.
He does recall one time the U.S. Board on Geographic Names disagreed with a Minnesota decision. The federal board did not approve “Private Lake” out of the fear people would think it was a private lake.
Boulay says the process is intentionally made with multiple layers because they want proper feedback and acceptance on all levels of government.
“We want the name to stick,” he said. “We’d only do it once if we can.”
[graphiq id=”h1KKa38Jwqx” title=”Lake Calhoun” width=”600″ height=”750″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/h1KKa38Jwqx” ]