By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Areas in two Minnesota state parks have been renamed to honor former Vice President Walter Mondale.

The day use area at William O’Brien State Park and parts of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway are now named in honor of Mondale, who is also a former U.S. Senator and U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

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(credit: CBS)

The 91-year-old former vice president attended the ceremony held at William O’Brien State Park Tuesday. Among the dignitaries on hand were Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.

“I have been very lucky to live a good, long life,” Mondale said. “I am 91 and still going.”

The original proposal before the Legislature was to rename one of the state parks in this area for the former vice president. But that actually proved controversial.

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There is a state law barring the naming of a state park after anyone who is still alive and nearby residents of the parks in this area had objections about a name change. So, the compromise was to rename part of several parks in this area for vice president Mondale.

Mondale has a strong affection for the area. He has had a home in the area and he has written that his first date with his late wife was a canoe ride on the St. Croix.

In 1968, Mondale as a U.S. Senator co-sponsored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which protected the St. Croix and other rivers across the country – one of the proudest parts of his long legacy. Under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, nearly 230 rivers in more than 40 states are now protected.

“I had all those years together with Humphrey and Dayton, representing Minnesota and I loved every second of it and I think of it in joyous terms,” Mondale said.

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Those who honored the vice president say it is also appropriate that William O’Brien State Park is one of the state’s most accessible state parks, just under an hour from the metro area.

Esme Murphy