Proposal for Driftless National Park canceled

Proposal for Driftless National Park canceled
Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 10:50 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – After a proposal for a national park in the region stirred up some controversy three weeks ago, the idea drummed up outrage and fear over losing their homes and farms. On Wednesday, organizer Sean Macaday decided to withdraw the proposal.

The new national park would have been titled ‘Driftless National Park’. It wouldn’t have just included Whitewater State Park but would have stretch across the Mississippi River and all the way down to La Crosse, Wisconsin with a whopping price tag of more than $700 million.

After much deliberation, I have decided to rescind the Driftless National Park Proposal. I have spent the past week hearing from folks in the proposed park area, and I have heard a clear message of great care for the land and their home, an interest in continuing and improving that care, and that this park proposal is not the correct way to execute that care.

Sean Macaday

Macaday wrote he still believes a Driftless National Park and Reserve is deserved and would benefit Minnesota.

Hundreds voiced their opinions against the proposal at local town halls. The main concern, losing their homes, even with eminent domain forbidden in the proposal.

Minnesota House Representative, Steven Jacob, has had a family farm in Whitewater State Park for more than 100 years.

“This is a beautiful environment and it’s because of this community. It’s no wonder that someone from outside of this area would want to come in, covet this and make it a national park out of it,” Jacob said.

Jacob says in his twelve years of being a local leader, he has never seen a community be more unanimous about an issue than the last three weeks.

They are just solidly together that they are opposed to this idea of the national government coming in turning their community into a national park,” Jacob added.

The community expressed it isn’t comfortable with an outside entity proposing the idea.

“He comes in with this idea where he is going to use public dollars from the taxpayers, the government is going to take land from people who are not willing and create this project that certainly would benefit maybe Rochester, maybe the Twin Cities, people from outside of the areas would in their mind maybe some time of playground,” Jacob explained.

In the proposal the first reason listed by organizers is money, and Jacob said he is convinced the idea was a land grab.

Macaday still wants to keep conversations going about how the driftless region could be better protected, but Jacob explained a national park wouldn’t work in such a highly populated area.

Other local leaders against the original proposal are now relieved it has been cancelled.

“Last week, Sean took time out of his night to attend a public meeting that I co-hosted with Representative Jacob about this topic. More than 250 people attended that meeting and the opposition to the national park idea was nearly unanimous. A lot of people would have continued to push forward in spite of the public opposition, but Sean genuinely listened to what our residents were saying and took their concerns seriously. I am grateful he did the right thing and withdrew the proposal.”

Senator Steve Drazkowski, (R, Mazeppa)

The Minnesota Department of Resources only recently became aware of the proposal.

The natural resources in Minnesota’s driftless area are unique and valuable, both to area residents and visitors alike. We will continue to evaluate available information about this proposal as we seek to understand what’s being proposed, implications for the lands and natural resources DNR manages on behalf of Minnesotans, and the diverse perspectives of others. As we have always done, we will continue to work closely with local and tribal governments, private landowners, the public, and other state and federal agencies to advance conservation, recreation, and economic development objectives in the region.

Minnesota Department of Resources

To read Macaday’s full statement, click here.