Renaming Lake Calhoun 'Lake Wellstone' is 'the happiest idea' of Peter Holmes' life

At 401 acres and three-plus miles around, the largest lake in the City of Lakes owns a part of Peter Holmes' heart — and he's not alone.

At 401 acres and three-plus miles around, the largest lake in the City of Lakes owns a part of Peter Holmes' heart — and he's not alone.

Peter and Peggy Holmes relocated from Los Angeles to Minneapolis on a whim. They'd both lost their jobs. Southern California's temperate shine had worn off with too many days living in the smog-choked spaghetti bowl of a freeway megalopolis. Peggy was pregnant with their first child.

Business travel had already exposed the Holmeses to Minneapolis. It was everything anti-Los Angeles. In 1986, the family bought their home on Fremont Avenue South near Lake Calhoun, which would fast find a permanent place in Peter's heart.

"I walk around it all the time, getting my daily exercise," he says. "It's part of my lifestyle. I never get jaded about it. I always get my breath taken away when I go down to the lake. I love it with a passion. It's just my lake."

On a not-so-distant morning over coffee, renaming Peter's lake became the subject of conversation with best friend Michael Wilson. The Park Board this spring had added "Bde Maka Ska," or "White Earth Lake" in Dakota, to Lake Calhoun's signage. It was the first official move in removing John C. Calhoun's name from the city's most popular swimming hole. An idea popped into Peter's head. Why not rename it instead for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone?   

"We both got big smiles on our faces," says Peter. "I think it's the happiest idea I've ever had."

A petition in support of "Lake Wellstone" bearing 20 signatures will officially be presented to the Hennepin County Board Tuesday. The late Democratic statesman, his wife, and daughter are all buried at Lakeland Cemetery, which cradles Lake Calhoun's southeast corner.   

Peter's brainchild will be competing against two others. One petition supports Bde Maka Ska. Another proposes "Lake Maka Ska."

"I think Lake Wellstone would appeal to a much wider swath of Minnesotans, no offense or slur on our Native Americans," Peter says. "But I love Wellstone. It was his humanism, his progressivism, his compassion. I think he valued people over principles. I think it would honor what is best about Minnesota."

State statute empowers the Department of Natural Resources to rename water bodies. However, initial approval rests with county boards for lake names that have been in existence for more than 40 years. America's seventh vice president, South Carolina's John C. Calhoun, was a fervent proponent of slavery. A survey map in 1839 shows the lake bearing his name.     

Nothing will be decided by the board following today's hearing, according to Hennepin County spokesperson Carolyn Marinan. The panel isn't bound by a timetable to make a decision. When it does, Peter likes Lake Wellstone's chances. 

"This all started with a casual conversation over coffee and I've already gotten phone calls from three different media organizations," he says. "Everybody I've discussed this with thinks it's a great idea."