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National parks, including Minnesota’s Voyageurs, to get their own U.S. coins

Voyageurs National Park will be on the tails side of a new U.S. quarter in about … OK, it’s not until 2018. But it’s still a pretty cool idea.

Striking while the molds are hot, the U.S. Mint announced this week that its highly popular 50-state quarter program would be succeeded by another commemorative run called America the Beautiful

The idea is to highlight a national park or another federal preserve for each state, U.S. territory and the District of Columbia. Local governors got to select the park in their state to be featured on the coin. Our guy picked Voyageurs.

“It’s fantastic that the Mint decided to do this,” Mike Ward, superintendent of Voyageurs, told me. “Anything we can do to raise awareness of the national parks is tremendous.”

An open question is what goes on the other side of George Washington’s head to portray those parks. In Minnesota’s case, Ward and his staff suggested a loon, but that idea did not get off the ground because a loon was on the Minnesota state quarter. Suggestion No. 2 was a grand canot with a coureur des bois or two in it. “The voyageur and the voyageur canoe tie it to the history of the site,” Ward said.

The first coin, for Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, will debut next year. A new quarter will roll out every 10 weeks. And the states will go in the order that their park was created.

Hot Springs gets a little bit of a break. It was federally protected in 1832 as a vacationing ground for folks to benefit from the waters, but it was not actually named a park until much later — 1933. Next will come Yellowstone (1872) and then Yosemite (1890). Voyageurs, long a recreational spot, was not established as a national park until 1975.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner approved the release late last month. Among our neighbors, South Dakota will get Mount Rushmore in 2013, North Dakota will feature Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2016, Iowa has Effigy Mounds National Monument (no national parks in Iowa) in 2017 and Wisconsin will offer the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 2018, the quarter issued right before Minnesota’s.

The announcement of the park quarter comes during an exciting time at Voyageurs National Park. Ward reports that visitors to Voyageurs in this difficult economic year were at average levels, if not a little higher, and the park’s new passenger boat, Voyageur, is resting at anchor in the lake, several months ahead of schedule. The 49-passenger, 65-foot craft, built by Armstrong Marine of Port Angeles, Wash., will be christened on Sept. 26.

The next day, the new national parks documentary by Ken Burns debuts on PBS.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 09/14/2009 - 09:54 am.

    Fun fact: most Minnesotans don’t even know Minnesota *has* a national park, which is every bit as beautiful as the BWCAW and strangely underused, particularly by paddlers. This park is much better suited to kayaks than the Boundary Waters, if you can handle the rare yahoos on house boats and laid-back local fishermen.

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