Ben Thoma, Park Naturalist, Itasca State Park.
I have known Ben for 35 of the 50 years he has been a Park Naturalist at Itasca State Park. I am impressed with the way everyone responds to and respects him. Be they the person who works the grader for the park's road maintenance crew or the Director of the University of Minnesota's Biology Station, Ben Thoma represents the Park.
He is respected because he is the voice, the teacher, for the place we call Itasca State Park. He knows and explains the park's natural wonders. The geology that made the Mississippi headwaters and how we know it today; its people: Native Americans, early settlers, loggers, and the Civil Conservation Corp. He tells the story, from his heart, of Brower, who worked to protect the land and saw that laws were enacted to create Itasca State Park.
The day will come when a major trail in Itasca State Park will be named after Ben Thoma. Just as Ben Thoma worked to preserve the work of his predecessor in the naming of the Robert's Trail.
I would ask for testimonials from the leadership of:
Minn Dept of Natural Resources, Administration,
Fish and Wild Life,
University of Minnesota,
Itasca State Park Biology Station,
School of Forestry,
Minnesota Secretary of State,
Minnesota Historical Society,
They would all say Minnesota owes much to Ben Thoma.
Note: U of M's School of Forestry was involved with Ben's early work on what we now call a controlled burn of overgrown forests. The Park's Biology Station knows how Ben was the major contact point for students and their research work within the Park.
With the Secretary of State's Office, Ben made them change the State Seal because Secretary of State's Office redesign and promulgated a new State Seal, mandated by the Legislature, had California redwoods in it and not white pine, per the new State Statutes.
~Nicholas P. Heille, Minneapolis, MN