Clifton E. French, 87, former superintendent of Three Rivers Park District and namesake of French Regional Park in Plymouth, is credited with establishing the Twin Cities Metropolitan Regional Park System.
French just received the 2005 Regional Pugsley Medal from the National Recreation and Parks Association for 'extraordinary leadership' in expanding the Hennepin County Park Reserve District from 1,400 acres to 24,000 acres during his tenure as superintendent from 1960 to 1984. The Park District, now called Three Rivers Park District, has nearly 27,000 acres of parkland.
Clifton French, a Minneapolis native, graduated from Washburn High School and served with the U.S. Army during World War II. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in recreation leadership from the University of Minnesota in 1948 and 1949.
Following creation of the Park Reserve District by the Minnesota Legislature in 1957, French served as the first superintendent of Hennepin County Park Reserve district from 1960 to 1984.
French's dream was to have parks available to everyone in the county within 30 minutes. He spent hundreds of hours negotiating with farmers to buy their land and explaining the whole idea of a park system.
He stipulated that 80 percent of the land was to be maintained in its natural state, and the other 20 percent to be developed for recreation purposes compatible with the natural environment.
In 1974, the Hennepin County Park Reserve District joined six other counties and the Metropolitan Council to advocate legislation empowering the council to plan a regional park system.
~Jennifer Cottew, Plymouth, MN