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Robert takes the Lake

COTTAGE GROVE — The previously unnamed lake near Jamaica Avenue and the Woodbury border will now boast the name Lake Robert.

David Wolterstorff and his family petitioned to add the name to the body of water their property surrounds, in honor of long-time Cottage Grove resident Robert Wolterstorff. He died 11 years ago.

A public comment period and public hearing at the Washington County Board meeting followed the petition's submittal, sparking other groups to petition names for the lake.

The Cottage Grove Advisory Committee and Historic Preservation suggested naming it Shepard Lake, since many in the community have historically called it Shepard Pond.

The public hearing began Aug. 7 at the County Board meeting, and was postponed to Aug. 28 to take additional testimony.

County commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the name Lake Robert, with commissioner Jack Lavold abstaining.

"This is a personal dilemma for me," he said. "I hold the same personal convictions and beliefs of the rights of landowners as well as the conviction that places should be given names that have long historical significance."

David Wolterstorff asked the county board to accept his petition at the Aug. 28 meeting, recalling the history of his family's former farmstead.

"Since we are the sole owner of the property around the entire body of water, since no one else has asked for the naming of this body until we requested this name ... since we have farmed the land surrounding the lake for well over 80 years, this served the numerous city, county, private civic functions and since the last meeting we proceeded to ask 'What do you think, what should we do?' ... we're asking for your support," he said.

Bev Gross, a member of the historic preservation commission, said at the public hearing that the Shepard family, whose land was just south of the lake, deserved to be the lake's namesake.

"I wish to remind this commission what the Shepard family has done in giving 140 acres worth of millions to preserve it in its natural state to the Dodge Nature Center," Gross said. "I can think of no one who has done more for Cottage Grove than the Shepard family."

Constance Shepard-Otis, who died in 2013, entered the property into a conservation easement with the Minnesota Land Trust. That property was recently given to the Dodge Nature Center, which named it the Shepard Farm Property, to become an environmental education campus.

Emily Wolterstorff, the wife of the late Robert Wolterstorff, said at the public hearing that she never remembers seeing a Shepard around the property, and described the significance of the lake to her family.

"My two brothers, my children, many of us, have played down on that water for years and years and years ... it's just our land," she said. "(Calling it) Shepard would just confuse people. There's no Shepard near it."

The names Wolterstorff Lake, McHattie Lake and R.W. Lake were also suggested.

The DNR has final approval, assistant state climatologist with the DNR Pete Boulay said at the previous public hearing they would likely approve either of the proposed names.