I’ve seen that dock before, somewhere off memory lane.
It winds gently through sparkling blue waters, disappearing somewhere between summer and fall. There’s a canoe there, too — always is — bobbing dockside in those mellow waters. It’s summertime, but fall isn’t far away, then winter and spring.
It’s all here, both in my memories and on this license plate. But all three of these plate designs — finalists in the Minnesota DNR’s license plate contest commemorating the 125th anniversary of the state parks system — epitomize the Minnesota I grew up with and still know today.
And a second-to-none state parks system is a big part of that, led by — at least for me — iconic Itasca State Park. One of my earliest state park memories is of a visit to Itasca and its famed Mississippi headwaters. And Itasca is ultimately the reason for this contest and a summer-full of state parks celebrations — it became Minnesota’s first state park 125 years ago, hence this whole anniversary bash.
And one of the finalists in the plates contest depicted the headwaters. The other showed a tent in a forest in what could be about any state park — very Minnesota-esque, too.
Yes, both were worthy finalists, picked from more than 60 entrants by a panel for the DNR. But the up-north scene with the dock, lake, pine tree and canoe backdropped by the four seasons said it all.
Following a week of online voting in which more than 30,000 votes were cast, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith announced that the license plate designed by Michelle Vesaas of Coon Rapids received the most votes, the DNR said in a release Wednesday. (The agency didn’t indicate how many votes each of the three received or the names of the other two finalists.)
“My design was inspired by being in the outdoors in this beautiful state through all four seasons,” Vesaas said in the release. “Even in the coldest days of winter, if you’re dressed for it, there is incredible beauty to be found.”
The new license plate will be available from the Department of Motor Vehicles this fall as part of the ongoing celebration of Minnesota’s state parks and trails. The cost will start at $60, plus tax. The total includes a one-time $10 fee for the plate itself and a minimum $50 contribution (renewable annually).
Proceeds from license plate sales will help fund the operations and maintenance of Minnesota state parks and trails, and the plate will double as a state park permit, giving vehicles with the plates unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for the year. No more windshield-sticker permits needed.
It’s the first time proceeds from a DNR license plate will go to parks and trails; donations from the eight previous Critical Habitat plates go to the Nongame Wildlife fund or the state’s Game and Fish Fund. First offered in 1995, those specialty plates give vehicle owners the opportunity to support conservation and show off their up-north personality by purchasing a license plate featuring a loon, moose or other Minnesota-related image.
Like state parks. It’s about as Minnesota as it gets.