Bertha Hall was awarded our first special “Wise Elder River Steward Award” at the SCRA member dinner held, September 29, 2011. Bertha was given this award in recognition of her long life of watershed stewardship demonstrated through her attitudes and her caring actions.
The SCRA has been protecting the St. Croix and its watershed for 100 years. Bertha Hall has been a watershed watchdog for half of those years!
She has been an active member of SCRA since 1964 and served as the association’s Secretary for 25years. In an effort to preserve the history of those years, Bertha has placed the associations meeting records in safe-keeping at the the MN History Center in St. Paul.
In July, 1964, Bertha was one of a handful of SCRA members who opposed the building of the King Power Plant even when the SCRA chose not to take a public stand against it. She helped to organize the new organization, “Save Our St. Croix (SOS) and with members and donors,raised $100,000 to take the power plant issue to court. Although the permit for the plant was granted, SOSʼs work did lead to modiﬁcations in the cooling towers and furthered a protectionist attitude towards the river.
Over these many years, Bertha took a river protection stand on issues such as illegal cutting of trees and vegetation on river banks, boat speeds, wake limits, building violations and zoning.
Berthaʼs stewardship ethic was infectious. She has passed on many stories of the volunteer work of the SCRA. For ten years she was part of the of river clean-up efforts which motivated others to lend a hand to clean up litter, beautifying the islands and river banks from Stillwater to Afton. She tells about the barge load of tires and “junk” hauled off the river banks south of Stillwater on the Minnesota side.
She was passionate about taking people canoeing on the upper stretches of the river, introducing many to the wonders of the watershed.
One of Berthaʼs special contributions was her involvement in frequent meetings where the public debated the value of being designated as a Wild and Scenic Riverway. There was signiﬁcant community opposition to including the St. Croix in the legislation. At a well attended SCRA members meeting in October 1972, it was announced that the lower river was included in an amended version of the Wild and Scenic River Act of 1968. Bertha recalls the collective sigh of relief on the faces of the 170 members present.
At the age of 93, Bertha continues to attend SCRA member meetings and remains vital, curious and committed to the work and vision of the SCRA. During our 100th year, it is ﬁtting that the SCRA honors our eldest engaged member.
Dewey Albinson's Untitled - St. Croix River in Winter.
Permission to use Dewey Albinson's painting is provided by the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
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Photo by Cody Christenson, 1st place youth wildlife