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Jay Cooke superintendent plaque needs a due fix

We were doing a little research on historical markers in Carlton County, and plan to offer some background on them, when we came upon a mystery in our beloved Jay Cooke State Park.

Near the picnic area on Oldenburg Point, off the Ogantz Trail loop, is a plaque honoring the first superintendent of the park: Frederick Rodney Paine, who was generally known as F. Rodney Paine. As you can see in this photo of the plaque, installed around 1980, that first initial was cast as a "J."

"It's on our radar," park manager Lisa Angelos said, sounding a bit chagrined about the error that has lingered for four decades. "It's on a list of things I care about," she said, but other priorities have been on her plate since coming on in 2015, just three years after the catastrophic flooding there.

F. Rodney Paine was born in Duluth in 1889, the year the first board of park commissioners was created. His father, Frederick William (F.W.) Paine was a charter member of that board. Other family members were key in the donation and development of lands in Duluth that became its impressive city parks system today.

F. Rodney Paine went on to graduate from Princeton University and then Yale University, where he received a degree in forestry. He worked with the U.S. Forest Service out west until returning to the area in 1916 to take the job as Jay Cooke's first park superintendent. The park had opened in 1915, originally with a board in place to oversee its development.

Paine took a leave to serve in World War I as a captain in the 109th Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He returned to the park and worked closely with park planning in Duluth to create Mission Creek Boulevard, which linked the state park to Duluth's Skyline Parkway. Today, that route is mostly a woodland trail off Becks Road headed southwest to the park.

Paine was hired to be Duluth's parks superintendent in 1925. He was picked by Mayor Sam Snively, who was impressed by Paine's past work. Paine was relieved of his position after Snively lost a re-election bid in 1937. But Paine had modernized and improved on the Duluth system, focusing on filling in even the smallest areas for green space. He also saw the development of sports parks like those at Wheeler and Ordean fields, Chester Bowl and Fond du Lac.

He went into real estate and investment after leaving the parks system. He died in 1968.

In 2012, the city of Duluth dedicated 2,000 acres of parkland and forest near the Fond du Lac Park as the F. Rodney Paine Forest Preserve. In news accounts of the dedication, it was noted that the plaque at Jay Cooke included a misprint. Upon further inspection, there is one more error, in the spelling of Cooke.

Park manager Angelos said that fixing the plaque could happen as part of an overall improvement plan for Oldenburg Point.

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