Updated: Aug 22, 2022
“It’s obviously true the trails are wonderful for property values, for exercise, for the sense of community and togetherness within the towns that surround the lake. All of those things are wonderful. But we do think it's a little more fundamental than that. For the very young and the very old, the ability to move around without a car … is a really important thing. For children, it's how they establish their independence. For seniors like me, it’s a significant way how we preserve and extend our independence. If we as a society don’t make it possible for people to move around, I don’t think we've done our job well.” – Steve Wolgamot
Steve Wolgamot, co-founder of the Lake Links Association, passed away Thursday, August 18, after a heroic battle with brain cancer.
From serving on the Mahtomedi school board and the City of Mahtomedi’s planning commission and city council, to founding the Mahtomedi Basketball Association and co-founding the Mahtomedi Area Educational Foundation, to serving on St. Andrew’s church council and the White Bear Center for the Arts board, and more, Steve touched countless lives in one way or another. But one of his most treasured initiatives—and one to which he dedicated much of his energy in recent years—was advancing safe, nonmotorized travel in and around the communities surrounding White Bear Lake.
In 2017 he and regional bicycle advocate Mike Brooks co-founded the Lake Links Association with the goal of completing a safe route for pedestrian and bicycle travel around the lake that had been a community vision for nearly two decades.
With the proposed route passing through two counties and five local jurisdictions, the task seemed impossible. But thanks in large part to Steve’s unique combination of legal, technical, and political acumen; gentle but persistent personality; and unique ability to share his vision, the effort was able to garner the support of all five communities as well as $7.87 million in funding from the Minnesota Legislature.
Today, with the key South Shore segment of the trail under construction and final segments elsewhere getting closer to falling into place, it is rapidly moving toward reality.
Through ups and downs, hills and valleys, periods of promise and periods of discouragement, it was impossible to give up on the dream with Steve’s words echoing: “We will get this done!”
In remembering Steve, Lake Links Association board members from around the lake expressed their sadness at the loss of his indomitable presence and appreciation for his unique and indispensable role in carrying the dream of the Lake Links Trail forward to reality.
Here is just a sample of their comments:
“I smile when I think of Steve for many reasons—his infectious enthusiasm, unrelenting persistence and his complete belief in any individual’s ability to advance the common good. I hear him saying, ‘Why not, you’re all doing a great job, we can do this’—and the quintessential Steve, ‘This is really going to be cool.’ Communities will always exist; Steve ensured they would thrive.” – Lake Links Association co-founder and current co-chair Mike Brooks
“There was something so contagious about his passion for the community, for pedestrian safety and for enjoying the outdoors biking that you wanted to be part of it, too. I’ve never met anyone with such zest for life.” – Lake Links Association board member and Dellwood resident Blanche Hawkins (who with her husband, Thane, donated a land easement for the trail)
“Steve was larger than life. He was an inspiration to so many of us who had the privilege to know him. His passion and tenacity for creating change will live on in our community for years to come.” – Lake Links Association board member and Birchwood resident Ben Creagh
“Without Steve’s passion, persistence, research and dedication, the Lake Links Trail would not be where it is today. I’m honored to have been friends with Steve and know his life has made our entire community better. His legacy will continue to enrich our lives and the lives of those who will follow.” – Lake Links Association board member and White Bear Township resident Greg Bartz
“Steve had a special gift of service to his community with a passion and determined perseverance. His infectious drive will be forever linked to the success of the Lake Links Trail.” – Lake Links Association board member and White Bear Lake resident Judy Craig
“We lost a remarkably talented and dedicated person. Steve made our community a better place for all of us; we will carry on his legacy.” – Lake Links Association co-chair and Mahtomedi resident John Carr