On the Issues
Protecting the Mississippi is a Good Investment
Those of us fortunate enough to live within the Mississippi River Corridor understand what a jewel it is. Experience has also taught how easily it can be taken for granted and how quickly its unique environmental qualities can disappear.
For over 30 years, concerned citizens have been trying to preserve the corridor. The Minnesota Legislature established the Mississippi River Critical Area in 1973 and Congress designated it the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in 1988. The designations were a recognition of the importance of the 72 miles stretch of river between Dayton and Ramsey in the north and Hasting and Ravenna in the south.
The Critical Area was established to enhance opportunities for public outdoor recreation, education and scenic enjoyment and to preserve, enhance and interpret the natural resources within the corridor.
However, simply designating an area as critical isn't enough to offset the pressures of development, particularly when it's located within five of the state's most populous counties (Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington and Dakota.) We also need to back up the designation with action.
The Mississippi River corridor in the Twin Cities is a migratory flyway for 40% of all North American waterfowl and more than 326 bird species use this flyway. A corridor of natural river bluffs is needed to support these bird species and to provide opportunities for wildlife and bird watching for the people of the region.
Open space is a critical resource in the corridor, and its protection and enhancement is stressed in the Comprehensive Management Plan put together by the Minnesota DNR and National Park Service, the two bodies responsible for managing the area. However, what's been missing is a way to acquire critical property within in the corridor.
That can change with the passage this year of S.F. 1764 - H.F. 1958, which would provide the DNR with $4 million in bonding for acquisition of critical bluffland parcels. One example is the land known as Henry Park. Bordered on three sides by public land, Henry Park provides connectivity for wildlife and trails, as well as stunning views of the river corridor.
There is a willing seller. The city of St. Paul and Ramsey County are joined by a lengthy list of organizations supporting efforts to protect this key parcel. The only thing that's missing is financial support from the state.
It is imperative that the scenic, natural and recreational resources along the Mississippi River are preserved. Thirty years of planning has gone into preventing the incremental loss of natural land along the river. We urge the financial support required to support local communities' efforts to implement important State Policy. State investment is needed to allow the timely acquisition of critical parcels. We can not afford to let this valuable resource slip away.