Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Citizen input is a big contributor to Mississippi Gorge Master Plan

Posted on 17 December 2018 by calvin

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area protects a 72-mile corridor along the river from the cities of Dayton and Ramsey to just downstream of Hastings. This includes the stretch which flows through Minneapolis and St. Paul. Approximately 132 acres of land within that corridor, from just south of the I-35 bridge to the north end of Minnehaha Park, has been the subject of discussion and debate this year as the Mississippi Gorge Regional Park Master Plan has taken form.

Project manager Ellen Kennedy of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) explained, “The final public meeting was held Dec. 10, and the online survey also closed that day. The first version of the survey, which we launched last spring, received more than 1,000 public comments. We’ve been really pleased with the dynamic input we’ve received from throughout the community—including neighbors, people from all over the Twin Cities, and visitors from other places.”

Photo right: In the last six months, project manager Ellen Kennedy (and colleagues) oversaw eight Community Advisory Committee meetings, eight project listening sessions, and six open houses. They also were part of 12 special events throughout the city related to the Mississippi Gorge Regional Park Master Plan. “It’s the motto of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to engage early, engage often, and engage throughout the process,” she said. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

It’s expected that a draft of the Mississippi Gorge Regional Park Master Plan will be released for a 45 day public comment period in early 2019 when an accessible copy of the document will be posted on the MPRB website. After all the comments are compiled and addressed, and the master plan is finalized, staff will request full MPRB approval and adoption. Following adoption, the master plan will be submitted to the Met Council.

Emily Green is a Longfellow resident and editor for the Center for Changing Landscapes at the U of M’s Forest Resources Department. She served on the Community Advisory Committee. “Each of the neighborhoods adjacent to the gorge nominated one representative,” she said. “As a member of the

Longfellow Community Council’s (LCC) River Gorge Committee, joining the Community Advisory Committee gave me a chance to volunteer in a whole new way. I attended all eight of the council meetings, and several side meetings; it was then my responsibility to report back to my neighbors what I’d learned via Next Door and the LCC newsletter. It’s been inspiring to see how many people care deeply about the river gorge, both in and out of the meetings I attended.”
She continued, “One of the most challenging things for members of the Community Advisory Committee was finding and maintaining a sense of balance.

Photo left: According to the Met Council, the Mississippi River Gorge is the third most used park in the metro area, including its walking and biking trails on street level. There are several places where hikers can drop down to explore natural surface trails that meander through the forest and to access the river. The semi-wild character of the bluffs and bottomlands are loved and appreciated by many in the neighborhood. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

‘How do we promote access to the gorge, while preserving its sense of wildness?’ ‘If we don’t preserve what’s wild, what is there to access?’ Different visions emerged over the six months of meetings. The vision I’m most excited about is the prospect of a continuous hiking trail from the Franklin Bridge south to 44th St. I don’t know if this will be part of the final plan, but I’m hopeful.”

Because this project was awarded $250,000 for master planning through the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund, the planning process must conclude by June 30, 2019.

“The 45 day public comment period is a great time to engage, whether or not you have before,” Kennedy said. “What we’re crafting as a community is a 20-year vision for the Mississippi River Gorge.” Ellen Kennedy can be reached at