SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The City of Saint Paul today announced that five board members are officially forming the Great River Passage Conservancy – a nonprofit fundraising organization with the goal of bringing the Great River Passage Initiative’s capital projects and programs to life, in partnership with the City of Saint Paul. 

“This conservancy will bolster Saint Paul’s prominence as a river city and better connect our community to our greatest natural asset – the Mississippi River,” said Mayor Melvin Carter. “I’m grateful for the leadership of the board and look forward to advancing an exciting vision for the Great River Passage together as we build a city that works for all of us.”

The founding board represents a wide variety of organizations in Saint Paul and includes:

  • Dr. Eric J. Jolly, President and Chief Executive Officer, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations (Board Chair)
  • Shelley Buck, President, Prairie Island Indian Community 
  • John Marshall, Director of Community Relations, Xcel Energy 
  • Joe Nayquonabe, Chief Executive Officer, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures
  • Jake Reint, Managing Director for Public Affairs, Flint Hills Resources
  • Jim Stolpestad, Founder and Senior Principal, Exeter Group LLC (Advisory Member)

The Conservancy is currently seeking its 501(c)3 status and will meet quarterly to discuss key initiatives occurring along the river and to raise private dollars to support these initiatives.

“The well-being of a community is based on many elements – physical health, mental wellbeing, opportunities for education and support,” said Dr. Eric J. Jolly, President and CEO of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations and Board Chair of the Great River Passage Conservancy. “The Great River Passage Initiative creates a pathway to strengthen our community in so many of these areas, and I look forward to the work we will do together to bring forward the City’s vision.”

In 2013, the City of Saint Paul adopted the Great River Passage Master Plan – a comprehensive framework for creating vibrancy in the city’s 3,500 acres of parkland along the river. Through the initiative and with the partnership of the Conservancy, the City will create places and activities that strengthen existing connections and create new ones along the Mississippi River. Thanks to recent fundraising as well as the proposed development at the Riverfront Properties site in downtown Saint Paul, projects such as the River Balcony are moving closer to reality.

“I’m excited about how this will fit in with the redevelopment we’re doing on the riverfront,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega.  “We look forward to working with the City to bring vibrancy and life to downtown.”

The Great River Passage Initiative has prioritized three capital projects that will enhance, better connect to, and steward the Mississippi River in Saint Paul.

  • River Balcony
    The River Balcony is a proposed, publicly accessible bluff-edge experience connecting public spaces and bluff-side redevelopment sites spanning the full 1.5 miles of downtown Saint Paul’s Mississippi River bluff. The project is expected to enter schematic design in spring 2019. Current funders of this project include the Great River Passage Initiative, Ramsey County, Metropolitan Council, Saint Paul RiverCentre, Visit Saint Paul, and Ever-Green Energy. 
  • River Learning Center 
    The River Learning Center is a proposed mixed-use, river-focused space at the Watergate Marina that could combine the National Park Service Headquarters and a visitor center with year-round environmental learning and outdoor recreation experiences along Saint Paul’s river edge. A feasibility study was recently completed on the project. Current supporters of this project include the Great River Passage Initiative, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, the National Park Service, Mississippi Park Connection, Friends of the Mississippi River, the Capital Region Watershed District, and Wilderness Inquiry.
  • East Side River District
    Saint Paul’s East Side connects to the Mississippi River on the south and west sides and along the bluffs to the east and north. This area of the river – the East Side River District – has many shared uses, including Dakota homeland and sacred sites, industry, parks and recreation, and natural areas that support bird migration. To enhance and better connect the area with the rest of the city and region, the Great River Passage is partnering with state, local and tribal organizations, businesses, and nonprofits to create a world-class vision for the East Side River District and a public landscape that everyone can enjoy. 

Learn more about the Great River Passage Initiative and the Great River Passage Conservancy at

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