The nonprofit joins as project partner and future tenant for new, national hub of activity on the Mississippi River
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Great River Passage Conservancy today announced that local outdoors nonprofit organization Wilderness Inquiry has joined in the effort to bring the future River Learning Center to fruition on the shores of the Mississippi River in Saint Paul.
“We are excited to be partnering on this monumental project that will truly act as a national destination for river recreation, history, culture and ecology,” said Kim Keprios, executive director of Wilderness Inquiry. “Nothing like this exists along Minnesota’s 650 miles of the Mississippi, and we look forward to better connecting communities to our state – and our nation’s – greatest natural asset.”
The River Learning Center is a forward-thinking, mixed-use hub that will transform an isolated section of Saint Paul’s riverfront into a national gateway to the Mississippi River with year-round river learning and outdoor recreation experiences. The space will house multiple river-oriented partners, most notably the National Park Service’s Mississippi River headquarters, Mississippi Park Connection’s office, and now Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile operations.
“This will be a place to connect with the river – to stand in it, float on it, touch, and hear it,” said Katie Nyberg, executive director of Mississippi Park Connection. “The momentum this partnership provides brings us that much closer to making those experiences possible for Saint Paul, the region and the state.”
The project is currently being led by the City of Saint Paul, with the Great River Passage Conservancy leading the private fundraising and advocacy efforts. The City of Saint Paul has completed technical and feasibility studies to analyze possible sites, identify programmatic needs, and estimate capital and operational expenses.
“COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of connecting people to nature and providing educational experiences outside the classroom,” said Mike Hahm, director of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation. “The health and well-being of our communities will benefit from the experiences and opportunities the River Learning Center will offer, and we look forward to partnering with Wilderness Inquiry, Mississippi Park Connection and others to make it possible through programming and activities.”
The City of Saint Paul and the Great River Passage Conservancy are currently advocating for $3 million in state bonding money to complete full design, site evaluation and site preparation. Other project partners include the Capitol Region Watershed District and Friends of the Mississippi River.
“This project is the first step in building Saint Paul into the river capital and making the most of this incredible ecosystem that we owe our history, culture and economic strength to,” said Mary deLaittre, executive director of the Great River Passage Conservancy. “We are grateful for our partners in this work and look forward to bringing this vision to life.”
Learn more about the Great River Passage Conservancy at GreatRiverPassage.org.