photo by Chris Juhn

The Mississippi River is part of Saint Paul’s identity – Saint Paul is one of only two capital cities along the 2,300 miles of river and the city with the largest amount of river and riverfront.

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. The Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department is now implementing the next phase of the Great River Passage – a bold initiative to steward and tap into the potential of the 26 miles of riverfront in Saint Paul.

The Great River Passage Conservancy, an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit, advocates for projects and guides private fundraising efforts for projects along the Mississippi River.

Through the Initiative and with the partnership of the Conservancy, the City of Saint Paul will create places and activities that strengthen existing connections and create new ones along the Mississippi River. The Initiative is focusing its strategic efforts on three capital projects – the River Learning Center, River Balcony, and East Side River District. The Initiative also offers river-oriented programs that fill the current event gaps with year-round activities based in adventure, recreation, ecology, and storytelling.

The Great River Passage Initiative is lead by:

Mary deLaittre

Manager, Great River Passage Initiative

Mary deLaittre is the manager of the Great River Passage Initiative. Drawing on 25 years of community design experience, she conceives major city-building projects and develops sustainable organizational structures to ensure the long-term success of the projects.

As founder and principal of Groundwork: The Foundation for City Building, she has focused on enhancing waterfront development. She led Wayzata’s Lake Effect Park Project, the transformation of the city’s Lake Minnetonka shoreline, as well as the creation of the private fundraising entity for the park – the Lake Effect Conservancy. On behalf of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, she developed and managed RiverFirst, a revitalization effort along 5.5 miles of the Mississippi River. Finally, she co-founded and consulted to 2020 Partners, a public-private partnership that facilitated the transformation of a downtown Minneapolis industrial district into a new urban center.

Previously, deLaittre was the executive director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, where she galvanized the organization around a new mission of creating the Next Generation of Parks™. She received a bachelor of arts in art history from Brown University and a masters of architecture with a focus on urban design from the University of Minnesota.

Angie Tillges

Fellow, Great River Passage Initiative

Angie Tillges is the Great River Passage Fellow. She is a public space educator and artist who is skilled at working with public institutions and community organizations on projects of social, artistic, and ecological importance. She leads projects that provide people the opportunity to make personal and lasting connections with public spaces in their communities.

Tillges recently served as Senior Program Specialist for the Chicago Park District’s Department of Culture Arts and Nature where she spearheaded cultural partnerships and developed an interactive public database of cultural space within the city’s 250+ fieldhouses. Prior to that, she was Associate Artistic Director for Redmoon, a Chicago-based public art and spectacle organization from 2007-2013 where she facilitated projects with neighborhoods, schools, and community groups throughout the city. She holds a Master’s degree in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Hamline University.

Tillges is a member of the Place Lab Ethical Redevelopment Salon at University of Chicago, which investigates national trends in creative, equitable redevelopment. She is currently involved in public education as a review panelist and committee member for Ingenuity Inc.