photo: Peter Myers

WHY THE RIVER?

As it flows through Saint Paul, the Mississippi is ever-changing, while also carrying the deep history of our city’s people, culture, nature, and more.

But over time, we have become less connected to both its past and future. The Conservancy aims to re-orient our community to the river, whose 3,500 acres of riverside, 17 parks, six major trails, and five historic and preserved sites tie the Mississippi to our shared identity.

From the Dakota who made their home along the river before Saint Paul was even a city to the construction of the Capital building, the river has always flowed through us. Saint Paul is not Saint Paul without the river.

Alongside our lead partner, the City of Saint Paul, the Conservancy has identified three major projects that will reimagine our city’s 17 miles of river. The Mississippi River Learning Center, River Balcony, and East Side River District will all reorient Saint Paul as the River Capital that strengthens:

COMMUNITY HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Today, more than 4 million people (including 30,000 children) visit parks along the river annually to take part in programs, recreation, education, and environmental experiences. We also know that access has not been equitable. The Conservancy, in partnership with organizations like Full Circle Indigenous Design, is determined to make Saint Paul’s river-based natural spaces welcoming to all.

SHARED CULTURE AND HISTORY

Saint Paul’s river flows through Dakota homeland, but too often, river-based projects have not engaged tribal communities. The Conservancy is moving our projects forward with an eye to historical and cultural context to ensure tribal leaders play an active role in the design process, shaping a shared vision for our work along the river that preserves and honors Indigenous culture and heritage.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The river is an essential economic engine in Saint Paul. Each year, 5 million tons of commodities pass through, and Saint Paul Port Authority terminals are home to 30 businesses and nearly 750 jobs.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

The climate crisis is taking a toll on natural treasures nationwide—the Mississippi River among them. The fourth biggest watershed in the world, the Mississippi serves as an important flyway route for birds and as a habitat for more than 300 species of animals. We believe Saint Paul is a capital of river advocates focused on protecting our river and the wildlife that calls it home. Our projects will be successful only if they repair and revitalize our damaged natural spaces.