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A National Dialogue for the Future of America's Waterway


River Currents Newsletter - October 2009

Waterfront Developments Add Zest to Mississippi River Towns
If you think Mississippi River towns are each unique, you're right in many respects. But many Mississippi River towns now share something in common: their love of the River. This has resulted in extensive efforts to redesign riverfronts from New Orleans to Memphis, and from Dubuque to Minneapolis.

All along the River, development corporations and municipalities are working to build access, entertainment and appreciation into their Mississippi River waterfronts. Their success goes beyond aesthetics and economic development. Riverfront developments up and down the Mississippi River have helped communities come together, imagine the future and redefine the way they feel about themselves and their community.

For those cities like Dubuque and New Orleans who've been working on their communities' interaction with the Mississippi for some time, the value of cleaning up their riverfronts and increasing access is already evident. For communities like Memphis and St. Paul, improving their riverfronts has become a community-building process, involving citizens in planning, proposals and financial support. The net result is a refocus and new energy in cities and towns all along America's Waterway.

Memphis' Mud Island River Park is currently collecting residents' ideas on line for its redesign. Surveys and postings of new plans are recording public comment and the whole community is involved in planning new ways to increase access to the River while improving recreation and healthy living options in the city.

Dubuque is perhaps the crown jewel in the Mississippi River redevelopment effort. Years ago, the city, chamber of commerce, historical society, state of Iowa and a number of private interests decided to hitch the community's future to the Mississippi River. It's paid off with museums, resorts, casinos, shops and restaurants - and oh, yes, millions of dollars in tourism and jobs. Perhaps more importantly, Dubuque citizens exude a sense of energy and possibility from the work they've done together and from recognizing they all share something in common - the Mississippi River.

New Orleans - holding the distinction of the city most associated with the Mississippi River - has long tied its common culture to the river. Perhaps their history of multiple cultures and languages contributed to their early recognition that the Mississippi was their common bond. The Riverwalk Marketplace, a single facility featuring retail and restaurants, southern cooking and jazz, is a monument to the connection between the city and the river, as well as a Mecca for tourist and community members alike.

There are many more riverfront developments on the Mississippi River today. From small towns to major urban centers, there's an awakening to the value of water in people's lives. This recognition takes many forms, but for River communities, riverfront development represents a way to recapture both their history and their future at the same time. In so doing, they link themselves not only to the River, but to each other as well.

And Speaking of Waterfront Developments….
The National Park Service announced plans this month to reorient its 91-acre Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park to emphasize the links between downtown St. Louis, the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi riverfront. The plan is the result of 11 public meetings of nearly 1,000 people who wanted better access to the park. This is yet another indication of communities' recognition of the value of riverfront development. The Park Service must wait 30 days before taking final action on the plan.

Join Us and Follow Mississippi River Developments
There are a number of people "tweeting" about the Mississippi River. If you have news or perspectives on America's Waterway and want to join the dialogue, search for Mississippi River on Twitter and join the following. Most notably, the Northeast-Midwest Institute's Upper Mississippi River Basin Taskforce provides a steady stream of policy developments throughout the day. Search for Mississippi River. America’s Waterway is at unifymissriver.
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