Wild River: A rainy morning on the Mississippi

I had a brilliant boat trip on the Mississippi this morning from Bohemian Flats to the Ford Bridge and back. It was raining, and everything was damp except for enthusiasm for the spectacular river scenery. I was in the company of people comprising the Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), which is creating the Park Board’s Master Plan for the Mississippi River Gorge.

The CAC meets next on Monday, 5:30 p.m., at the MPRB Headquarters beside the river in north Minneapolis, if you’re interested. I’m giving a very brief intro to the history of the river gorge to open that meeting.

Long ago H.W.S. Cleveland called the river gorge the “Jewel of Minneapolis.” I agree. and I applaud St. Paul and Minneapolis for working together to preserve and protect the wild banks of the river. We were delighted to be joined this morning by two representatives of the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department as well. As much as the two cities have  competed with each other, sometimes not nicely, their complementary actions to maintain the river banks as protected public property is praiseworthy. Both cities would be different without the effort to protect the river banks.

Former park commissioner Scott Vreeland emphasized on the river ride this morning that the real challenge for the master planners is choosing a wise path between preserving what’s wild and making this great treasure accessible. That is especially true as we contemplate the possibilities of a river without barge traffic and, therefore, without the need for a working lock and dam. Would the restoration of the river gorge to rapids and islands, to its condition before the Ford Dam was built in 1917, enhance the river’s value to the people of Minnesota? Important issues.

I was struck again this morning by the great interest so many people in the area have in the history of our parks and the river—and how so many people know different parts of the story, or have different perceptions of those parts. Reminds me that history is never a single story, not one thread, but many.

Two More Things

A friend is desperately trying to find a photo of Thomas Lowry and his family, especially his eldest daughter, to illustrate a book he is writing that is very near being turned over to the printer. I don’t know of any. If you do, please let me know. Soon.

I have reposted an old favorite on Seven Oaks Oval to keep a promise made this morning. It’s the most unusual park in Minneapolis.

David C. Smith 


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