Communities across the country are realizing the great benefits of the natural resources surrounding them. In Central Minnesota, this is especially true as it relates to the Mississippi River. The Central Minnesota Community Foundation is one of 19 community foundations that have joined the River Partnership of Community Foundations, a multi-year effort to improve the environmental health and economic vitality of rivers and communities in the 10-state Mississippi River region.
The Foundation's involvement in the River Partnership led to its work encouraging leaders in the Greater St. Cloud area to recognize the river's potential and develop a riverfront plan.
The St. Cloud Urban Area Mississippi River Corridor Plan has been adopted by the river cities of Sartell, Sauk Rapids, and St. Cloud as a community-based vision, and creating a riverfront development initiative based on that plan is now one of the top 10 community priorities. The St. Cloud Joint Planning District Board recently approved the formation an urban river committee, which will lead the effort to enhance utilization of the urbanized area’s riverfront, while maintaining the Mississippi River as a regional asset through appropriate stewardship.
CMCF received a $5,000 grant from the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities to support a series of events to educate the community about the Mississippi River and the opportunities it presents. The series kicked off in Summer 2008 with an event to learn how the city of Dubuque, Iowa, leveraged its place on the river to revive its once failing economy and create more than 4,500 jobs in the last five years.
"Ten years ago, it was an old, dying community. Now they have a waterfront hotel, a riverboat casino, a downtown conducive to walkers and walking trails along the river."
The series wrapped up with a community visioning session on making St. Cloud a more vibrant river city. The cities of St. Cloud, Sartell and Sauk Rapids then partnered to create a comprehensive river corridor plan, marking the first time these cities have focused planning specifically on the Mississippi River. CMCF provided $10,000 to support the planning project, and CMCF's Emerging Leaders Forum provided an additional $9,000.
REDISCOVERING THE RIVER