Mississippi River volunteers

Lend a Hand

A river group highlighted in each issue of Big River Magazine

Friends of the Mississippi River

Taking a Watershed Approach

Right: Paddlers on an FMR-guided trip explore the urban river.
Below: Volunteers plant to restore Hastings river flats.



Photos courtesy of Friends of the Mississippi River.

FMR’s many projects and activities are organized around three main goals:

protecting water quality;

preserving riverfront land; and

encouraging a deeper sense of place.

The nonprofit Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) began in 1993 to provide citizen input to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a 54,000-acre, 72-mile stretch of river that extends from Hastings to Dayton, Minn., with the Twin Cities in the middle.

Projects and Activities
FMR’s many projects and activities are organized around three main goals: protecting water quality; preserving riverfront land; and encouraging a deeper sense of place.
FMR sponsors dozens of educational, recreational and interpretive events throughout the year that draw new people to the river.
Last summer’s “Mississippi River Challenge,” a two-day canoe and kayak journey through the Twin Cities, from Anoka to Grey Cloud Island, was so successful that FMR plans to repeat it on August 6 and 7, 2005.
FMR engages kids, members and neighborhood groups to stencil storm sewers, monitor water quality, plant native plants, clear buckthorn, clean up litter and celebrate with picnics and potlucks.
Through the Heritage Land Registry it helps landowners along the Mississippi and Vermillion rivers to protect and restore their land for the benefit of ecosystems and wildlife. (The Vermillion is a tributary that enters the Mississippi near Hastings.)

Members, Volunteers and Staff
FMR counts 18 board members, 1,600 members and 12 staff members who work with more than 4,000 volunteers each year.

Awards and Accomplishments
The American Society of Landscape Architects gave FMR an award for excellence for its work on the Mississippi River Greenway, in which two cities and three townships used GIS analysis to identify lands to protect and restore, which could then be linked.
FMR is also proud of its role in promoting the Farmland and Natural Area Project in Dakota County. Voters there approved a plan to raise taxes to protect natural resources and fund protection efforts of private landowners.

In 2003, 30 percent of FMR’s funding came from foundations; 46 percent from city, county and state government grants and projects; 11 percent from individuals; and 9 percent from corporations.
Funding from individuals is growing, partly due to the success of last year’s Mississippi River Challenge canoe event. The 288 paddlers each raised at least $200 in pledges to support the organization’s work on the river, for a total of $70,000.

Goals and Plans
Plans for 2005 include another Mississippi River Challenge and more work with watershed initiatives.
“We’re combining our ability to provide technical assistance and proactive expertise with our ability to connect with citizens,” said executive director Whitney Clark. “Decisions about development, mitigation and what becomes of wetlands, etc., are made at the local level by councils and townships boards, not in Washington, D.C. Often these decisions are made without looking at environmental effects. So if a handful of citizens armed with facts comes forward with passion and perseverance, they can make a big difference.”

Originally published in Big River Magazine January 2005.

Register online for this year’s Mississippi River Challenge on August 6 & 7, 2005.