Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news

River News
From March-April 2010 Big River Magazine

Dock Dogs

Dubuque, Iowa — Have you ever enjoyed playing fetch with your dog off a dock? You can see lots of leaping dogs at the National DockDogs Championship on Oct. 15 to 17, 2010, at the Port of Dubuque, during Dubuque’s annual America’s River Festival.

No one ever heard of DockDogs before 2000. That’s the year “Big Air Dogs” became a filler event for ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games.

The event was not expected to be very popular, according to the DockDogs website. “But when spectators began to number in the thousands and traffic for the event shut down a number of square city blocks, we knew we were on to something.”

DockDogs, a governing organization formed in 2002, sets rules for competitions and hosts regional, national and international events. It chose Dubuque for its 2010 national competition because Dubuquers have shown enthusiasm for regional DockDogs events in the past. Although the championship will take place near the Mississippi, the canines will jump into portable pools brought in by DockDogs.

The sport has quickly grown in popularity, according to organizers, because “people like to compete and people like to have something to do with their dog that doesn’t require loads of time and training.”

Planners expect more than 500 dogs to compete in one or more of five categories, including vertical and horizontal jumping and fetching. Dogs of any size or breed can participate.

According to Keith Rahe, director of the Dubuque Convention and Visitors Bureau, the event will fetch an estimated 1.5 million in tourism dollars for the city.

Tougher Metro Standards

St. Paul — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking public comments through March 26 on proposed new water quality standards for the south metro section of the Mississippi River. The standards, which address water clarity and the growth of rooted vegetation, will apply to the river from its confluence with the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling to upper Lake Pepin at Red Wing, Minn.

Although this stretch of river is cleaner and more oxygenated, and has more fish and less ammonia than in previous decades, it still has problems — including excess nutrients and suspended soil particles that block the light and prevent plant growth. The new standard would call for a 32 percent decrease in suspended solids in the summer, from 47 parts per million to 32 ppm. It would also call for a 21 percent or greater frequency of submerged aquatic vegetation, which is about double the amount now found.

For more information about the standard and how to comment on it, see the MPCA website.

Best Boat Names

Bail Out was one of the 10 most popular boat names in 2009, according to the Boat Owners Association of the United States. It was new on the list this year, as was: On the Rocks, Comfortably Numb and Namaste. Seas the Day has been on the list every year since 2005. Serenity was on the list for most of the 1990s and recently become more urgent as Serenity Now.

For more boat names and advice on naming your boat, see the association website.

On the Reagan Trail

Fulton, Ill. — The small community of Fulton, Ill., has officially joined the Ronald Reagan Trail, a self-guided driving tour of communities that played a role in the actor and president’s early life. The trail board added the town after a local historian put together a popular brochure documenting its historical significance in relation to Reagan.

Reagan’s Illinois connection began with his great-grandparents, Michael O’Reagan and Catherine Mulcahey, who emigrated there from Ireland. His paternal grandparents, John and Jennie (Cusic) Reagan, lived in Fulton. His father, Jack Reagan, married Nelle Wilson in the parsonage at the Catholic church in Fulton.

Although Jack and Nelle soon moved to another Illinois town, they often returned to Fulton to visit Reagan’s great-aunt Margaret, who co-owned a hat shop with her sister Mary.

Local historian Nancy Kolk said she saw numerous mentions in the local newspaper of the Reagans visiting the community. “There must have been warm feelings between Ronald and Margaret, because she later moved to California to be near him,” Kolk said.

According to Kolk, Reagan’s father was an alcoholic who had trouble keeping a job, so the family moved often. His mother taught Sunday school and was involved in local theater. She held the family together.

If you go to Fulton, you can see the building where Margaret and Mary established their millinery shop, the Fulton Catholic Cemetery where Reagan’s grandparents are buried, his grandparents’ home, the home where his great-aunt Mary lived during her second marriage, the Immaculate Conception Church and the building where his great-uncle William made cigars. A map of the trail is available online.

The trail will be part of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration, a statewide event in 2011.

Letter to the Editor

Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) is optimistic about St. Paul’s proposed ordinance revisions for its stretch of the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA). We believe the work that went into drafting the new ordinance will provide a great model for the ­MRCCA state rule-making process underway by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

One might draw the opposite conclusion, from “Balancing Acts” in the January-February 2010 issue of Big River Magazine. Statements attributed to FMR in the article were taken from our website, and in doing so, the meaning and context of the statements became confused.

We want to set the record straight:

For starters, we like many aspects of the proposed St. Paul ordinance, such as shoreline and vegetation management, protection of parkland, and better standards overall for the river valley floor and floodplains. We think much of the St. Paul ordinance provides a good model for state rule-making for the entire corridor from Dayton to Hastings, and some ideas from the ordinance were incorporated into the legislation authorizing the DNR to conduct state rule-making.

During the 2009 legislative session, FMR was the lead nonprofit organization working to draft and pass critical-area reform legislation. Two of the major innovations in the new legislation were modeled in part after St. Paul’s draft ordinance: drawing new MRCCA districts to better match the diverse and changing character of the river, and creation of a bluff map for the corridor.

FMR is concerned about increased height limits in the proposed St. Paul ordinance and their impact on the city’s outstanding scenic river views. We are working with city council members to address this before the final ordinance is adopted.

FMR plans to be an engaged partner in the state rule-making process, and we are hopeful that the effort will result in new districts and standards that are clearer, more straightforward to implement and better tailored to protect the specific resources in each river reach. And as the DNR develops new state rules, the St. Paul ordinance now under consideration can provide a great starting point.

For more information about Critical Area issues, please contact 651-222-2193, or visit Friends of the Mississippi River website.

Irene Jones
River Corridor Program Director
Friends of the Mississippi River

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