Unifying the Corridor by Mitch Gulbransen
Recently, River Talk gave some space to some of the most interesting new voices we’ve heard recently. These five young people were all students in the Honors Seminar last fall, “Living Sustainably with the Mississippi River.” We hope you agree that students like these are promising lights for the future of sustainable rivers. See the rest of the student posts on our For Students page.
I was taking the Campus Connector across the Washington Avenue bridge a few weeks ago and noticed a small, bent, tattered sign on the east end of the span which read “Mississippi River” and featured a small National Parks Service logo. I have attended this university for a year and a half, and this is the first real on-campus reference I have seen even identifying the river much less acknowledging its ties with the NPS. This got me thinking; on an even broader scale than just on campus, there is no solidified central message for the Mississippi. Now, I’m not necessarily suggesting an image as heavily commercialized or “artificial” as the San Antonio River Walk, but there is no denying the positive public perception of that area as a centralized destination. It’s this unified image, perhaps presented in a different, more Minnesotan light, which can help unlock the engagement potential of the Mississippi River and help the public truly realize what we have in this great river.
Currently, the Mississippi River corridor through the Twin Cities has many independently worthwhile and exciting attractions that happen to share a close proximity. A visitor may say he or she is “visiting the Mill City Museum” or “going to Minnehaha Park,” but not “headed to the Mississippi corridor.” The City of Minneapolis has made strides in this area through the development of the Central Riverfront District, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. This district alone has many useful and diverse nodes: each element has a distinct feature that differentiates it from the others, while all brought together by the economic history of the area that sprung our wonderful city to life. Mill City Museum is an educational hub, Mill Ruins Park allows for more field-based history experiences, the Guthrie is a major cultural center, and Gold Medal Park provides a well-designed open space for visitors to take a break and enjoy the day. Each individual part of this system creates a synergy that produces a value greater than the sum of its parts. It’s this sort of packaging we need on a system-wide scale to promote as a single entity to the public.
If we aim to reconnect people to the river and thoroughly integrate its natural and cultural resources into the fabric of our city, it would be much easier to do if a collective image existed that the public could hold on to. By shifting our perspective from all of these great attractions we have to this beautiful resource which is home to many great attractions, we invite the public to explore, learn, and do more.
Guest post by Mitch Gulbransen.