City, Top Obama Administration Officials Speak About America's Great Outdoors Initiative
SAINT PAUL - City of Saint Paul Deputy Mayor Ann Mulholland, along with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, welcomed top Obama Administration officials to Harriet Island today as a featured stop on a tour to Minnesota as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative. A key part of this initiative is to engage the public and listen to ideas for how to build a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda while reconnecting Americans with the outdoors. While gathered at Harriet Island, city, state and federal officials talked about the need for additional opportunities for integrated outdoor recreation for youth.
Showcasing that Saint Paul and Minneapolis are again at the forefront of national initiatives, more than 20 youth arrived at Harriet Island in canoes as part of the Urban Wilderness Inquiry program. Following remarks by Deputy Mayor Mulholland and Mayor Rybak, Representatives Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum and federal officials including EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary Will Shafroth, USDA Undersecretary Harris Herman and Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality also spoke about the importance of integrated outdoor recreation, especially within urban populations. Completing the program, the National Parks Service swore in 50 youth as Junior Park Rangers and presented Wilderness Inquiry with an environmental education grant award.
"We applaud President Obama for helping to build a better tomorrow with the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. In Saint Paul, we've worked to create opportunities for our residents, especially youth, to engage in outdoor recreation. From the youth who arrived at Harriet Island today by canoe, to the 12 youth we will be sending to Glacier National Park this weekend, we are seeing a new generation embrace the great outdoors. As we continue to expand these types of opportunities with innovative thinking, we are excited to be able to work with these partners at the state and national level." Mayor Chris Coleman said.
An example of Saint Paul being a leader on this initiative, the City of Saint Paul along with the Saint Paul Public Schools District, Wilderness Inquiry and the National Parks Service have partnered to send 12 Saint Paul youth to Glacier National Park as part of the Saint Paul Public Schools Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. The youth will embrace the outdoors in a National Park setting over a period of 7 days, and get to connect, experience and learn about conservation and the great outdoors beginning this Saturday.
Saint Paul features more park acreage along the Mississippi River than any other city in the country. The Great River Park project, which includes Harriet Island and all of the Saint Paul riverfront park property, is undergoing significant long-term master planning which will kick-off with a community event at Harriet Island on August 17. The outcome of the year-long process will address future Park enhancements, environmental sustainability and conservation strategies and a variety of other topics around recreation and the long term vision of the Park.
President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors Initiative at a White House Conference in April. The conference brought together leaders from communities across the country that are working to protect their outdoor spaces and focused on developing and supporting innovative ideas for improving conservation and recreation at the local level.
A Listening session will be held at the University of Minnesota Wednesday evening to engage a full range of stakeholders around this new Initiative.