Great River Passage Initiative receives public and private support

March 6, 2018

Clare Cloyd
612-760-5074 (c)

Great River Passage Initiative receives public and private support

More than $500,000 raised for River Balcony, Environmental Learning Center and Conservancy

SAINT PAUL – The City of Saint Paul today announced that more than $500,000 has been raised for the Great River Passage Initiative, showing broad-ranging support across the public and private sectors.

“The Mississippi River is a part of the very fabric of Saint Paul,” said Mayor Melvin Carter. “Making sure our river thrives for our children and our children’s children through the Great River Passage Initiative is a vital part of sustaining a city that works for all of us.”

Last year, the City took a major step toward connecting people to recreational and environmental amenities along its 26 miles of Mississippi riverfront by putting its 2013 Great River Passage Master Plan into action. That plan is becoming closer to reality, as $320,000 has been raised for the River Balcony project, as well as $104,000 for the Environmental Learning Center and $90,000 for the Great River Passage Conservancy.

“The goal of the Great River Passage Initiative is to balance environmental stewardship with forward-thinking development that will continue to drive economic growth, health, and neighborhood improvement in Saint Paul for generations to come,” said City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm. “The combination of thoughtful, engaging programming, places and spaces will allow for us to truly connect to the Mississippi.”

River Balcony
The River Balcony is a proposed, publicly accessible bluff-edge experience connecting public spaces and bluff-side redevelopment sites spanning the full 1.5 miles of downtown Saint Paul’s Mississippi River bluff. Current funders of this project include the Great River Passage Initiative, Ramsey County, Metropolitan Council, Saint Paul RiverCentre, Visit Saint Paul, and Ever Green Energy. The project is expected to move into schematic design this year.

“Projects like the River Balcony will allow us to realize the full potential of the Mississippi River as an amenity for residents and visitors alike,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega. “The financial support we have received from the public and private sectors is a good first step in making this project a reality.”

Environmental Learning Center
The Environmental Learning Center is a proposed mixed-use, river-focused space at Crosby Farm Regional Park that could combine National Parks Service Headquarters and a visitor center with year-round environmental learning and outdoor recreation experiences along Saint Paul’s river edge. Current supporters of this project include the Great River Passage Initiative, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, the National Park Service, Mississippi River Connection, Friends of the Mississippi, the Capital Region Watershed District, and Wilderness Inquiry. Great River Passage Initiative and its partners are expected to begin a feasibility study this year to review partnerships, expanded programming options, and a funding strategy.

Great River Passage Conservancy
Thanks to the $90,000 in seed money from the Saint Paul Foundation and F.R. Bigelow Foundation, the City will also able to launch the Great River Passage Conservancy, which will advocate for projects and lead private fundraising efforts related to the initiative. The Conservancy will be an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit that works in partnership with the City of Saint Paul.

“It’s important that the private sector do its part to support efforts to allow more people to engage with the Mississippi River,” said Ann Mulholland, vice president of community impact for the Saint Paul & Minnesota Community Foundations. “The Great River Passage Conservancy is the perfect vehicle to make a lasting impact on our community through river-oriented experiences.”

About the Great River Passage
In 2013, the City of Saint Paul developed the Great River Passage Master Plan, a comprehensive framework for creating vibrancy in the city’s 3,500 acres of parkland along the river. The Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department is now implementing the next phase of the Great River Passage – a bold initiative to steward and tap into the potential of the 26 miles of riverfront in Saint Paul. Through the initiative, the City will create places and activities that strengthen existing connections and create new ones along the Mississippi. Learn more at