Riverfront developments up and down the Mississippi River add more value to their communities than just dollars and cents. One reason is that River planning – when done right – is a tool for civic engagement.
But it goes beyond mere participation. Every person along the Mississippi River has an emotional tie to the River. For some it’s economy-based; for others environmental. For others still it’s culture or tradition. For some it’s recreation and active access to the River. It’s these feelings and connections to the River that enrich and expand the planning process. Residents’ input allows riverfront developments to be more textured, multi-faceted and supported than past projects and developments were without public input.
And it’s happening all along the River. Whether it’s Memphis or St. Paul; New Orleans or Dubuque, the River captures the hearts and minds of local residents. That plays out in festivals, fundraisers and formalized community conversations. All of these activities capture and convey shared ideas and values for the way the community wants to relate to the Mississippi River. As time goes by, these shared values take root and make it possible, at the local level, to formalize these perceptions in riverfront development or redevelopment.
Collectively, these developments — and the communities they represent — show us the dynamic nature of the Mississippi River. While there is no such thing as a national Mississippi Riverfront, a mechanism exists to create the same kind of engagement for the whole River that riverfront developments are creating for parts of the River.
If you’d like to know more about riverfront developments, click on the communities listed above and on the October 2009 edition of River Currents. If you’d like to know more about the National Dialogue for the Future of America’s Waterway, check that out as well at www.americaswaterway.org. Most important, if you believe it’s time to start this process and move forward with a vision and agenda for the whole Mississippi River, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave a comment here, too, and start the dialogue.