Alton’s Vitality Shows Collaborating Works

Alton, Illinois’ Mayor Tom Hoechst pointed out the benefits his town is accruing from its inclusive community approach to the Mississippi River. America’s Waterway is the same kind of community collaboration — only on-line and on behalf of the whole River. 

“Coupled with Argosy, the marina’s success, Riverfront Park Improvements, the Ampitheater, the meeting of the Great River National Scenic Byway, and the new National Great Rivers Field Station, Alton is becoming a unique nautical communitywith strong ties to the iconic Mississippi River. Lewis and Clark Community College’s commitment to developing green job training opportunities, particularly the effort to train water treatment  plant operators for certification and Ilinois-American Water Co’s investment in Alton at the national call center and the state-of-the-art waterplant are helping to establish ourselves [Alton] as a major water-based employment center.

“Water is truly the  most valuable resource in the world. We have been given a natural asset and must cherish it from an ecological and economical standpoint.”

This all sounded familiar. It’s being repeated in River towns up and down the Mississippi River. While others may not have as much collaboration or success to date, together they make a case for America’s Waterway, the organization seeking to build an interactive constituency for the whole Missisippi River so that unified approaches to its character, condition and future can develop. Here’s how I put it in a follow-up op-ed to the Alton Telegraph.

“We applaud the work Alton and its Mississippi River neighbors have accomplished, and we encourage them to continue and celebrate what they’ve started. We hope you will share your experience with others so that River residents can learn and expand their opportunities and their relationship to the Mississippi River. Perhaps most importantly, efforts like Alton’s and ours are part of a growing public interest in rivers that offers the prospect of seeing the Mississippi River acknowledged and appreciated for what it really is, America’s Waterway.”

In September 2008, I wrote about the gradual decline in America’s appreciation for its natural resources. That process is beginning to reverse itself. But as is the case with many of our natural resources, we don’t have time to wait for the public to pick up on the need to protect and preserve them. In the northern regions of the Mississippi River, we are used to having to jump start cars. America’s Waterway and our planned National Dialogue for the Future of America’s Waterway can be the “jump start” for the iconization of the Mississippi River. If you agree and would like to know more, please contact us or leave a comment.

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