Friends of the Mississippi Celebrates 25 years
The nonprofit celebrates a silver anniversary of helping protect the water quality of the Mississippi River. The group also showcases the beauty of the river as it flows through Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park.
Their mission was simple – protect the Mississippi River.
“It’s still got a certain majesty,” said Whitney Clark of Friends of the Mississippi. “It is one of the greatest rivers in the world.”
The mighty Mississippi has been the subject of books, songs and videos. The river is a liquid legend in the U.S.
But the Mississippi has also been a dumping ground for communities along the river.
“For many years the Mississippi River was really mistreated,” Clark said. “We used it as a sewer.”
Because of that, the river became the messy Mississippi and many Minnesota cities ignored it.
“Our communities turned our backs on the river and it’s no wonder because the river was toxic for so long,” Clark said. “It was stinky and people didn’t want to use it.”
A goal to clean up the river
“We absolutely have made a positive impact and it’s not just us,” Clark said. “It’s all the people in the communities up and down the river who are kind of turning back to the river and saying, ‘wow this is a tremendous asset. Why didn’t we notice this before?”
Friends of the Mississippi has become a grassroots voice for the river.
“Maybe we are looking past a gem in our midst,” Clark said.
The river has a special connection to the Brooklyns.
“The river up in the Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park area, it’s much more intimate. It’s a smaller prairie river,” Clark said. “I put in the canoe at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park and came all the way down to Minneapolis. I was reminded what a beautiful river it is there and what an asset it is for that community.”
Today Friends of the Mississippi has a staff of 20 plus people who work in their downtown St. Paul office. They also rely on assistance from over 5,000 river advocates and volunteers on a yearly basis.