Our Mighty Mississippi is indeed a mighty river.
It contributed mightily to this nation’s greatness – as a transportation corridor; as a nurturing water supply for so many cities, towns, villages and farms; as a limitless resource for recreation; as a power source for industries; and last but not least, as a mighty nurturer of fish and animals.
It was good to see so many river-city mayors meet in St. Cloud recently for the “Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative.” The ongoing effort is a way for mayors and river experts to get together and brainstorm on ways to preserve and enhance that mighty resource, The River. There have been many group meetings about the river by various groups, including right here in central Minnesota. More and more people are realizing what a great asset that river is, how we must protect it and how untapped it is as a limitless recreational and economic resource. At least two cities along the river (Dubuque, Iowa and Memphis, Tenn.) gained remarkable new leases on life by wisely building environmentally sound recreational and cultural facilities right at the edge of the river. Local folks from this area, including Sartell city officials, took a tour of Dubuque a few years ago and came back with glowing reviews of what they’d seen and heard.
Sartell Mayor Joe Perske was one of the mayors who participated in the “River Initiative.” He, too, was impressed by the brimming concerns and ideas the “downriver” mayors brought to the three-day conference in St. Cloud.
Perske, who grew up in the St. Cloud area, is old enough to remember how the Mississippi River, right in this area, was polluted to such a foul extent. For many along the river, it had become a more or less open sewer into which individuals and industries dumped virtually anything. Thanks to laws and regulations throughout the years, the quality of the river has vastly improved and some species in it have even made a comeback.
However, there is more work to do. There is no reason why “river folks” can’t get together and keep working on ways to keep pollutants (such as herbicides and pesticides) out of our Mighty River and other area waterways. In the meantime, there are is exciting potential for environmentally friendly development of commercial, recreational and cultural ventures along the river (as in Dubuque) that could boost local economies.
For too long, people took the Mississippi River for granted. At long last, its ecological vulnerability and its mighty untapped potential are being recognized and developed by people who truly love the Mighty Miss. as the mighty resource that it is.