Tuesday, April 15, 2008

When you get help like this, even a challenging project can be... "a walk in the park"

On our Mississippi River survey trips last fall, we were seeing a lot of river bank for the first time (and much of this "first look" was coming from the seat of a 10’ kayak). We were considering the situation only from the perspective of the river, without regard to where the river sat, in relationship to the Twin Cities we know and love. There are some easy-to-recognize bridges, of course. But the buildings and landscape look different from this point of view.

After capturing digital photos and GPS waypoints of voluminous trash targets and debris fields, we had the winter and spring to see where all of these hot spots were, exactly. As luck would have it, many of the metro Mississippi clean-up sites we’ve identified lie within three different park districts. [Note: When you’re planning a river clean-up, it is critical to gain permission of the land-owners involved, giving volunteers access to the areas where a clean-up will occur.] Having our target areas within these park systems has served to accelerate the process.

First, it was my good fortune to get the help of Jeff Perry, the Park Operations Manager for Anoka County Parks and Recreation Department. Much of the shoreline which remains to be surveyed on this part of our adopted Mississippi lies on the eastern shoreline… and Jeff has let us know we need only to give him a call in advance of our clean-up efforts.

Next, Del Miller got me in touch with his colleague, Steve Fatsis, the Guest Services Manager for Three Rivers Park District. Upon hearing about our project, Steve was more than pleased to provide us with a season-long permit to use the Three Rivers access areas which lie on the western shore just south of I-694 in the Brooklyn Center area. The Three Rivers Park District took this area over relatively recently, and they see our initiative as another way they can jump-start the stewardship of this precious stretch of riverbank.

Last but not least, we got in touch with Tina Austin, the River District Crew Leader for Minneapolis Parks and Recreation. Tina is obviously a doer, and connected us quickly with Group Coordinator Arik Rudolph, and she has even led us to the gentleman in charge of the Boom Island park area on the other side of the river (and downstream). Further, Tina offered the cooperation of her department in disposing of items we recover from MP&R lands. (Again, Tina is obviously a doer!)

Navigating the proper channels.
When you're not familiar with the officials in charge of public lands, it can be time consuming to figure who to talk to, much less who's in charge. My wife and I would like to thank Jeff, Dell, Steve, Tina and Arik for making shortwork of the paperwork… and helping us get to the solution faster! When the weather and river levels allow… I’d rather be in the water—making it better—than sitting behind a desk trying to figure out how to get permission to do the right thing. Thanks to you all.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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