National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Executive Summary

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Photo by: Brian Peterson, Minneapolis StarTribune
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Photo by: Brian Peterson, Minneapolis StarTribune

The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of national parks for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. NPS Management Policies (2006) state that "The Service will also strive to ensure that park resources and values are passed on to future generations in a condition that is as good as, or better than, the conditions that exist today."

As part of the stewardship of national parks for the American people, the NPS has begun to develop State of the Park reports to assess the overall status and trends of each park's resources. The NPS will use this information to improve park priority setting and to synthesize and communicate complex park condition information to the public in a clear and simple way.

The purpose of this State of the Park report for Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is to:

  1. Provide to visitors and the American public a snapshot of the status and trend in the condition of a park's priority resources and values;
  2. Summarize and communicate complex scientific, scholarly, and park operations factual information and expert opinion using non-technical language and a visual format;
  3. Highlight park stewardship activities and accomplishments to maintain or improve the State of the Park;
  4. Identify key issues and challenges facing the park to help inform park management planning.

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The river itself has no beginning or end. In its beginning, it is not yet the river; at the end it is no longer the river. What we call the headwaters is only a selection from among the innumerable sources which flow together to compose it. At what point in its course does the Mississippi become what the Mississippi means? (T. S. Eliot, Introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).

Congress established the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (Mississippi NRRA) in 1988 and stated that the Mississippi NRRA corridor "represents a nationally significant historical, recreational, scenic, cultural, natural, economic and scientific resource." It directed the NRRA to:

  1. Protect, preserve, and enhance nationally significant resources and values in the Mississippi River corridor through the Twin Cities metropolitan area;
  2. Coordinate government programs in the corridor; and
  3. Provide a management framework to assist the state of Minnesota and its units of local government in the development and implementation of integrated resource management programs for the Mississippi River corridor in order to ensure orderly public and private development in the area.

The Mississippi NRRA is a 72-mile river segment of America's—and one of the world's—greatest rivers and is the only National Park about the Mississippi River. The NRRA strives to improve the public's understanding of the river to promote public stewardship of its resources and strengthen people's relationships with the Mississippi as a dynamic part of our nation's heritage, our quality of life, and our legacy for future generations.

The Mississippi is one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet. The Mississippi Flyway serves as a route for 40% of the migratory waterbirds, nearly half of North America's bird species, and is essential to the ecological health of the entire continent. The river environment is home to a rich array of fish, wildlife, and plants. Millions of people live on and near the river, drink its water and rely upon the river's resources.

The Mississippi River lies at the heart of what is America, and more than any other natural feature is an unmistakable symbol of this nation. The Mississippi is one of the most recognized historic transportation routes in our country and features nationally significant natural, cultural, recreational, and economic resources. The Mississippi River has had spiritual importance to Native peoples for centuries. Most Americans and international visitors yearn to see and touch the Mississippi River when visiting the Twin Cities, showing that the river still has a spiritual draw to all people. The Mississippi is a working river, and commercial navigation is important to the economy of this region and the nation. Minneapolis, Saint Paul and most other communities in the corridor exist because of the Mississippi River. We believe the answer to T.S. Elliot's question about "At what point in its course does the Mississippi become what the Mississippi means" is here.

For its first 25 years, the Mississippi NRRA focused far more on developing partnerships throughout the 72-mile corridor than on its own lands. Out of the 54,000 acres encompassed in the NRRA's boundaries, the park owned only 35 acres on nine islands. Other than minimal resource management, the park spent little time on the islands. The park did not need law enforcement or maintenance staff. This changed January 2010, when the Department of Interior placed the 29.5-acre, former Bureau of Mines, Twin Cities Research Center property under the park's management. Over the next two years, the park completed plans and specifications for the removal of a dozen buildings and related infrastructure, and for restoration of the land to park and open space. The site closed in November 2011 for the demolition and restoration project and opened to the public on September 1, 2012. The property is now the Coldwater Spring unit of the NRRA.

The demands on staff time and park needs have changed fundamentally with this new property. The Resource Management Team devoted much of the past three years to working on the demolition and restoration project and will continue working on the restoration in coming years. The Education and Interpretation Team began leading tours of the property while it was closed in 2011–2012 and has continued to do so since Coldwater Spring opened to the public. Immediately to the north, Minnehaha Park receives about 1.2 million visitors per year, and historic Fort Snelling to the south gets about 80,000. Coldwater Spring could see tens of thousands of visitors in the next few years. The NRRA is now dealing with maintenance and law enforcement issues on the property. For the first time, the park will need to spend more time on its own property, stressing our ability to work throughout the corridor as we did for our first 25 years.

 

The list below provides examples of stewardship activities and accomplishments by park staff and partners to maintain or improve the condition of priority park resources and values for this and future generations:

Partnerships

The establishment and nurturing of partnerships with other agencies and organizations is critical to meeting the three key purposes for which the Mississippi NRRA was established: (1) protect, preserve, and enhance nationally significant resources in the Mississippi River corridor through the Twin Cities metropolitan area; (2) coordinate government programs in the corridor; and (3) provide a management framework to assist the state of Minnesota and its units of local government in the development and implementation of integrated resource management programs for the Mississippi River corridor in order to ensure orderly public and private development in the area. Some examples of the park's partnerships include:

  • The Mississippi River Fund has become the park's primary partner, providing funding for and facilitation of projects throughout the corridor, as is demonstrated throughout this document.
  • Educational partnerships. A core of approximately 20 local partners is led by the NRRA to connect school children to the science, heritage and stewardship of the Mississippi River and its watershed.
  • Initiated by NRRA in 1996, the Metro WaterShed Partners formed to conduct collaborative public outreach and promote personal action for clean water and pollution prevention. The vital partnership numbers over 70 organizations.
  • Water quality. The park partnered with the Freshwater Society, a local non-profit, to establish and secure private foundation funding for the Minnesota FarmWise project. This project expands farmer-to-farmer education on water-friendly and economically viable farming practices.
  • Since 1996, the NRRA has played a lead coordinating role in the Trails and Open Space Partnership, which is a coalition of over 50 agencies and organizations that are working together to achieve a continuous land and water based recreation trail, open space, and multimodal alternative transportation system along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities metro area while protecting the river's significant resources.
  • Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark. After years of close coordination, the park signed a Joint Powers Agreement with key partners to stabilize and restore National Historic Landmark buildings and preserve its landscape.
  • The NRRA partnered with Friends of the Mississippi River—a non-profit focused on the Mississippi River—to develop the first-ever "State of the River" report. Released in September 2012, the report has received praise for communicating scientific and complex issues in a manner that the general public can understand.

Coldwater Spring Unit

On January 15, 2010, the Department of Interior placed the former Bureau of Mines, Twin Cities Research Center Campus under the park's management, directing that it be used for park and open space purposes. In 2010 and 2011, the NRRA oversaw the design and planning for the removal of 12 buildings and the restoration of the land to an oak savanna and bluff top woodland. On September 1, the Coldwater Spring unit opened to the public and is quickly becoming a key attraction in the area.

Natural Resources

  • Eagle Survey. From 2006 to 2011 the National Park Service Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network and its partners assessed population levels and levels of targeted environmental contaminants in bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nestlings at sites in and adjacent to the Mississippi NRRA.
  • Waterbird Survey. In 2009 the NRRA and its friends group (the Mississippi River Fund) helped expand a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service annual survey of waterfowl use on the upper Mississippi River to include its corridor.
  • River otter. Otters are making a comeback in the NRRA, and the park has initiated a program to determine their numbers and locations. Assistance for the program is provided by the Mississippi River Fund.
  • The NRRA has become an incubator and refuge for three mussel species on the federal endangered species list.
  • Asian Carp Task Force and Forum. In January 2011, the NRRA initiated a series of meetings that led to the creation of an Asian Carp Task Force for Minnesota and co-chairs the Task Force with the Minnesota DNR. When Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) began meeting on the issue and other interests wanted to be become part of the discussion, the NRRA expanded the meetings into an Asian Carp Forum that brings together all those working on or concerned about the issue to discuss possible solutions.
  • The park has established a strong water quality program within the last three years and has become a leading facilitator and communicator of information regarding the Mississippi River and influences on its water quality. For example, the NRRA coordinates a monthly meeting series—the Mississippi River Forum—for water resource practitioners and decision-makers to learn about and share information on Mississippi River and water quality topics. Over 1,000 people have attended these meetings, which are co-sponsored by the Mississippi River Fund.

Cultural Resources

  • As part of the restoration of the newly-acquired Coldwater Spring unit, the park took Coldwater Creek out of a culvert and opened it to daylight for the first time in some 100 years. The NRRA completed archeological, ethnographic, and historical studies of the unit during the past six years and conducted extensive coordination with Dakota Indian tribes.
  • Fort Snelling Upper Post. Working together for more than seven years, the DNR, Hennepin County, Minnesota Historical Society and Mississippi NRRA secured a $575,000 Save America's Treasures grant that was matched one to one by Hennepin County. In addition, the State has provided more than $2 million in bonding dollars to stabilize many of the Upper Post's 27 buildings and undertake essential restoration at some.
  • National Historic Landmark Mills. The NRRA, with significant help from Midwest Region cultural resources staff, has helped guide projects affecting the Pillsbury A and Washburn A mills, both of which are NHLs.

Visitor Experience

  • Public contact at the park's Mississippi River Visitor Center, located in the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota, orients high numbers of people to the park. This is also one of the park's key partnerships.
  • The park's new Coldwater Spring property is now open to the public; ranger-led tours are popular.
  • Big River Journey, the park's flagship formal education program, has served over 55,000 students through a partnership with eleven other organizations.
  • The Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) program has surpassed its initial goal to serve over 10,000 youth and families annually and served more than 30,000 students over its four year history.
  • School programs provided by the Mississippi NRRA result in over 40,000 presenter-student program interactions each year, serving more than 100 schools.
  • Teacher training workshops serve more than 150 teachers annually, and overall more than 400 teachers are involved with the Mississippi NRRA education programs each year.
  • Public program offerings have grown substantially during the past five years—including Bike with a Ranger and community outreach programs.
  • Volunteer involvement at the park has grown tremendously, spurred significantly through partnerships with 25 organizations. The NRRA volunteer program was recognized as best in the region in 2011. In 2012, 7,221 volunteers provided 31,406 hours of service, the highest numbers ever for the park and 32% over 2011.

Park Infrastructure

  • The NRRA completed the initial restoration of the Coldwater Spring unit in August 2012. As part of the Coldwater project, the park oversaw the construction of a one-quarter mile handicap accessible trail to Coldwater Spring and used the existing parking lot and entry roads to provide public vehicular access. The NRRA also salvaged the front entry steps and remnants of the main Bureau of Mines office walls to provide for additional interpretive opportunities representing the Bureau of Mines era at the site.
  • The NPS arrowhead and Coldwater Spring unit name appear on the rebuilt Bureau of Mines entry monument.
  • During the Bureau of Mines demolition work, the contractor removed 8.5 acres of impervious surfaces, roads, parking lots and buildings during the demolition phase; recycling 13,000 cubic yards of concrete and stone material.

Coldwater Spring and General Planning

  • The Mississippi NRRA has no control over what flows into the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers before they enter the park, and taking action to fix key problems facing these rivers is a challenge.
  • The ability of the Mississippi NRRA to control what happens on the land within the park's 54,000-acres is also limited, as it owns only 64 acres.
  • Now that the Mississippi NRRA owns 29.5 acres at the Coldwater Spring unit and may soon oversee another 18 acres adjacent to it, the park has to determine how to prioritize staff time between the new property and the rest of the corridor. The new property has pushed the park into a new era of land management and visitor services.
  • The Mississippi NRRA has to consider the impact of its success. The park is increasingly sought after by others as an active player on key issues. The challenge will be to determine how to maintain our current level of engagement and outreach, while growing strategically.

Natural Resources

  • Fish and Wildlife. For the NRRA's 72 miles of the Mississippi River and 4 miles of Minnesota River, the park does not have a good handle on the numbers and distribution of fish and wildlife species or their condition within those waters. Many herptile populations are struggling, and White-nose syndrome is likely on the way for local bat populations. Between warming temperatures and increasing numbers of invasive species arriving, more and more native species are losing ground. The NRRA needs to find a way to quantify and address these issues.
  • Water Quality. River flow to and within the park has increased significantly over the past 30 years, which is an important driver of water quality. Meaningful improvements will require changes in both upstream agricultural activities and nonpoint source urban runoff.
  • Contaminants of Emerging Concern. A number of newer chemicals and their byproducts are present in the river and its associated environment. Many of these substances are not tracked in the same way that other contaminants are, making it difficult to know the extent of their presence, how they operate throughout the food chain, and their potential cumulative impacts.
  • Invasive Species. The Emerald Ash Borer and three different species of Asian carp threaten to change the ecosystem of the river and of the lands along it in the coming decades.
  • Protecting key visual resources is difficult, since the NRRA does not own much land and has very little regulatory authority.

Cultural Resources

  • Coldwater Spring. While three archeological surveys have been completed for the Coldwater Spring property, the lands immediately adjacent to it have not been surveyed. These lands hold archeological resources tied to Coldwater's history.
  • Archeological Sites. A comprehensive archeological survey is needed for the Mississippi NRRA corridor.
  • Historic Sites. While state and local entities have completed standing structure surveys for most of the corridor's communities, many of these are out of date. This makes it harder to protect historic sites and to educate people about them.
  • Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark. This NHL, with its 27 standing buildings, is one of the most important cultural and historic resources in the NRRA and is in serious condition. It needs adaptive reuses, which will cost millions of dollars. There is some hope that projects on the horizon may help save it.
  • Cultural Landscapes and Ethnographic Sites. No general surveys have been conducted of cultural landscapes or ethnographic sites in the corridor. Given the pace of urban expansion, the corridor could lose sites fitting both categories before we know they exist.

Visitor Experience

  • Park visibility remains a challenge in this partnership-based park. Visits to the lands and waters within the NRRA often leave no impression that the visit has occurred in a national park.
  • Programmatic success at the park has led to increased expectations and pressure for more programs to serve more people, stressing limited staff resources.
  • Creating a seamless and recognizable multi-modal alternative transportation system in the NRRA to protect resources, improve the visitor experience, and create recreational access to and along the Mississippi River is a complex challenge.
  • The park, in collaboration with over 50 entities, hopes to complete the Mississippi River Trail, a continuous land and water based trail along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities metro area, for the National Park Service Centennial in 2016.
  • Key partner-exhibits for the park at the Science Museum of Minnesota in the Mississippi River Gallery are slated for removal, potentially leaving the park with only small exhibits at other partner sites to go along with the park's orientation exhibits.
  • The Mississippi NRRA has no education center or facility of its own for use by school groups and other organized groups, but instead relies on partner-owned facilities.
  • Volunteer involvement must be coordinated with a complex array of local partners and often occurs on partner sites, requiring significant planning, coordination and formal agreements.
  • Meaningful evaluation of visitor satisfaction remains difficult because of the nature of a partnership park.

Park Infrastructure

  • The park did not receive a base funding increase with the addition of the 29.5-acre Coldwater Unit, and therefore must carefully plan how it spends park funding on maintenance and repair of the roads, parking areas, trails and the Coldwater springhouse, reservoir and creek.
  • The Mississippi NRRA does not have law enforcement or maintenance staff, both of which are required at the new Coldwater Spring property. The park is developing partnerships with local law enforcement units and with the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway to address these issues.
  • On-going restoration and planning for the Coldwater unit to address visitor use, safety and enjoyment and resource protection will require more funding to complete the necessary planning, compliance and civic engagement processes and documents.

Summary Table

The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Priority Resource or Value Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Natural Resources
Weather and Climate Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Annual mean temperatures and all seasonal mean, maximum and minimum temperatures have increased by more than 2 °F during the past 117 years. Recent climate models suggest that precipitation in the form of snow and rain will increase in late winter/early spring, which could cause increased flooding in the coming decades. Learn more »
Air Quality Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Estimated values for ozone and sulfur wet deposition in the park corridor for 2005–2009 warrant moderate concern based on NPS Air Resource Division benchmarks. Estimated nitrogen wet deposition and estimated average visibility warrant significant concern. Learn more »
Water Resources Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Water quality has improved dramatically since the 1950s and 1960s. However, suspended solids, phosphorus, bacteria, and several persistent environmental contaminants continue to cause concern. Fish consumption advisories are in place for three contaminants on the Mississippi River. Learn more »
Vegetation Communities Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Numerous municipal parks and other protected areas within the boundary of the park provide habitat for a diverse vegetation community. Many tree species show good regeneration and snags provide habitat for a variety of wildlife. Regeneration of cottonwood and silver maple are of great concern in the riparian areas, and there is a constant influx of non-native plants. Learn more »
Fish and Wildlife Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Some fish and wildlife species have recovered from lows in the 1960s and 1970s. Bald eagle numbers have increased, and they have been removed from the endangered species list. River otters are returning to the river, and walleye now have fishable populations. Additional data are needed to better understand the status and trends in migratory and resident songbirds. White-tailed deer are over abundant. Learn more »
Invasive and Nuisance Species Significant cause for concern, unknown trend, and high confidence There are an estimated 100 plant species in the park that are non-native to the area and an additional 181 plant species that are encroaching. Several species are highly invasive and are known to adversely affect native habitat. Emerald ash borer has been found at Fort Snelling, in the center of the Twin Cities, and Asian carp are poised to invade the NRRA and represent a potentially serious threat to the river's ecosystem. Learn more »
Land Cover and Use Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Urban population growth and development are putting greater pressure on the Mississippi NRRA corridor's natural and cultural resources. This trend slowed, rather than stopped, with the economic downturn but will increase again as the economy improves. Learn more »
Cultural Resources
Coldwater Spring Unit Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The 29.5 acre Coldwater Spring Unit was recently transferred to the park by the Department of Interior. The spring and surrounding land have attracted Native Americans, early settlers, the U.S. Army, and a research center for the U.S. Bureau of Mines. The park recently completed archeological, ethnographic and history studies that have added greatly to our knowledge of the property. The park will now begin working to interpret the site's rich history, with help from Dakota tribes, historians and others. The Coldwater Spring property is being restored to an oak savanna and bluff-top woodland in the heart of the Twin Cities metropolitan area and is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors. The park has concerns about the ability to maintain the new park facilities, resources, and visitor experience at Coldwater Springs since it currently does not have funding and staffing for maintenance, law enforcement and other needed stewardship activities. Learn more »
Archeological Resources Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Corridor-wide, Mississippi NRRA relies on State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to review and comment on projects that could affect archeological sites. Section 106 reviews or other development reviews are driving what we know. Mississippi NRRA completed an Archeological Overview and Assessment in 2000 and a Historic Resources Study in 2003. The latter included an archeological and historic sites inventory. Mississippi NRRA also completed a Draft Resource Management Plan in 2002 that discusses archeological sites. No recent inventory has been completed. We do not know the condition of most sites and do not have enough information to establish a trend. Caution is warranted given urban growth. Learn more »
Cultural Anthropology Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Corridor-wide, the SHPO does not review and comment on projects that could affect ethnographic resources, unless those resources are National Register listed. Mississippi NRRA has completed an ethnographic review of Coldwater Spring and the surrounding area. Otherwise little is being done in the corridor to assess ethnographic sites. Mississippi NRRA has submitted a PMIS request in for a corridor-wide ethnographic study. This would help determine the status for these types of resources and future evaluations of those resources identified would help establish the trend. Learn more »
Cultural Landscapes Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Corridor-wide Mississippi NRRA is relying on SHPO to review and comment on projects that could affect cultural landscapes. No proactive efforts are underway to discover and document such properties. We do not know how many cultural landscapes there are in the corridor or what their condition might be. The one exception is the Valley of St. Paul, which Mississippi NRRA successfully nominated as one of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Minnesota. Mississippi NRRA has submitted a PMIS request for a cultural landscape study. Without an inventory, we cannot know the condition of the cultural landscapes in the Mississippi NRRA corridor. Learn more »
Historic Structures Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Throughout the 72-mile corridor, many more historic sites (standing structures) have been evaluated for the National Register than archeological sites, but we do not know what percentage of the total number of historic sites these represent. As the Historic Resources Study (2003) shows, the State did an extensive survey for historic and architectural sites for the whole state in the 1970s and 1980s, but this survey is significantly out of date. Learn more »
Historic Sites Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. Three National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) lie within the park's boundaries: Fort Snelling, Pillsbury A Mill, and Washburn A Mill. The James J. Hill Stone Arch Bridge is a National Engineering Landmark. A much greater number of historic sites (standing structures) have been evaluated for the National Register than archeological sites, but we do not know the current condition of most historic sites. Caution is warranted, given lack of knowledge and the pace of urban development and expansion in the corridor. Learn more »
History Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Many historic sites in the corridor have substantial research behind them, but many others need more research. The Historic Resources Study (2003) makes this clear. Also, a lot of research may have been done of individual sites that the study did not have time to assess, and many more discrete studies have been completed for sites in the corridor since 2003, but no one has synthesized that information. Learn more »
Visitor Experience
Number of Visitors Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Visitor numbers have increased steadily during the past five years. The park has continued to expand program opportunities for the public, especially through the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures partnership (UWCA). With the fall 2012 opening of the Coldwater Spring, the park began formally counting visitors on NPS-owned land within the park for the first time. We expect visitor numbers to increase significantly at Coldwater. Learn more »
Scenic Character Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; low confidence in the assessment. The NRRA's scenic character is experiencing increasing pressures from urban expansion and development. A Visual Resource Protection Plan is under development to identify and determine how best to protect high-quality views. Learn more »
Recreational Opportunities Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The land-based recreational opportunities for visitors in the NRRA are exceptional in the park's urban areas and greatly improving in surrounding areas. Designation of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), partner efforts to expand facilities to and along the river, and the NRRA's efforts to work with partners to create awareness and enhance recreational access are key factors in this assessment. Water-based recreational opportunities are exceptional, as well, but many visitors are not as aware of these opportunities. Learn more »
Education and Outreach Programs Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The Mississippi NRRA has demonstrated a consistent increase in numbers of people served by both public and school-based programs, with more than 56,000 programmatic interactions in 2012—roughly double that of five years ago. The range of programs has continued to diversify, and satisfaction with programs is high. Audiences reached are highly diverse relative to the surrounding area. Because the park is dependent on partner relationships and partner facilities, vulnerabilities exist that are beyond park control. Learn more »
Interpretive Media – Website, Brochures, Exhibits, Signs Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The Mississippi NRRA works with partners to provide interpretive services in visitor centers throughout the park. Additionally, the park uses a suite of resources including online media, traditional waysides and an NPS administered visitor center to provide non-personal services to the public. Learn more »
Volunteers Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The park's Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program has had increases every year in the number of volunteers, the number of volunteer hours, the partners with which the program works, and in the type of volunteer opportunities. The VIP program is administered jointly with the Mississippi River Fund, the park's friends group. Volunteer satisfaction is high as measured by the number of years volunteers have been with the program and by the number of hours individuals volunteer. The Mississippi NRRA volunteer program won the George & Helen Hartzog Award for "Outstanding Park Volunteer Program" in the Midwest Region in 2008 and 2011. Learn more »
Community Partners Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Community partnerships—a hallmark of the Mississippi NRRA—have continued to grow, in terms of amount of funds received as well as number of partners and results. Well over one hundred organizations are engaged in a variety of partnerships (volunteering, educational, recreational, stewardship) that support the Mississippi NRRA visitor experience. Learn more »

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