‘America’s Great Outdoors’ brings benefits to Minnesota’s river systems


Some of Minnesota’s treasured natural resources could benefit from President Obama’s just-released final version of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative.

Unveiled after months of public hearings in Minnesota and around the country, the plan outlines goals for improving land and water conservation and access to outdoor recreation.

Amy Kober, communications director for American Rivers, says rivers are at the heart of America’s Great Outdoors, and efforts around developing “blueways” – also known as water trails – are a key initiative outlined in the report.

“The Minnesota River Trail and other water trail efforts across the state could get a boost when it comes to resources for improving these trails, enhancing and expanding them.”

The Minnesota River stretches from Ortonville, near the South Dakota border, to where it meets the Mississippi near Fort Snelling. Brad Cobb, program manager for Green Corridor in Redwood Falls, says his group has anxiously been awaiting the report, and what it could mean for communities along the Minnesota River Valley.

“The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and the state have designated the Minnesota River as a waterway trail. It’s one thing to have a designation as a water trail, but it’s certainly another thing to have it as a fully integrated system. That’s where both state and federal funding could benefit the completion of this waterway system.”

Cobb says developing an integrated system along the river opens up outdoor-recreational tourism opportunities such as canoeing, fishing and hunting, and could bring much-needed economic benefits to rural communities. He adds that waterways also add to the health and quality of life on which people in Minnesota depend.

“Minnesotans try to strive for a balance in their life when it comes to our jobs, our families, our educational systems. We also have to have a place where we can go out and enjoy the outdoors and to recreate, and to live healthy lives.”

Kober says proposed cuts in Congress would slash clean-water safeguards, which could hamper the goals the Great American Outdoors initiative is trying to achieve.

“We can’t have our children swimming in sewage. We don’t want polluted water flowing out of our faucets. And so Congress needs to reject these proposed cuts and these loopholes that would make our rivers unsafe for drinking water and recreation.”

President Obama said open spaces are more precious than ever when he unveiled the initiative details, and said it’s important to come together as a nation to protect those resources for the next generation.

The president’s plan is outlined online at americasgreatoutdoors.gov. Information on the group American Rivers is at amrivers.org, and more on Green Corridor is at tatankabluffs.com/about-us/green-corridor.