Saint Paul’s 17 mile stretch of the Mississippi River has natural, recreational, scenic, and spiritual qualities that have drawn people to the area for thousands of years. The area’s rich resources have sustained the lives of American Indians, including the Dakota people, who recognized the corridor’s spiritual values. Early European settlers used the river as a trading route which led to widespread settlement. Rapid industrialization of the upper m Midwest and the development of the Mississippi as a transportation and industrial corridor brought successive waves of immigrants from around the world, creating a thriving economy and the rich ethnic mix that makes Saint Paul the vibrant community that it is today. The decline of industry has provided an opportunity to rediscover the rivers corridor’s natural, recreation, scenic and spiritual qualities, and has prompted a discussion about new ways of living, working, and playing along the river’s edge.

The Great River Passage Master Plan presents recommendations for orienting the city toward the river and integrating new and enhanced parks and natural areas along all 17 miles of the Mississippi River through Saint Paul. Previous planning efforts described a broad vision for the river corridor.

The two year long process of developing the Great River Passage Master Plan included several well-attended public meetings and a series of community task force and planning workshops that elicited constructive input from community and stakeholders. The project team, consisting of planners, landscape architects, ecologists, transportation and cultural resource specialists, artists, and economic advisors, synthesized community input into a vision plan for Great River Passage.

The Great River Passage vision is based on three principles – to be more natural, more urban and more connected. Read the Great River Passage Master Plan to learn more.


Frequently Asked Questions

What does this project mean for the City and the region?

Saint Paul’s 17 miles of Mississippi River riverfront has unrealized potential as a regional and national natural, scenic and cultural resource. Through sound management and protection, an enhanced corridor will continue to improve the quality of life for Saint Paul residents by expanding recreational and open space opportunities. In addition to greater access to the waterfront, the Great River Passage project will also identify areas for new sustainable development and re-development to be used for new businesses and residential housing.

The Great River Passage project will lead to generate new tourism opportunities for Saint Paul. Working in concert with federal and state agencies, as well as non-profit organizations, Saint Paul hopes to promote the River corridor as a national recreational and cultural resource.

Why is the city moving forward with the project right now?

Saint Paul secured direct State Bonding in 2009 to begin the planning and implementation process to acquire, protect and connect recreational and open spaces along Saint Paul’s 17-miles of riverfront.

How does this project affect the City’s other parks?

To start and finish this study, no city resources were diverted from other city parks or recreational activities. The consultant team is conducting a more detailed recreation needs assessment for the River corridor as part of a citywide recreation needs assessment. The goal is to identify recreational needs and opportunities that are more specific to the natural and recreational opportunities the River corridor offers.

How will this project affect residents in neighborhoods not connected to the River?

One of the major project goals is to make the River more connected to existing neighborhoods in the city. The study will identify means by which to make existing streets more walkable. It will identify strategies by which major barriers, such as railroads, the bluffs, levees and major highways can be crossed. The study will propose new access points, neighborhood by neighborhood, to allow the River to become more a part of the daily lives of Saint Paul residents.

What is the short and long-term timeline for this project?

The City retained a team headed up by nationally known parks planners and landscape architects Wenk Associates after a competitive national search.  The Master Planning process began with a public event on August 17, 2010 at Harriet Island.  The Plan has taken just over a year to complete, and there were several opportunities for the community to participate in developing the plan.  The Master Plan will identify short and long term improvement projects, as well as funding sources, that will implement key components of the vision during the next twenty to thirty years.

How did the public participate in the process?

  • A series of public meetings that began with the opening event on August 17th , followed by local community meetings three times in each community and a final presentation of the plan in summer, 2011
  • The project website at www.greatriverpassage.org is your opportunity to keep up to date with the latest information about the project, sign up for email updates, and contribute your thoughts and ideas about the Project and the Plan.
  • As a member of a community or special interest group in the City.  A stakeholder representative group was formed with regular forums to provide opportunities for input into the project
  • By contacting the Saint Paul Parks Department or the Riverfront Corporation for other opportunities to get involved in the development of the Great River Passage Master Plan

Does this mean the public will have more or less access to the river?

The plan will lay the groundwork for more detailed studies that, with proper funding and when implemented, will provide greater access for all of the City’s residents to the River.