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Community Partner Spotlight: How to Make Friends with the Mississippi River

FMR volunteers conduct a prairie planting.  Credit:  Karen SolasStewardship is a big part of our purpose at REI. To a great extent, we exist as a co-op to help people get outdoors and to help people take care of the outdoors for everyone to enjoy. 

My role at REI is to work with our many nonprofit partner organizations who share our commitment and lead the way in mobilizing communities to get outside and get their hands dirty. These partner organizations work with REI stores all over the country. Our store teams are able to help out by publicizing events, sharing our store spaces for presentations and gatherings and even providing grant money.

Our nonprofit partners have extraordinary expertise and lessons to share. When it comes to making the outdoors a nicer place for all of us, they’re the pros. Periodically on the REI blog, I will give our nonprofit partners an opportunity to share info about their organizations and nuggets of their wisdom directly with you. Are you involved with a nonprofit REI partner who would like to share some words and a few photos or videos here on this blog?

Our first partner that I’d like to highlight is the Friends of the Mississippi River.  Here’s what they have to share:

Volunteer hauling out invasive species from Crosby Farm Park restoration site.  Credit:  Karen Solas We all love the Mighty Mississippi here in its headwaters state, but it can be difficult to know what we can do to help protect and restore its health and vitality. This is where Friends of the Mississippi River comes in. Each year, nearly 5,000 people participate in hands-on volunteer stewardship and restoration events or attend tours, talks and outings with this leading Twin Cities citizen-based organization. Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) is known both for making it easy to get involved and for organizing high-quality events and outings with real long-term impact.

Most FMR volunteers participate in 2- to 3-hour events, spring through late fall, spanning the river corridor. There is no application process or long-term commitment and FMR provides all supplies. Ecologists and FMR staff provide orientations and trainings at all events and are always happy to answer questions. The vast majority of events are weekday evenings or weekend mornings, are limited-capacity, and typically fill a week in advance. FMR has about 50 invasive species removals, cleanups and plantings a year, which are listed on our calendar and in the semi-monthly e-newsletter Mississippi Messages.Volunteer group stenciling storm drains.

For groups of 15 or more, FMR arranges stenciling outings in St. Paul and, on occasion, other special activities.  On the stenciling outings, groups stencil storm drains with the message “Please don’t pollute! Drains to Mississippi River!” and distribute educational doorhangers about ways individual residents can prevent stormwater pollution. It’s been a great way to raise awareness of the fact that nothing filters out what goes down the storm drains before it reaches the river. 

In addition to enjoying getting to know the special places in the river corridor and meet other community members who care about the river, FMR volunteers also enjoy knowing that their work has staying power. All volunteer restoration events and volunteer programs are part of professional, long-term conservation and restoration projects. So when volunteers install native plants in the spring, they know there will be follow-up invasive species removals and other tending events that will help the plants actually make it through the season, continuing to provide wildlife habitat and improve water quality.  This long-term, place-based focus is characteristic of all of FMR’s work and is part of what keeps volunteers coming back year after year.

More information is available on the FMR events calendar, Volunteer Programs page, and via the semi-monthly FMR e-newsletter “Mississippi Messages”. If you’re on Facebook, FMR occasionally includes volunteer opportunities on its Facebook page.


Posted on at 6:46 PM

Tagged: community partner, community service, conservation, environment, minnesota, mississippi river, paddling, stewardship and volunteer

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Great River Road Traveler

Hi! I'm a travel photographer and writer working on a book about the Mississippi Great River Road. I'm traveling the GRR for 90 days from MN to the Gulf. Why 90 days? Because that is how long it takes a single raindrop to make that journey. I've created a blog "Surrendering to Serendipity" to allow people to "come along with me". I thought this might be of interest to your readers. Here is a link Thanks!

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