Written by Katie Woodhouse, Images by Melissa Murphy
On June 6, 2019, more than 130 local community members, organizers, and legislators piled into 24’ Voyageur canoes and paddled down a northern stretch of the Mississippi River for Wilderness Inquiry’s 12th annual Partner Paddle – a celebration of the river and the people who work to keep it accessible and protected. Attendants hailed from over 35 state and nonprofit organizations with connections to Minnesota’s outdoors.
“To think we have this resource [the Mississippi River] in our backyard – we’re celebrating what we’ve done together, instilling good river stewardship, education, and action,” Randy Thoreson, who has worked with Wilderness Inquiry, the National Parks Service, and the Canoemobile program, said of the event. “It’s a way recognize all the people involved in that mission.”
Event participants convened at River Park in Brooklyn Park, where they were greeted by Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Jody Yungers (Brooklyn Park’s Director of Recreation and Parks). Rep. McCollum expressed appreciation for the local partners and emphasized the importance of environmental protection and preservation on a global scale. “It takes a whole village to protect a park, a whole nation to protect a river, and all of us to protect our world,” she said in her speech. “We have a responsibility to pass on these great rivers and parks to the next generation.”
Paddlers then set off for the paddle through Brooklyn Park and north Minneapolis toward Boom Island. ‘Boat Hosts’ in each boat offered insight into the natural, historical, and industrial sites visible from the water, including the old Grain Belt Brewery and the Heron Rookery.
As they moved downstream, paddlers shared about their connection to the outdoors, discussed passing landmarks, and savored the warm June sun and the river’s lush natural beauty. White cottonwood seeds dotted the current and sky, and many participants spotted great blue herons and bald eagles perched in shady trees along the shore.
After docking the canoes on Boom Island, the groups enjoyed an outdoor reception with drinks and appetizers. With brief remarks from Greg Lais, John Anfinson (National Park Service), Council Member Steve Fletcher (Minneapolis City Council), and Kjersti Monson (Friends of the Lock & Dam), the group highlighted a commitment to ensuring the vitality and accessibility of Minnesota’s public lands and waterways for generations to come.
For Wilderness Inquiry, an organization whose mission is to bring people from all walks of life into the outdoors, fostering a sense of unity among partner organizations is a crucial focus. This couldn’t have been more evident at the Partner Paddle.
“When it comes to cooperating and helping to get people outside,” said Greg Lais, “we all have an important part to play.”