Mississippi River Paddle Share Program

NEEF’s Centennial and Beyond Fund

August 2016 marked the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS). In commemoration of NPS’ 100th year, NEEF launched its Centennial and Beyond Fund, which provides financial support to partnering “friends” groups of National Park Service units. Thus far, funds have been distributed to 14 nonprofit NPS partners. These funds, made possible by The Kendeda Fund, support projects that build the capacity of these organizations to engage and steward diverse audiences that are reflective of their park units’ surrounding communities. All of the Centennial and Beyond grantees are currently in the midst of their two-year grant periods, ending in September 2018.

Grantee Highlight: Mississippi Park Connection

As the charitable partner of Mississippi National River and Recreational Area (MNRRA), Mississippi Park Connection (MPC), administers stewardship and community engagement programs that support the MNRRA. These programs include water quality protection and habitat restoration projects that are vital to the health of the river, fish and wildlife, and the community, as well as formal education and interpretive programs that serve nearly 20,000 students each year.

Support from NEEF’s Centennial and Beyond Fund helped the Mississippi Park Connection to implement the first season of their Mississippi River Paddle Share Program in the summer of 2017. In partnership with the National Park Service and the cities of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Minnesota’s Three Rivers Park District, MPC installed 6 Mississippi River Paddle Share Stations. These self-serve kayak stations allow participants to rent, for a small fee, a kayak to paddle along the Mississippi River. There are currently 68 self-service kayaks available for public use at 5 rental stations and 3 return stations. The program is designed so that participants can choose the distance that they feel comfortable paddling in a day.

Community Engagement

Mississippi Park Connection hopes that these recreational programs will make the river more accessible to the Minneapolis and Saint Paul communities. In a survey administered to 192 Paddle Share participants, 87% said that it was their first time paddling on the Mississippi River and 90% of those surveyed said they feel more comfortable around the Mississippi River as a result of the program. Now that MPC has implemented Mississippi River Paddle Share, Minneapolis and Saint Paul residents do not have to own their own boat in order to enjoy a public waterway meant to be shared by all.

Meet the 2017 Mississippi River Fellows

MPC also launched its Mississippi River Fellowship program in summer 2017 – a paid outdoor education internship – in which its 3 fellows, Mary, Talon, and Liz, worked with youth in the Canoemobile Mississippi River Program. Learn more about the 2017 Mississippi River Fellows.