The Minnesota River – The Back-Bone to Creating an Economic Advantage

The Minnesota River – The Back-Bone to Creating an Economic Advantage

February 23rd, 2012

By Loran Kaardal and Brad Cobb

The Minnesota River has been the focal point for water, food, lumber, and transportation since people have settled here. A bluff-lined waterway ribboning through Minnesota’s agricultural heartland, the Minnesota River Valley is still a focal point for natural resources and the outdoor recreational opportunities that the great river provides. Generating a new vision for the untapped opportunities the Minnesota River Valley can offer, the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor group is a representation of energized citizens in the valley.  This new collaboration is a result of community organizing with just the right set of ingredients. For over 20 years, the Blandin Foundation has been training Minnesota’s rural community leaders on how to facilitate change and improve the health and economic vitality of Minnesota communities.
Blandin’s Community Advanced Leadership Program (CALP) trains local leaders on how to identify un-derutilized community assets and apply innovative leadership ideas towards reaching their goals. A key tenet is to address how resources can be enhanced and developed to create an economic advantage for local communities. The Tatanka Bluffs Corridor group had done just this. The CALP team determined that the Minne-sota River and its valley contains southwestern Minnesota’s most unique and underutilized assets including; ecologically unique plant communities only found in and around the exposed 3.8 billion-year-old granite outcroppings, public parks, hunting areas, fishing opportunities, wildlife observation areas, the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway, a variety of trail systems, and one of the most significant cultural sites in Minnesota – the location of the US/Dakota Conflict of 1862.

The CALP team faced a major question: Could the river that has politically divided this region for over 150 years be the very asset that people from both sides of the river could rally around? Can this citizens group organize to create a regional recreation destination and produce an economic advantage for communities along the Minnesota River?
The Tatanka Bluffs Corridor (TBC) is now actively planning and working to develop the underutilized resources of the Minnesota River Valley. They hope to create Minnesota’s newest regional recreation destination over the next 25 years. The goal is to make this a green corridor with the designated “water trail” winding through the center of it, a “Corridor of Trails,” that will be an affordable recreation destination for families, resulting in long-term, significant economic and quality of life advantages for these 26 communities—seamed together by the river.

The plan encourages partner groups to collaborate with planning and development initiatives within the corridor, where each partner leads within their area of interest and passion. This has created a synergism of activity and produced accomplishments that would never have been possible without setting aside territorial differences and focusing on what the coalition can accomplish across the entire landscape. TBC recognizes the importance of their agency partners, especially the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (whose assistance and cooperation has been phenomenal) and the local recreational and wildlife clubs, who share the passion.
The coalition has a measured and reasonable land acquisition plan for creating and enhancing outdoor recreation. These enhanced opportunities ultimately create an outdoor recreational economy with the Minnesota River as the “back-bone” to this outdoor recreational system. A key part of the recreational development vision is to design a “Corridor of Trails” that uses the Minnesota River water trail as its spine. The success of this innovative, locally-driven process will be determined by the ability of the partnering stakeholders to help each other. As one of partners has stated, “As a leader for community-based conservation, Great River Greening is thrilled to partner with such a passionate and driven group of citizens and we are proud of our role in orchestrating the Middle Minnesota Valley Conservation Plan and making connections for the group.” For this vision to be realized, partners must support partners. The closer each partnership group realizes their maximum potential, the greater the economic advantages will be throughout the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor along the Minnesota River Valley.

The Minnesota River has been the focal point for water, food, lumber, and transportation since people have settled here. A bluff-lined waterway ribboning through Minnesota’s agricultural heartland, the Minnesota River Valley is still a focal point for natural resources and the outdoor recreational opportunities that the great river provides. Generating a new vision for the untapped opportunities the Minnesota River Valley
can offer, the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor group is a representation of energized citizens in the valley.
This new collaboration is a result of community organizing with just the right set of ingredients.
For over 20 years, the Blandin Foundation has been training Minnesota’s rural community leaders
on how to facilitate change and improve the health and economic vitality of Minnesota communities.
Blandin’s Community Advanced Leadership Program (CALP) trains local leaders on how to identify un-derutilized community assets and apply innovative leadership ideas towards reaching their goals. A key tenet is to address how resources can be enhanced and developed to create an economic advantage for local com-munities. The Tatanka Bluffs Corridor group had done just this. The CALP team determined that the Minne-sota River and its valley contains southwestern Minnesota’s most unique and underutilized assets including; ecologically unique plant communities only found in and around the exposed 3.8 billion-year-old granite

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