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Embracing the Mighty Mississippi

Harriet Island as seen from downtown St. Paul image credit: Don Varney, ASLA

Rivers are the lifeblood of many cities, including Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Research supports a strong correlation between human health and the environment; however, the challenge lies in fortifying and sustaining the long-term wellbeing of our communities through the achievement of psychological and social connections to the natural world. Through the design of memorable spaces where an understanding of our place in the environment takes seed, a sense of connection and stewardship fortifies a connection that is sustainable through generations. In the Twin Cities, an appreciation of the link that we have to the Mississippi River is central to our connection to the environment. The Mississippi River has served as the life-sustaining force of the Twin Cities region throughout human history. Yet the relationship between people and the physical landscape has run the spectrum from spiritual connection and recognized interdependence to the capitalization on the resources for short term economic gain and disregard for the long-term environmental, economic and social effects. Today our lives remotely resemble those of people first living along the banks of the river, when people lived on and with the land, influenced each day by the natural systems surrounding them. Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul were positioned to capitalize on the rich natural resources afforded by the region. As people departed from a nomadic way of life to establish the first settlements, the relationship between people and the river was still palpable as they used the river for fishing and transport and the caves for protection and storage. But the industrialization of the Twin Cities took hold and with that came a big shift in the relationship to the river. More concentrated settlements replaced life on the farm; families in rural communities were lured to move to the cities with the promise of economic gain and freedom from reliance on nature’s sometimes unfriendly 16


Healthy by Design , Bringing Life to Communities and Communities to Life

_SCAPE 2013 Summer  
_SCAPE 2013 Summer