Memphis Meeting- March 2014

Mississippi River Connections Collaborative Meeting Notes

March 11, 12, & 13- Memphis, TN

Mississippi River Connections Collaborative Overview

(Liz Smith-Incer, National Park Service, Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program, Mississippi Field Office)

Mississippi River Connections Collaborative (MRCC) represents a new prototype for river-long resource restoration and protection that relies on a network approach to amplify the depth and reach of individual parks, trails, and refuges in aggregate and to monitor the relationship of human populations to these resources. This newly emerging collaborative is an informal network of local, state and federal refuge, park, and trail managers, alongside non-profit organizations that are committed to connecting people to the Mississippi River through conservation, recreation and river access; through history, culture, and lore; through education and stewardship; and by co-creation and co-delivery of resource-based messaging and programs. The Mississippi River Connections Collaborative seeks to provide people with physical and thematic connections to the river, thereby tapping unrealized potential to restore and protect this nationally significant resource.

In 2010, a formal Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Midwest and Southeast Regions of the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Mississippi River Trail (MRT). Mississippi River Trail, Inc. (MRT), a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to be the leader in connecting people and communities with the river is the lead private partner. Although not a currently signatory of the MOU, US Army Corps of Engineers staff along the Mississippi has been directly involved in the development and sponsored activities of MRCC.

Mississippi River Connections Collaborative Vision Statement- Americans will recognize and protect the Mississippi River and its people, places, and stories as a national treasured landscape.
Mission– To promote the magnificence and diversity of the Mississippi River as a national treasured landscape. This joint effort will work to increase recognition of America’s Great River, enhance the existing resources, acquire funding for conservation, and ensure that all Americans can enjoy these assets in the future.

Mississippi River Connections Collaborative and other partners actively work in partnership with local, state and federal partners in five primary thematic subject areas:

  History, Culture & Lore
  Education & Stewardship
  Conservation & Partnerships
  Improvement of Parks and Refuges
  River Access and Recreation

See the MOU & Addendum on the following website:

MRCC Initiative: Year of Fishing 2015

(Steve Gard, Project Leader, North MS Refuges Complex, MRCC Core Team John Mabery, Refuge Manager, Two Rivers NWR, MRCC Core Team)

  Goal of the Year of Fishing is to connect people to the Mississippi River through recreational fishing and river stewardship.
  Includes two objectives:
          Offer at least 100 fishing activities and events for youth and families.
          Encourage partners to provide current informational materials about fishing and fisheries conservation along the Mississippi River.

For more information view the Year of Fishing presentation. If interested in participating, contact: John Mabery- or Steve Gard- Stephen_Gard

Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC) & The Great River Road
(Bob Miller, National Pilot, Mississippi River Parkway Commission)
The MRPC is a 10-state organization established in 1938 to work to preserve, promote, and enhance the scenic, historic, and recreational assets of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. The MRPC fosters economic growth and develops the Great River Road.
In 2013, was MRPCs 75th Anniversary. Volunteers of the MRPC coordinate efforts on federal, state, and local levels to leverage millions of dollars for highway improvements, recreation trails, bikeways, scenic overlooks, and historic preservation.
The MRPC works collaboratively with Mississippi River Country, USA to coordinate both domestic and international marketing for the river valley, and facilitates efforts to enhance economic development and resource awareness.
MRPC (Minnesota) just received a Scenic Byways Grant and plans to integrate the Corridor Management Plan into the Mississippi River Sustainable Destinations Initiative.
PilsonBarnet out of Madison, WI plans all MRPC meetings, etc. Every state is expected to make a $20K per year donation to MRPC. Ecotourism a very significant project/theme.

Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee (LMRCC)
(Angela Moore Erves, IT Specialist, Data Mgt, USFWS, Vicksburg, MS) –
The LMRCC is a coalition of 12 state natural resource conservation and environmental quality agencies in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. It provides the only regional forum dedicated to conserving the natural resources of the Mississippi’s floodplain and focuses on habitat restoration, long-term conservation planning and nature-based economic development.
LMRCC staff work out of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lower Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Mission: Promote the restoration and wise use of the natural resources of the Lower Mississippi River through cooperative efforts involving planning, management, information sharing, public education, advocacy and research.
Initiatives and projects include:
Restoring America’s Greatest River Initiative
Lower Mississippi River Batture Reforestation Project
Fishing the Lower Mississippi River Initiative
Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment
2014 Lower Mississippi River Economic Profile Project
For full presentation see Lower MS River Conservation Comm.

Levee Top Trails 101 – (Rory Robinson, NPS, Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program) See “Economic (and other) Benefits of Trails, Greenways and Open Space” posted on website

USACE Opportunities and Concerns of Levee Top Trails – (Nicholas J. Bidlack, P.E. Levee Safety Program Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Memphis District)
Three types of levees within the Mississippi River Tributaries levee systems
Federally constructed, federally maintained.
Federally constructed and locally owned and locally maintained (most common)
Locally constructed, locally maintained.
Public safety, flood protection is top priority for USACE
Per the 408 Approval Process, before any modification to a levee is possible, the following must be addressed: Levee sponsor responsibilities; Vegetation management; Levee road maintenance; Control access to levee; Control encroachments on levee
Since Levee Board usually owns levee top and 15ft on both sides of levee, it is a case by case basis when determining how trails will be included on levees.
For full presentation see USACE Opps and Concerns Levee Trails

Levee- top National Trail – St. Louis to New Orleans – (Greg Maxted, Executive Director, Harahan Bridge Project)
Harahan Bridge – City of Memphis received $14.9 Million Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant
Proposed Eco Park in West Memphis. Currently the Arkansas side of Mississippi River has cooperative agreement between west Memphis & County to maintain levee trail.
Vision of levee top trail, St. Louis to New Orleans
For full presentation see Levee trails St. L to New Orleans Presentation

Levee Top Trails – Opportunities in Arkansas Part 1 – (Robert Moore, Arkansas State Highway Commission)
Rrealized that it may be in the best interest to expand the economic base so that it didn’t depend so much on industry. He discovered “geotourism”.
Delta Heritage Trail starts at Walnut Corner, AR (10 miles west of Helena, AR). Goes to 10 miles north of Magee, AR. Ends at a soybean field, historic Japanese internment camp.
Since 2010, project has been moving along as a cooperative project and eventually may connect through Delta Heritage Area State Park.

Levee Top Trails – Opportunities in Arkansas Part 2
(Jeff King, Chief Park Planner, Arkansas State Parks, Department of Parks & Tourism)
Delta Heritage Trail State Park is a 73 mile corridor from West Helena to Magee.
Has about 30 miles of completed trail.
Looking at next stages: Do we pave trail? Pave levee? Follow highway?
For full presentation see

C’est Levee? Reinventing Our Levees – Levee Top Trails in Southeast Louisiana (Dan Jatres, New Orleans Regional Planning Commission, LA)
Levees seen as public right-of-way – Continuous linear green space – Maintenance paths seen as potential recreational facility

March 2014 Status

Built: 62.8 miles
Funded: 17.8 miles
Proposed: 16 miles
Envisioned: 182.3 miles

For full presentation see Levee Top Trails in SE LA

Levee Trails – St. Louis, MO (Todd Antoine, Assistant Director, Great Rivers Greenways, St. Louis, MO) –
In 2000, the people of the greater St. Louis area voted to create the Great Rivers Greenway District.
The fundamental purpose of the Great Rivers Greenway District is to make the St. Louis region a better place to live, by creating a clean, green and connected region.
Great Rivers Greenway is working to connect St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County with a 600 mile-web of greenways, parks, walking and running trails known as the River Ring.
Chesterfield Monarch Levee Trail and Earth City Levee Trail
For full presentation see Levee Trails in St. Louis

(Jeff Ciboti?)
Long Distance Trail Development
Successful Strategies – See slides

National Geographic Sustainable Destinations Initiative (Geotourism) Introduction
(Jim Dion, National Geographic Society, Director, Tourism Program, Map Division)
Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society (NGS), its mission is to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting conservation of the world’s cultural, historical, and natural resources.
In 2003, the NGS inaugurated a constantly evolving collaborative product combining the expertise and the design capabilities of the NG Maps Division, and the involvement of local people in tourism destinations to facilitate wise stewardship of cultural, historic, and natural resources. Called a Geotourism MapGuide, the map functions as a catalytic tool to implement geotourism, defined as:
“tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-­being of its residents.”
NGS introducing the geotourism approach into economic-­‐development planning globally.
Geotravellers are more valuable tourists. A 2010 State of Montana survey showed they spend more money per day, but they also tend to have longer stays.

This data shows that Geotravellers are worth about $375 more per person to the destination.

In 2008 a memorandum of understanding was entered into by the National Geographic Society and the: Bureau of Indian Affairs; Bureau of Land Management; US Fish and Wildlife Service; National Park Service; US Forest Service. T
Establishes a framework for the NGS and the agencies to use geotourism principles in their collaborative work on tourism issues pertaining to Federal and Indian lands.
Implemented under the guiding principles of geotourism – conservation, heritage preservation, cultural continuation, effective local leadership, and mutual understanding.
Geotourism can help build a sense of national identity and pride for America’s citizens by stressing what is authentic and unique about America’s Federal and Indian lands and waters and their associated cultures and communities.
For full presentation see NGS Geotourism Mississippi.3.14

Why Geotourism and Why with National Geographic Society & MRSDI Purpose Statement
As part of the discussion related to developing a purpose statement for the Mississippi River Geotourism Initiative, meeting participants agreed that it was important to define why Geotourism might be important for the Mississippi Corridor.

Why Geotourism?
Meeting participants were asked “Why should a Geotourism Project take place on the Mississippi River?” The following is the entire list of comments, shown here in no specific order:

Increase awareness of resource values – people will care and conserve
Can engender buy-in from all from Fortune 500 Companies to a 2-room Bed & Breakfast
Connect the entire region for an all-encompassing experience
Connect people to communities, celebrate unique features, increase awareness of local and regional environment and culture
The river is a natural geographic feature – historically, culturally
Because it promotes all aspects of tourism
Preservation of place
Supports small locally owned business
The components of geotourism are the essence of the attraction to the River corridor (ie history, culture, natural resources)
Help preserve the ecology and history of the river by promoting its value to tourists
Geotourism lets you do this:
Love where you live
Live where you travel
Feel where you travel
Spreads the wealth beyond key urban centers
Raises conservation consciousness about main stem Mississippi River
Economics: marginal value of tourists will increase
Offers national networking with other sites
Connection of their place to the world
The Mississippi River is recognized by everyone in USA and worldwide
Cities along the Mississippi River contain cultures that are based on life on the river. The river is part of their lifestyle, not just historically.

Why with National Geographic?
Meeting participants were asked “If MRCC is going to embark on a Geotourism Project focused on the Mississippi River, then why should MRCC partner with National Geographic Society?”
National Geographic provides expertise and name recognition to create the best tourism marketing campaign.

International outreach
Credibility and respect, worldwide
Larger resources than most states, agencies, CVBs, individuals
Inspire people to care about the River and its national ecological importance
National Geographic = Trust
#1 USA Brand
Their approach, locally driven & bottom up
Skills for model are unique
Perceived quality / reliable foundation
They have experience with this and have established a reputation of quality and efficiency
In-depth experience with geotourism projects
Globally recognized brand, appeals to educated and conscious consumers of cultural experiences
Sustainability gets a big boost from this association
They can help facilitate linkages, networking with other Geotourism sites
National Geographic has huge human capital resources concentrated in one place, with which none of our towns can compete
Website is established and kinks have been worked out

Mississippi River Sustainable Destinations Initiative (MRSDI) Introduction – (Terry Eastin, MRCC Core Team and Mississippi River Trail, Inc.)
Brand Mississippi River Corridor as a clean, safe, and unique world class destination.
Connect Mississippi River Corridor attractions and destinations with additional travel opportunities, especially inland
Foster growth of trails or circuits focusing on cohesive themes such as; nature, recreation, history, arts, cultural heritage, agriculture, urban and town life.
Provide mechanism for regional and state tourism businesses and authorities to better manage challenges and cooperate on initiatives.
Raise awareness of the strong cultural heritage, advanced infrastructure, educated population, and unique experiences along the riverine and related destinations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi
Catalyze local participation in tourism planning and growth.
Assist local residents learn about their natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources.

The creation and fostering of a Mississippi River Geotourism Stewardship (and regional councils) to manage the program. NGS and the Council will provide oversight and support for stakeholder engagement about sustainable tourism / geotourism in the region.
A National Geographic co-branded Mississippi River Corridor MapGuide website with rich content about the region’s unique tourism offer.
Geo-referenced Smartphone Application (APP) to reach the rapidly expanding mobile market with a state of the art managed App platform.
Hard Copy Geotourism MapGuide(s): data to create a map will derive from the creation of the website.
The creation and implementation of a comprehensive public relations strategy. Includes the design and creation of an informational brochure describing the significance of the project in the context of the mission of the MRCC and affiliates.
Measures of Success tools: a Stewardship Council Assessment, Program Sustainability Assessment, and Web User Survey, to ensure that success indicators can be shared with destination supporters.
Social Networking/ Website Marketing dissemination and distribution “post project” program.

The Geotourism Stewardship Council (GSC) – A Geotourism Stewardship Council is a nongovernmental or public/private entity. A Council may be national, regional, or local. It may go by any name, or coalesce around an existing group, but has the characteristics described below.
The Council’s task is to oversee and advise on the four elements of a geotourism strategy: identifying; sustaining; developing; and marketing the geotourism assets of a place.
Factors to Consider and Who – Develop a brainstormed list of agencies, organizations and/or individuals to CONSIDER.
For more information see About-GStew-Councils factsheet

Mississippi River Corridor – TN (Diana Threadgill, President, Mississippi River Corridor – TN)
The Mississippi River Corridor – Tennessee, Inc. mission is to identify, conserve and interpret the region’s natural, cultural and scenic resources to improve the quality of life and prosperity in West Tennessee.
Dedicated to the economic development, land conservation, environment and wildlife preservation of the six counties that border the River along the western border of TN.
The Corridor is a complex and ever-evolving project that unites hundreds of key stakeholders and property owners to preserve the area’s significant resources The Corridor will provide managed access to this unique region for recreational and educational experiences along the Mississippi River.
Equally important in the economic development of distressed counties in western TN.
The potential economic impact is a windfall for the region. The Corridor will attract thousands of tourists as well as regional travellers along the developing Interstate 69 and the newly designated FHWA National Scenic Byway. Development of amenities to support the influx of visitors will positively impact job creation, capital investments, income levels and local and state tax revenues.
The Midtown Outdoor Recreation and Education Consortium (MORE) program is an experiential-interdisciplinary education curriculum and community alliance for underserved youth that focuses on environmental and cultural issues that are compatible with integral mind, body and spirit activities. Partners include a diverse blend of non-profit organizations, academic institutions and business enterprises that have come together as a unified consortium, with collective and enhanced impact, to provide outdoor educational experiences that also highlight parallel career opportunities.
MRC publishes great resources: River Times Magazine; Great River Birding Trail; Great River Road Trail; Corridor Management Plan

Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative– (Sarah Sieloff , Memphis Team Lead for the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities)
The SC2 initiative seeks to strengthen neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions around the country by enhancing the capacity of local governments to develop and execute their economic vision and strategies, providing necessary technical assistance and access to federal agency expertise, and creating new public and private sector partnerships.
Federal inter-agency teams deploy to work with city leadership, community organizations, local businesses and philanthropic foundations to support the cities’ visions for economic growth and development. The primary goal is to help these cities more effectively invest existing resources, provide support of local priorities, better align federal programs, and facilitate new partnerships and peer learning opportunities wherever possible.
Working with the City of Memphis and Shelby County to align the efforts of the U.S. Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative, the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, and local law enforcement initiatives. This enabled the city and county to better leverage resources and work toward creating a cohesive message that will impact of the Initiative’s efforts to reduce juvenile victimization and crime in Memphis.
SC2 worked with other public officials and key stakeholders enabling the City of Memphis to revitalize its riverfront as a key anchor and catalyst for economic development through the purchase of the American Queen Riverboat.
Working in partnership with Corporation for National and Community Service to provide technical assistance to help the City utilize the AmeriCorps VISTA program. AmeriCorps VISTA members will coordinate youth anti-violence activities, work with the City’s Office of Youth Services, link the City’s philanthropic engagement to poverty reduction efforts, and improve youth literacy as a strategy to combat youth gun violence.
Worked with USDA to help troubleshoot permitting for The Green Machine (TGM), Memphis’ first mobile food market serving elderly and low-income populations. TGM was launched in summer 2013.

Great Mississippi River Cleanup (Tammy Becker, Programs Manager, Living Lands & Waters)
Living Lands & Waters (LL&W), a 501 (c)(3) environmental organization – Mission includes:
To aid in the protection, preservation and restoration of the natural environment of the nations’ major rivers and their watersheds.
To expand awareness of environmental issues and responsibility encompassing the river.
To create a desire and an opportunity for stewardship and responsibility for a cleaner river environment.
In 2010, the Great Mississippi River Cleanup (GMRC) was initiated by LL&W to inspire communities to host an annual cleanup event. The majority of cleanups are facilitated by locally-based site coordinators, who armed with LL&W’s guidance and assistance help recruit volunteers, locate boats & drivers for transporting volunteers, solicit donations for supplies, identify disposal facilities, and more.
The goal of the Great Mississippi River Cleanup is to empower each community with the skills and leadership to be able to host their own cleanups independently of LL&W.
For full presentation see Great MS River Cleanup

Discover Nature Apps (Evan Hirsche, Founder, Discover Nature Apps)
Discover Nature Apps uses a fun, game-based platform to enhance the public’s connection to our national wildlife refuges, parks and other public lands. At Discover Nature Apps we “Find. Nature. Fun.”
Customized to each public lands unit, Discover Nature Apps answer a growing need to connect a public immersed in smartphones with the outdoors, while at the same time taking advantage of the devices’ myriad innovative functions to give visitors a richer experience, encouraging them to lift their heads up and explore their surroundings.
Discover Refuges App is interactive and entertaining, making interpretation fun. Such an approach is crucial if parents hope to capture their children’s extended attention and interest.