Standing on a boardwalk, with cameras and binoculars, a group ov visitors admire protected river wetlands.

Great River Passage Conservancy in support of East Side River District Project

The 1,000-acre East Side River District (ESRD) is east of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, and is a mix of historic, natural and industrial uses including two barge terminals, two Superfund sites, the largest rail switching yard in the region, and multiple sites sacred to the Dakota people. It also hosts 40% of migrating birds that pass through the river corridor. It is an area along the Mississippi River with incredible cultural, historical, environmental, and ecological importance—but also one that has long been disconnected from the surrounding community and broader region. In a complex and interwoven world, our work aims to create a setting where historically incompatible uses, such as industry, infrastructure, wildlife, and culture, can sustainably coexist.

When our work is successful, this project will protect sacred and significant Dakota sites, reveal and recover the complex systems and stories of the East Side, and heal and rewild an environmentally compromised landscape. To accomplish those goals, we will need to address and remove barriers, create welcoming opportunities for communities of color through spaces for recreation, and develop shared-power relationships with the Indigenous and surrounding communities, especially communities of color.

We are committed to engaging the land’s original stewards and surrounding communities to develop solutions for this project. To support equitable leadership in the restoration of these lands, we have held convenings, learned from tribal leadership, hosted walking tours, and led community assessments, all leading to deeper collaboration and shared power in the restoration of this land.

As the lifeblood of St. Paul, the Mississippi River must be welcoming and accessible to all—it is the only way to fully bring the river to the center of public life for everyone across the River Capital.

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