Rebecca Wodder, senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to the Minnesota River valley, visited the area to discuss the National Blueways system as part of the National Trails System Act.
What economic benefit does the Minnesota River provide for the region?
What conservation efforts currently being done on that river could be enhanced?
What would happen if every stakeholder group working on some portion or some issue related to the Minnesota would come together under one umbrella to work for the betterment of the entire river?
Those were the kinds of questions being asked during a recent two-day event that brought Rebecca Wodder, senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to the Minnesota River valley.
Wodder, who visited to discuss an initiative Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior established known as the National Blueways system as part of the National Trails System Act, talked about the benefits a blueway designation could mean for the Minnesota River watershed at several locations along the river.
One of those stops included a visit to the Minnesota Valley History Learning Center in Morton.
There she met with myriad stakeholder groups that talked about the value of the river and the efforts they are making to address everything from conservation to recreation within the Minne-sota River watershed.
Wodder said she has been very impressed with the grassroots efforts already present in the area, adding that kind of already established work could make a designation much easier to accomplish.
“The National Blueway system initiative is still very new,” Wodder said, adding the order came down officially in May.
While in some ways this initiative is still being developed, the first official designation was made for a river in Connecticut.
Wodder said all of the stakeholders would need to work together on the designation, as the blueway recognition is for the whole river, not just one portion.
The challenge is getting all of the groups, which currently represent the part of the river they are most passionate about to collaborate on the river as a whole.
“I see what is already happening here,” said Wodder. “You all have worked hard individually and collectively.”
Now is the time to creat the common vision for the river as a whole, and the designation of the river can help get that ball rolling.
Should the river successfully attain the blueway designation, Wodder said the department of the interior would provide its technical and financial assistant to take the river’s efforts to the next level.
The intent is not only to raise awareness of the river on a national scale but also to create a marketing strategy that would allow for the river to be better used as a recreational destination.
That, said Wodder, means bringing in more people who would help to enhance the economy all along the river.
Wodder said the blueway designation is not regulatory, adding she believes the designation of the Minnesota River as a blueway would be a badge of honor for all who have worked so hard to create an environment that emphasizes conservation and recreation.