In January 2018, residents of the Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois; Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa) attended an open house exploring possibilities for “new” riverfront land left vacant by the realignment of the I-74 bridge over the Mississippi. Bridge replacements happen all the time, of course, but this meeting signaled two things: first, the continued significance of this particular stretch of the Mississippi as a transportation crossroads, and second, the ongoing vitality of the regional riverfront redevelopment programs, begun out of industrial economic crises over three decades ago.
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The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced recently that eagle surveys show a very strong resurgence of nesting pairs. Eagles have recolonized almost every county in the state and, in some areas, have appeared to be near a population maximum. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, where the Mississippi River corridor is designated as the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, rebounding eagle populations have been documented through several years’ of intensive survey and scientific measurement. The soaring eagle population is widely understood as a strong indicator of better water quality in the river.
“Place” is central to much of the important work that happens on or around rivers, yet the term is one of the most commonly used and least thought-about words we know. Shanai Matteson has recently written from her perspective as part of the public/community arts collaborative Works Progress about place, about the vexed and rewarding relationships to and with places, about language, and about the complexities of being fully “here.”