Land Use & Planning

Looking south from the Camden Bridge

The Mississippi River looking south from the Camden Bridge in north Minneapolis

The Mississippi River is a natural, cultural and historic wonder that defines our place in the world, in our country, in our state and in our neighborhoods. As communities move to embrace the river and capitalize on its exceptional value, we risk degrading or even destroying the very qualities we seek to enjoy. FMR works within river communities to provide the leadership, technical assistance, and expertise in grassroots advocacy required to ensure that the essential values of public access, scenic views, historic preservation and environmental quality are respected as communities turn toward their riverfronts. We believe the Mississippi River belongs to all of us and everyone deserves equitable access to, enjoyment of, and benefit from the river.

Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area

The Mississippi River Corridor in the metro area was designated a State Critical Area in 1976 by Executive Order. For more than 40 years the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) has provided a framework of state law, implemented through local plans and ordinances, to protect the Mississippi River's natural, cultural and scenic qualities, while allowing for appropriate economic development within the corridor boundaries. In 1988, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area - a unit of the National Park Sevice was established with the same boundary as MRCCA.

In 2009 FMR worked with key legislators and other stakeholders to pass new Critical Area Reform legislation. The new law (Minn. Statutes §116G.15) directs the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to update the standards and guidelines for the critical area through state rulemaking.

FMR was an active participant in the DNR rulemaking process between 2010 and 2016. Along the way, our staff, board and advocates participated in stakeholder meetings, conducted extensive research and mapping work, submitted numerous comment letters, and organized shared communication with community members and allied groups.

The new MRCCA rules, formally adopted at the end of 2016, represent a major milestone for our National Park on the Mississippi River. Although the DNR has oversight of the program, the rules are implemented at the local level through the comprehensive plan and MRCCA ordinances developed by each of the 25 corridor cities. Ordinance development and adoption are currently underway. Each city will have science-based, common-sense regulations to protect the special features and important resources of the Mississippi River corridor.

Learn more about our special river corridor rules

Planning for Riverfront Parks, Trails and Sustainable Development

The river corridor includes numerous opportunities for development, redevelopment and new parks and open spaces. When feasible, FMR seeks to proactively work with riverfront communities to plan for development that respects the rivers essential assets without diminishing economic benefits to the local area. This work is accomplished through FMR’s leadership and participation in community planning efforts with local government officials, citizens and other stakeholders to advocate for and assist with the implementation of sustainable and equitable riverfront design and development, as well as new riverfront parks. 

Development Project and Plan Review and Advocacy

FMR plays a lead role advocating for land use and development that respects the river’s unique qualities, and building capacity among the citizens of the region to become more effective advocates for and stewards of those assets. We are attentive to emerging issues that pose a threat to the river’s assets as well as opportunities to protect and enhance them.

Increasingly, FMR members and others look to us to assist them with their local advocacy work around decisions that affect the health of the river and its surrounding communities. Because of our expertise, partner relationships and focused work at the local level, we are uniquely situated to play a leadership role with residents and community groups in reacting to river corridor development and parkland proposals. Whenever possible, we work proactively and collaboratively to forge consensus among the many river stakeholders for policies and practices that protect and enhance the river’s resources while securing equitable outcomes for community members. As issues and projects emerge, we address them through a variety of means, including reviewing and commenting upon proposals, educating and lobbying elected officials and agency staff, organizing allied group coalitions, and training residents to advocate effectively. Our River Guardians program alerts residents to river issues in their community and supports them in raising their voice.

Learn more about how FMR evaluates development plans.
Read about current river corridor development and land use projects on our blog.
To learn more about current and ongoing projects and initiatives, contact Land Use & Planning Program Director Colleen O'Connor Toberman,