New river access in Cottage Grove?

by Colleen O'Connor Toberman

Help us protect habitat and public river access along 1,900 feet of riverfront on a scenic back channel in Cottage Grove. (Photo by Tom Reiter)

The former Mississippi Dunes golf course in Cottage Grove is a special place.

Located on 1,900 feet of riverfront along a back channel of the Mississippi River and across from Lower Grey Cloud Island, these 150 acres are unique in that few human-made structures are visible from the shoreline — no cell phone towers, no power lines, no buildings.

Ever since the golf course closed a few years ago, FMR has worked to protect the entire property as public open space. However, the current property owner is making plans to develop the majority of the land into a gated housing community.

While FMR will persevere in bringing together parties that could help purchase, restore and own as much public space as possible at Mississippi Dunes, we're also prepared for the property owner to continue pursuing a private development.

Fortunately, city leaders have been clear: Even if some of the site is developed for private use, they hope it will include a public riverfront park. Cottage Grove recently ranked the Mississippi Dunes site as a top priority for public riverfront acquisition and access, noting its great potential for habitat preservation and significant river frontage.

Get involved in the future of Mississippi Dunes

Even though the city is interested in parkland, the future of Mississippi Dunes will emerge over time. We can help shape that future in the coming months during public comment opportunities, particularly when the city plans its park, considers any development applications and writes its new Critical Area river protection ordinance.

In May and June, the city will create a master plan for a Mississippi Dunes riverfront park. This is an important opportunity to document the community's desire for an expansive park that includes both protected habitat areas and recreational amenities. The city must hear from residents during this process.

We hope you'll join us at these events:

  • May 3, 5-6 pm: FMR-hosted webinar about Mississippi Dunes
    This is your chance to learn more about this special site and connect with others who want to see it preserved. We'll discuss how to participate in the city's planning process too. Anyone interested is invited to attend, whether or not you live in Cottage Grove. Register here.
  • May 10, 7-8:30 pm: Cottage Grove Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Commission Meeting at City Hall
    The city's parks commission will welcome public comments about the Mississippi Dunes park plan at this meeting. All Cottage Grove residents are encouraged to come and speak briefly at the meeting or submit written comments to Zac Dockter before the meeting. If you have any questions about how to comment, contact Colleen below.
  • May 19, 7-9:30 pm: Cottage Grove City Council Meeting at City Hall
    The city council will be reviewing the park commission's feedback and discussing how they would like to proceed. There won't be a public hearing or formal vote on the Dunes at this meeting, but your attendance still makes a difference. Attending as an observer shows the city how many residents care about this issue. And if you'd like to speak, you can give brief comments during the Open Forum time at the beginning of the meeting.

A Mississippi Dunes park in Cottage Grove could create access to the river through all seasons. (Illustration by Kimberly Boustead and Emily Sauer)

Stay connected 

We'll keep our Cottage Grove River Guardians updated about more opportunities to be involved in the future of Mississippi Dunes. Not a River Guardian? Sign up today.

For more information or assistance, contact Colleen O'Connor Toberman, FMR's River Corridor Director, at or 651.222.2193 x29.

Read more about Mississippi Dunes.