Five key reflections from the Mississippi River Network’s 2019 Annual Meeting

The 2019 Mississippi River Network (MRN) Annual Meeting was held November 13th – 15th in St. Louis, MO. Approximately 40 individuals representing over 30 MRN-member organizations from Headwaters to Gulf of the Mississippi River convened for collaboration and critical discussion.

Arctic blasts of cold air surrounded the beginning of the 2019 Annual Meeting in St. Louis, MO. Photo credit: Michael Anderson.

Below are brief summaries and key takeaways from five staff members of the Mississippi River Network. We extend our gratitude to all who were able to join us in-person. 2020 will be a big year for the River!

Kelly McGinnis, Mississippi River Network Executive Director:

“Each fall, for the last six years, I have had the pleasure of convening the Mississippi River Network (MRN) members in a city along our mighty River. It is only once a year that members come together face to face to share successes and challenges and connect in person. We not only connect to each other, but to the River and the land, acknowledging the indigenous ancestors who lived on this land long before our country was settled (colonized). This year, I am grateful for the presence of the Native Women’s Care Circle, who graciously opened our meeting with us, gathering us in circle to hold water blessing where we sang and prayed, giving thanks, love, and respect for water and our River. Connecting more deeply with the reason we do this work at the core and connecting more deeply with each other and ourselves. And that as just the beginning of our connections. I am deeply grateful for all the folks who convened with us and for the work they do for water and rivers. “


The three-day meeting began with an Indigenous Peoples Land Acknowledgment and water blessing led by members of the St. Louis-based Native Women’s Care Circle. Photo credit: Kelly McGinnis.

Mark River Peoples, MS/AK Regional Outreach Coordinator:

“The meeting started with an energy-infused water ceremony, which set the tone for the entire week. It put in perspective what we were there for and stayed with us throughout. The passion spilled out of everyone who took the floor, and to meet my Outreach team members for the first time was priceless. We immediately bonded, having laid the foundation through weekly calls leading up to the meeting. The information I absorbed will help me with future May the River Be With You podcasts. For seven years now, I have been an Outreach Coordinator and I feel more comfortable than ever putting the faces with the content. With the changing of the funding landscape, it’s nice to know that the value is not in the funding, but in the people.”

-Mark River

During the meeting, the group took an exploratory and educational break at the Gateway Arch National Park. What a view of the Mississippi River (looking downstream) from 630 feet up at the top of the arch! Photo credit: Michael Anderson.

Doug Daigle, Mississippi River Network Policy Manager:

“The Mississippi River Network’s Annual Meeting brought together participants from all along the River, including a number of members of the MRN Policy Committee. This is the group that recommends the key policy issues that MRN will focus on each year, working with our members and partners, and as an organization.

Our members are familiar with these priority issues, because they are frequently the topics of our social media outreach (posts, petitions) and engagement with officials and stakeholders. For example, reducing nutrient pollution and increasing the use of natural flood infrastructure in the Mississippi River system are two of our main policy priorities. These large-scale priorities tie into large-scale issues like the Gulf Hypoxic Zone and responses to the 2019 flood, as well as many smaller related problems and situations in locations throughout the system.

River Citizens have ongoing opportunities to engage at different levels as well to help address these issues and improve the health of the Mississippi.”


Natural, or ‘green’, infrastructure like wetlands play a critical roll in reducing flood risk as well as providing many other benefits. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Chris Stangl, WI/IA Regional Outreach Coordinator:

“During the conference, I was part of an interesting conversation regarding the necessity of natural resource-focused organizations to diversify their sources of funding. We were speaking about the language used in applying for grants needing to reflect the rock-solid connection between the core issues we champion and global climate change and natural resiliency to it. 1 Mississippi’s emphasis on restoring and protecting “Green Infrastructure” (like wetlands and floodplains) is central to this connection.

About 14.5% of the world’s carbon is stored in wetlands and less than 6% of the world’s surface area are wetlands. That means that proportionally speaking, they are the planet’s second-best carbon sink not far behind tropical forests. Wetland areas also help to greatly mitigate the terrible effects of flooding events by becoming a sponge that slows the water reducing the crest and speed of the water. As the water is slowed by wetlands it also gets the opportunity to seep into the water table refilling it thus reducing the total amount of water carried downstream.

Finally, the fact that wetlands slow the water and have abundant plant life they allow sediment to be redeposited and many of the micronutrients that cause the Dead Zone to be taken out by the plant life for growth. In closing, every wetland area sequesters carbon improving our climate change resiliency, mitigates the potential damage caused by flooding, are very effective filters for harmful micronutrients, and provides habitat for a myriad of creatures about which we all care.”


1 Mississippi’s Outreach Coordinator team fielded questions and shared tips and tricks to providing meaningful and successful public engagement. Photo credit: Kelly McGinnis

Kristen ‘Kitty’ Mertz, IL/MO Regional Outreach Coordinator:

“A topic we continued to circle back to within the 2019 Mississippi River Network Annual Meeting was citizen engagement. One focus of engagement within our network is to get citizens to establish a connection with the Mississippi River. Additionally, through the 1 Mississippi program, we aim at getting citizens involved in the decision-making process of their River through reaching out to local, state, and federal legislators that influence policies on the River.

When considering engagement, we want to find events that honor environmental stewardship and align with our mission and goals. We can then measure the outcome of engagement through various means like analyzing the number of River Citizens signed up at an event or the number of attendees educated at the event. An important part of engagement is strategic messaging; how we reach and help educate citizens. We align our messaging to our target audience with an emphasis on the goals and mission. Lastly, engagement requires communication tools, which can be physical or online. Physical tools would be considered fliers/posters, banners, direct mail, or press releases within printed newspapers. Examples of online tools are marketing events through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, direct emails, or online calendars. Engagement is versatile. By being creative and reiterating your mission frequently, you are well on your way to establish a connection with citizens.”


Group photo from the beginning of the 2019 Mississippi River Network Annual Meeting. Thank you all! Photo credit: Sherry Tulac.

To close out this blog, we’d like to share a few photos of dedicated individuals from various Mississippi River Network-member organizations and partners:


Also, our gratitude to the nearly 20,000 River Citizens across the country dedicated to protecting and taking actions for the land, water, wildlife, and people of our nation’s iconic treasure, the Mississippi River:

And lastly, it would be remiss to not pay our respect to “our Queen” who goes by many names; the Mighty Mississippi:

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to forward this blog on and help grow the community of River Citizens! Together, we are 1 Mississippi.

For the River,

Michael Anderson


Become a

River Citizen

Yes! The River can count on me!

I am committed to protecting the Mississippi River and will take at least three actions to care for this valuable resource. Please keep me informed about actions I can take to protect the Mississippi River as a River Citizen:

Step 1

Become a River Citizen

Yes! The River can count on me!

I am committed to protecting the Mississippi River and will take at least three actions to care for this valuable resource. Please keep me informed about actions I can take to protect the Mississippi River as a River Citizen:


Step 2

Educate Yourself

One goal for 1 Mississippi is to educate the public on the urgent problems facing the River. We are supported by the Mississippi River Network, a group of organizations that are experts in various areas concerning the River. Each section below is intended to provide some basic knowledge about these important issues and links to experts who can provide more detailed information. 

Nutrient pollution

Importance of floodplains and wetlands

Farm bill conservation programs


Step 3

Take Action

There are many ways you can take action. We have a list of 10 actions you can take now, You can volunteer and you can check our action center in order to see what bigger projects we are working on. Here we give you the information you need to call your congressman or sign onto proposals. You can also check out our events calendar to see what events are happening in your area.

10 actions you can take now!

The Action Center

Events Calendar

River Citizens are people who want to clean up and protect America's greatest River. 

Share This