Mayor Frey & Council President Bender Joined FL&D in the Paddle!

HIDDEN FALLS REGIONAL PARK --by Kjersti Monson

What a beautiful day for a paddle! I was excited to represent FL&D in the crowd of Great River Racers who swelled the banks of the Mississippi at Hidden Falls Regional Park yesterday. The McKnight Foundation, Wilderness Inquiry, the National Park Service, and others hosted the Great River Race (Race to Close the Achievement Gap) on the Mississippi River on September 15th. The race funds the Canoemobile Minnesota outdoor education program, addressing the achievement gap in our schools and reaching 15,000 kids annually. Wilderness Inquiry is also an endorsing member of The Falls coalition. FL&D supports their passion for inclusive outdoor adventures, and we were proud participants in the race!

Friends of the Lock & Dam co-sponsored the City of Minneapolis canoe, along with Minneapolis Downtown Council and the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. Our amped up crew of rowers from the City and FL&D, led by Mayor Jacob Frey and Council President Lisa Bender (a.k.a. "The Ringer"), took to the River with two goals: (1) paddle for equity in this year's race to close the gap, and (2) beat the City of St. Paul. "M-P-L-S! Are we gonna win this? YES!"

A few other friendly rivalries peppered the race roster, and racers took to the water with spirit chants flying. The race was on! We paddled down the Mississippi toward the convergence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Soon, the St. Paul canoe was in our sights, and we went to work to leave them in our wake in the first leg of the race route with a herculean effort of synchronized paddling, with "The Ringer" setting a mean pace ("Row! Row! Row! Row!").

As we paddled into the convergence, and up the Minnesota, we got a little extra encouragement via bullhorn from Sarah Clarke, who declared our vessel "the best looking boat so far!" from her perch on the Wilderness Inquiry guiding pontoon, drawing enthusiastic cheers from our crew, who by this time was sweatin' to the oldies big time. Thanks Mayor, and thanks Mrs. Mayor, we needed that boost with about half the course still to come!

Onward we paddled, around Fort Snelling State Park, reconnecting to the Mississippi, and then pulling hard in the final stretch upriver to the finish line at Hidden Falls. We finished with a race time of 1:18:29, in 16th place out of 29 boats. Race times ranged from the top finisher, VAA Engineering, at 57:56:00, to the last, Pohlad/MPRB, at 1:40:29.

Friends of the Lock & Dam was so excited to sponsor a boat in support of this worthy cause and its visionary leader, Greg Lais. We were proud to paddle with Mayor Frey and Council President Bender and the City team, who showed their athletic prowess as well as lending their voice and their support to an incredible mission and organization. And finally, thank you to FL&D graduate research assistant Anna Jursik, who geared up, grabbed a paddle, and joined me in the canoe for this event - Anna, you paddled like a champ!

Looking forward to next year!