Mississippi River Parkway Commission national meeting held locally; Driftless Center awarded National Interpretive Center status

Commissioners from 10 states along the Mississippi River came to northeast Iowa for the annual meeting of the National Mississippi River Parkway Commission September 19-21. The opening reception was held at the new Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center (pictured above), which was then bestowed the honor of being designated as a National Interpretive Center by the group. Submitted photo.

Friends of Pool 9 received the 2017 Environmental Stewardship Award, nominated by the Wisconsin Mississippi River Parkway Commisison for the volunteer work group members and volunteers do in Pool 9 on the Mississippi River in clean-up, replanting of trees on the island and education to school-age children. Submitted photo.

by Lissa Blake

A new Allamakee County attraction is getting national attention.

The newly-built Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center in Lansing was named a National Interpretive Center by the National Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC) during its annual meeting September 19-21 that took place in Allamakee and Clayton counties.

The meeting hosted 10 State Commissioners for three days of meetings. It’s theme was “Agri-tainment Iowa Style,” and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was a featured speaker for the event. Around 70 people attended the gathering, which took them to attractions which highlighted the area.
Stops included an opening reception at the Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center Tuesday evening, a drive to Mt. Hosmer, Effigy Mounds (already a National Interpretive Center), a tour of the Great River Road through Allamakee and Clayton counties, stops at WW Homestead Dairy and Steel Cow Gallery, dinner at Empty Nest Winery, a lunch on the Mississippi River and more. The Commissioners stayed at The Cobblestone in Marquette.

Commissioners also enjoyed a “Taste of the Mississippi River” prepared by Mike Valley of Valley Fish and Cheese and Drew Hager of the Winneshiek Landing Thursday, followed by a backwater excursion with Maiden Voyage Excursions and presentations by Captain Robert Vavra and Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge Engineer Sharonne Baylor on Refuge projects of Pools No. 8 and 9. The group also visited Pikes Peak State Park and had dinner at the Marquette Community Center.

The event also had several keynote speakers, including filmmaker Tim Jacobson, creator of the films “Mysteries of the Driftless” and “Decoding the Driftless."

“It’s really a networking event for all 10 State Commissioners to learn more. It really helps people to meet each other and to be able to network in order to push people up and down the river,” said Jane Regan of Waukon, who just finished a term of six years on the Commission, a position appointed by the governor of Iowa.

Regan said the MRPC historically was formed to oversee the Great River Road, a concept proposed post-Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although Roosevelt wasn’t in office long enough to see his idea come to fruition, the idea did eventually take off.

Each state which borders the Mississippi River - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana - has Commissioners which represent each county that borders the river.

Regan said the opening reception was an excellent way to highlight the new Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center in Lansing. “We had already applied to become an Interpretive Center, and we wanted everyone to see it before they voted Thursday,” said Regan.

Regan said to become a National Interpretive Center, a venue “has to interpret the Great River Road and Mississippi River and how it all ties together.” By meeting there, the Commissioners were able to see how the new Center accomplishes that.

Regan said Allamakee and Clayton counties do a great job of promoting the river. The state’s travel website, traveliowa.com, has a section for the Great River Road, which is a National Scenic Byway.

“The Great River Road has the most hits of any other section on the Travel Iowa website,” said Regan.

During the meeting, the Friends of Pool 9 received an Environmental Stewardship Award, and Regan received honorary member status on the Commission. “The Allamakee County Commissioner’s position is open at this time, so we’re seeking a replacement in the county,” said Regan. Visit MRPCmembers.com for more information on the Commission and its functions.

Regan said she is proud of how the Driftless Area Commissioners hosted the group and said she received a lot of positive feedback.

“They said it was the best national meeting they’d ever been to with the best programming. Usually these meetings are in a big city venue near a large airport. Their comments spoke well of Iowa and what we planned,” she said.

Regan said she also was pleased with the National Interpretive Center award. “After the Commissioners had the opportunity to see the Center, there was no question that it would be awarded National Interpretive status,” said Regan.

For more information about the Commission, visit MRPCmembers.com. For more information about the Great River Road, visit travel iowa.com.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)