ALTON — Wildlife biologist and systems ecologist Patrick McGinnis will tell the little-known story and visionary process of reclaiming Riverlands, 3,700 acres of public lands and now a globally signiﬁcant Important Bird Area, at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at Jacoby Arts Center, 627 East Broadway.
The Riverlands Story opens a joint Nature + Art exhibit, Running Water: Riverwork Project and Watershed Cairns, on view at National Great Rivers Museum, Audubon Center at Riverlands, and at the arts center.
McGinnis will reveal what he sees as challenges and opportunities going forward to ensure future water security and opportunities he sees for the Riverbend to optimize its position as a national water research and technology hub and recreational gateway to the Mississippi River.
In the mid-1980s, McGinnis began a strategic effort with the Corps of Engineers to establish a natural resource presence on the Mississippi River, in part to position the corps’ St. Louis District to better serve its operational interests on 110,000 acres of lands and waters along 300 miles of the Mississippi River and the lower 80 miles of the Illinois River. This became an opportunity to leverage federal resources to drive positive and lasting impacts at the community and system level.
Under McGinnis’ leadership The Riverlands Area Ofﬁce, established in 1989, became widely recognized as a water resource stewardship leader and innovator. Early accomplishments included the design and completion of the Riverlands Environmental Demonstration Area, later renamed the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, the formulation and successful implementation of Riverlands 2000, restoration of native plant communities to a portion of the American Bottoms, and making the case for authorization and completion of the National Great Rivers Museum.
Today Riverlands is home to an emerging interdisciplinary water resource campus and living laboratory that includes the Rivers Project Ofﬁce, the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, the Audubon Center at Riverlands, the Mel Price Locks and Dam, the National Great Rivers Museum and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. The campus and NGRREC soon will welcome its newest addition, the Swarovski Water School.
The Riverlands Story presents McGinnis’ experience making the case for the Riverlands Project, how he and his team built consensus and were effective in pursuing big ideas, and how the water-based attractions they developed are helping reshape attitudes about rivers in the region and the opportunity to reconnect communities to rivers and their natural capital in sustainable ways.
The Audubon Center at Riverlands embodies a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rivers Project Office. The center is a ﬂagship project of National Audubon Society and Audubon Missouri, collaborating with the corps on river policy issues, both locally and throughout the Mississippi River watershed. October marks the 5-year anniversary of Audubon Center at Riverlands and the launch of a new strategic plan.
NGRREC, established in 2001, and more recently co-located with the corps’s Mel Price Locks and Dam and National Great Rivers Museum in 2010, is building a reputation for forward-thinking river and watershed science and assisting federal program managers to make better-informed decisions regarding the nation’s water resources while raising student awareness and challenging the next generation of scientists to make contributions to the resiliency of natural systems.
McGinnis retired from the Corps of Engineers in 2009 and now serves as senior advisor for water resources policy and practice to the DC-based Horinko Group.
The event is free; all are welcome to attend. Doors open at 5 p.m. to view the exhibit Running Water: Riverwork Project and Watershed Cairns. To pre-register, visit jacobyartscenter.org.