Along the Mississippi: Labor day

In which we get a glimpse of reality

“You girls want a chance at a free dinner cruise?” The question rang out from behind us, all twangy like, as we walked down the ramp toward shore after a 1.5-hour riverboat tour. The day was wet and cold, so the last thing I wanted to do was get back on that boat. But free stuff is free stuff, right? So I turned around. And there was Teddy. “You girls want a free dinner cruise?” he asked again. He stood there grinning, a sledgehammer casually slung over his shoulder. “Um … what do we have to do?” I asked. He …

Along the Mississippi: A developing story

Memphis debates what to do with its riverfront

After arriving in Memphis, Tenn., birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, Katharine and I headed straight out to Mud Island for a Smashing Pumpkins concert. (Work related, I swear!) The concert was held at the Mud Island Amphitheater, an open-air venue on the long, narrow peninsula created to shelter a small harbor and keep a meandering tributary on course. While the Pumpkins performed, my attention was focused on the river flowing just behind them. Even in the cold wind and drizzle, the outdoor arena was a great place to reflect and really connect with the river. But then I began to …

Berkeley, Calif., suggests innovative solar scheme

The Berkeley, Calif., city council will soon vote on an innovative scheme to front the cost of solar panels to homeowners, who would pay the city back over 20 years as a property tax add-on. The amount to be paid back would be roughly what homeowners would save on electric bills by being sun-powered. “This plan could be our most important contribution to fighting global warming,” says Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. “We’ve already seen interest from all over the U.S. People really think this plan can go.” What will those crazy hippies think of next?

Along the Mississippi: Energy

Not the coal and gas kind, though we’ve seen lots of that

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, because it’s been a long day. We headed out of St. Louis in the mid-afternoon, but before we did, we spent some time with Laura Cohen, who heads up the Confluence Greenway Project — an incredibly complex (we’re talking Venn diagram here) conglomeration of agencies, nonprofits, and other stakeholders working to connect green spaces along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Along with her colleague Kathy Weilbacher, we traveled to one of the places they’ve worked hard to protect and publicize, the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, and got a glimpse of some of …

Along the Mississippi: One man's trash

St. Louis’ City Museum is a treasure

I apologize if the image at left is a bit hard to make out, but if it looks like a bunch of junk to you, then you’re seeing it clearly. This is the outdoor portion of the City Museum in downtown St. Louis. It’s absolutely the most unique place I’ve ever seen, and it’s completely made of "found objects." The City Museum was built using reclaimed materials like salvaged bridges, construction cranes, traffic signposts, old chimneys, and even two abandoned airplanes — all found within the city limits. A mix of children’s playground, art exhibit, and architectural wonder, the museum …

Go ask Alice

What’s up with that gated ‘community’ in Montana?

Alice Waters, long-time champion of food as a tool for building community, has done something quite un-Alice Water-like: sold her name to promote a high-dollar gated development "community" in Montana. Over on Ethicurean, there’s a great post by the novelist Charlotte McQuinn Freeman, who lives in Livingston, Montana — near the site of the quote-unquote "Ameya Preserve," the kind of high-end, "green" gated "community" that makes my blood boil. In my area of western North Carolina, gated communities often cheekily take the names of the farms they have replaced. Driving around, you’ll see an elaborate sign above a rustic gate …

Along the Mississippi: Baseball edition

In which I say a little prayer for the Sox

Oh, one more thing: today we went to the top of the Gateway Arch, and I got to peer into Busch Stadium, where my Red Sox beat the Cardinals in their still-gives-me-goosebumps 2004 World Series victory. And as I write this, they are handily beating the Colorado Rockies (13-1, bottom of the 8th) in the first game of this year’s series. Go Sox!

Along the Mississippi: Tax thyself

Guess what happens when communities cough up cash?

Earlier today, we met with three folks from the Great Rivers Greenway District in St. Louis. Their organization owes its very existence to a voter-approved one-tenth of one cent sales tax that generates $10 million each year. As a result, they’ve been able to complete about 100 miles of trails and greenways in a 1,216-square-mile area over the last few years, and have plans to create a network of 500 miles more. Not all of their financing comes from the sales tax, but it was the jumpstart the region needed to add to its open space. As I thought about …

Along the Mississippi: Same trip, different rivers

Reflections on a changing river

Having spent three days on the Mighty Mississip, I am beginning to see just how mighty it is. In Dubuque, we experienced a river that seemed to meander at a manageable pace. We saw a riverfront plaza with steps leading right into the water, and walked down the steps to reach out our hands to touch the water. It was idyllic and calming. The river here in St. Louis is an entirely different beast, meeting up with several major tributaries — the Illinois, the Missouri, and the Ohio — each confluence adding interesting twists and a whole lotta volume. Looking …