Thank you to our 2023 volunteers and youth participants!

Volunteer and youth clean up, water plants and save seeds

So many people volunteered to help the river in 2023! (Photos by FMR and Tom Reiter)

We're so grateful to a total of 1,874 volunteer event participants for joining us to restore habitat, monitor water quality, stencil storm drains, clean up the riverway and more this year. This year, we also were lucky to work with 1,081 young river stewards, classroom and youth program participants.

You made a difference for the river! Here are some of our program highlights for 2023.

Youth and education highlights

In 2023, FMR worked with classes and youth groups in classrooms and outdoors, connecting with our environment and engaging in restoration and stewardship. Thanks to 434 young river stewards from across the Twin Cities metro area for taking the initiative to make volunteering a priority and for all they contributed in 2023.

Youth groups and schools volunteered 847.5 hours in 2023. Whether they were pulling garlic mustard in the Mississippi River Gorge or stenciling storm drains throughout the metro area, youth volunteers made a crucial contribution to FMR's efforts to protect, restore and enhance the river and its watershed. This year 647 young people also participated in 2,215 education hours through our youth-oriented programs.

Environmental Stewardship Institute

In 2023, FMR's Environmental Stewardship Institute (ESI) summer intensive program — part of our career pathways program for high school-aged youth — focused on the guiding theme of Mississippi Past and Present: the impact of colonization and industrialization on our waters. We focused on the history of the Twin Cities and how that led to the river we know today.

During the six-week program co-led by our four assistants, 18 fellows created unique and creative projects on a wide variety of topics, from a river cleanup event to a zine about sustainable agriculture. The program culminated with the ESI fellows presenting their projects to family, friends and their ESI colleagues.

Our ESI Advisory Council (the school-year component of ESI) weighed in on the Metropolitan Council's 2050 plan and participated in other environmental leadership opportunities.

Volunteer highlights

In 2023, an impressive 1,874 volunteer event participants contributed 5,654 hours to help the river. We are so grateful to our amazing river stewards who show up to tend to the health of our river and support FMR's work.

Of those participants, over 700 volunteers joined us for restoration events. We held more than three dozen staffed restoration events this year at 19 different sites around the metro area. Our staff also supported independent volunteer efforts by groups such as the Friends of William H. Houlton Conservation Area and the Gorge Leadership Team. Restoration volunteers removed garlic mustard and spotted knapweed, lopped and hauled buckthorn, gathered native prairie seed, tended restoration sites and planted 150 trees in 2023. 

Volunteers with our wildlife and pollinator monitoring programs helped FMR ecologists track the impact of our restoration efforts on a wide range of plant and animal species. Volunteers contributed over 200 hours monitoring pollinators and other wildlife in 2023.

We continued to grow our BIPOC River Stewards program, thanks to partnerships with Mississippi Park Connection and the Longfellow Community Council. In 2023, BIPOC River Stewards planted trees in the Mississippi River Gorge and built relationships among volunteers, FMR and Mississippi Park Connection staff.

Our Stream Health Evaluation Program (SHEP) partnership with Rice Creek Watershed District came back for its eighteenth season, bringing together 30 participants (23 returners and 7 brand new) to collect water samples and identify macro-invertebrates in the lab. Their work helps to assess the health of three streams that ultimately drain into the Mississippi. Look for the annual SHEP report in the new year to see what these volunteers discovered in their streams! 

In our storm drain stenciling program, 475 volunteers stenciled 1,498 storm drains in the Twin Cities metro and shared 2,537 flyers with community members to spread the word about why keeping storm drains clean is so important. In addition, 356 volunteers cleaned up litter at metro area parks. We want to thank the many families, classrooms, community and corporate groups who partnered with us this season.

Volunteer and learn with us

Interested in our youth programming? Educators can download complete curriculum kits or request in-person classroom lessons for K-12 classrooms in the greater Twin Cities metro area. High school and college-aged youth can check out our career pathways opportunities. Contact education@fmr.org with questions.

To stay in touch about volunteer events and stewardship programs, contact volunteer@fmr.org. You can always check out our events calendar for up-to-date offerings, or sign up for our e-newsletter Mississippi Messages.

Thank you!

When we come together to care for our river, we build healthier ecosystems and forge stronger connections with the natural world and each other. We are excited to continue this life-giving work with you in 2024!

Explore all of our Stewardship & Education updates.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, June 25, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Nicollet Island, Minneapolis
New date: Saturday, August 10, 2024 at 5 p.m.
Hidden Falls Regional Park, St. Paul
Wednesday, August 14, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific & Natural Area, Inver Grove Heights