New agreements between the National Park Service’s (NPS) non-profit charitable partner Mississippi Park Connection (MPC), the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) created a pilot program that brings “paddle share” stations to Minneapolis’ Upper Riverfront. This exciting initiative will be the first paddle share program on the Mississippi River and the first paddle share program in a national park!
Paddle share stations are similar to a bike share stations like Nice Ride Minnesota, but there are some differences. Users go online to paddleshare.org to reserve kayaks for a specific date and time, review safety precautions and a safety video, sign a waiver and pay for the reservation.
Once the reservation is paid, users will receive a code that unlocks a station on the selected date and time at either North Mississippi Regional Park (near Kroening Interpretive Center) or the MWMO Stormwater Park and Learning Center, enabling them to get all necessary equipment (kayak, paddle, life jacket). Check with the NPS for times staff and volunteers will be available onsite to help explain the paddle share program and share info about the river and the national park.
Users can paddle upriver or downriver, but the rental equipment must be returned to the return station at Boom Island Park (on the southern edge of the park next to the existing canoe racks) before the allotted time is up. All stations are aligned with Nice Ride Minnesota bike share stations so users are able to paddle downriver and then bike back to where they started. Check Nice Ride bike availability and transit schedules at rivertripplanner.org.
The location of the pilot program was chosen after carefully studying seven potential routes. This section of the river is close to underserved Northside community residents, within walking distance of multiple riverfront destinations and entertainment venues, showcases a picturesque portion of the Mississippi and does not require installing new river access points.
User safety is of utmost concern. The MPC developed an Operations and Safety Plan that outlines safety parameters and provides criteria for shutting down the system in the event of bad weather or an emergency. River flow volumes, wind speed, lightning strikes and air temperature need to be within specified limits for the system to be operable, and users must wear a life jacket at all times.