New park gets funding: State approves $2.85 mil for Mississippi River park proposed for south Brainerd

In 2017, the group came up with Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park, a community education and gathering space along the Mississippi on East River Road in Brainerd. The funds will come from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

The Mississippi River shore is part of the scenic beauty of Brainerd. Funding for the Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park has been approved. The first stage of it's development is expected to move forward. It will be located across from the Brainerd High School football field and south of Mississippi Terrace apartments. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch / Steve Kohls

A new park along the Mississippi River in Brainerd is one step closer to fruition.

Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park now has $2.85 million in funding from the Minnesota Legislature’s Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which selects projects each year to receive funds from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

“It’s very satisfying after seven years of work and seven years of community involvement to see this come to fruition,” said Don Gorham, co-chair of the Brainerd Riverfront Committee, during a phone interview Tuesday, June 29.

The project’s origins date back to 2014, when the Brainerd City Council created the Mississippi Partnership Plan, Gorham said, and created a committee tasked with connecting Brainerd neighborhoods to the river. In 2017, the group came up with Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park, a community education and gathering space along the Mississippi on East River Road.

“That was identified as our initial project,” Gorham said. “We wanted to come with one project that we were going to put our energy towards to begin redevelopment of the riverfront.”


The committee worked with the National Parks Service in 2019 to gather community input and create designs in order to seek funding.

A draft concept plan from Brainerd's Riverfront Committee shows proposed plans for Mississippi Landing, a riverfront park along East River Road.

Amenities planned in the park designs include an amphitheater for concerts, plays and other community events; a canoe and kayak launch for easy access to the river; trails and pathways connected with others in the city; an outdoor classroom for various environmental learning opportunities; bike-fix stations; and a play area.

With the newly secured funds, the city can now begin the next steps to make the park a reality.

“It’s amazing,” said council member Gabe Johnson, who served as the committee’s liaison for a time. “... I would thank (Rep.) Josh Heintzeman. Our representative really got it pushed through to the Natural Resources Committee where he’s the ranking Republican member. It’s just really cool. It’s the first time in my six, seven years on city council that we’ve actually received state funding in the budget or bonding or anything other than the standard street aid stuff that we get, so it’s really exciting to get this. It’s going to be awesome to enhance the access to the river.”

City staff and officials will discuss the project further in the coming weeks, but Gorham said the next step will be for the Brainerd Parks Board to solicit requests for proposals for the engineering work at the site.

“This is very significant,” Gorham said. “This is the go-ahead. This is what we needed.”


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
What To Read Next
Get Local