River Voices: Alora Jones

I grew up living your average suburb kid life, not too far off the Minnesota River. My dad moved to Minnesota in the seventies from Greenville, Mississippi—a small town right off the Mississippi River— and my mom grew up in a rural town called Jordan near the Minnesota. Appropriately, they made their first home together in St. Paul near where these two rivers meet.

Childhood picture of Alora and her sister showing off the day's catch

As a kid, I cherished the many times I got to spend on, in or near Minnesota’s waters. This was my happy place and, not knowing the threats facing our waters, I enjoyed them all to my full ability.

As a kid, I cherished the many times I got to spend on, in or near Minnesota’s waters. This was my happy place and, not knowing the threats facing our waters, I enjoyed them all to my full ability. Fast forward twenty-or-so years, the lake that I used to attend day camp at has closed its swimming beach due to contamination, and I’ve learned that I never should have been swimming in Sand Creek to begin with due to all of the agricultural runoff. I’ve found out that it’s no longer safe to eat the fish from the lake we used to frequent as a family on weekends, and that our summer vacation getaway, a chain of lakes right off the Sauk River in Richmond, is also on the impaired list due to heavy nutrient loads in the water.

I share all of this not to paint a picture of doom and gloom, but to illustrate how easy it is to not see these problems even as they’re unfolding before you. I’ve lived in Minnesota for my entire life and, up until recently, was largely unaware of what’s actually been going on beneath the surface of some of my favorite bodies of water. It’s frighteningly easy to overlook a problem when you don’t realize it’s happening.

That’s why I’m so committed to the work of this campaign, and to the work that The Nature Conservancy is doing broadly. Education is perhaps one of the most important steps we can take as a state when it comes to addressing Minnesota’s worsening water quality. We owe it to future generations to educate ourselves on the issues so that we can do something about them. We need to be educating our neighbors so we can enlist their help in the fight against pollution and water degradation in our most cherished waters. And we need to be willing to speak up and educate our lawmakers on the consequences of not taking action for this precious resource that we all share.

We can and should have open beaches, safe fishing and clean drinking water for all Minnesotans. It’s one of the things that makes this state such an amazing place to live. And it’s something that I believe is worth fighting for. My guess is that you landed on this page because you believe it is, too.

Two people chatting by the headwaters of the Mississippi
Two people chatting by the headwaters of the Mississippi
Image Credit
© Mark Godfrey

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How has your connection to water shaped your life path? Do you have a favorite Minnesota lake or river? How are you sharing your love of Minnesota waters with others? Whatever motivates you to take action for Our Mississippi, we want to hear about it!