Thursday, February 1, 2018

Our Master Water Stewards program is growing

by Sage Passi

Many of the Master Water Stewards gathered in January at a potluck in Woodbury for a collaborative event with a new cohort of South Washington County Master Water Stewards. This is just one roomful of our volunteers!

We recently celebrated our new graduating class of community watershed volunteers who completed their training as Master Water Stewards. The program is a partnership between the Freshwater Society and cities, watershed districts, watershed management organizations and non-profits. We now have 16 certified Master Water Stewards doing great work in our watershed.


Joining the ranks

Each year, a new group of stewards are recruited in the fall to join the ranks of a growing cadre of volunteers who provide support for our education, natural resources and stewardship initiatives. They are truly a valuable set of eyes and ears on the ground who help us build relationships with their cities, communities and neighborhoods.

Early on in their training, we organize a tour for new Master Water Stewards to see different examples of projects installed around the district. On one of their stops this fall they visited rain gardens at Prince of Peace Church, which are maintained by volunteers.



Ramsey County Master Gardener Roger Hintze and church member Anne Haugan (on the right) share tips and history about the installation and care of Prince of Peace’s rain gardens with Stewards.
Master Water Steward Linda Neilson, (second from left in the photo) who joined the program in 2016, met the tour at the church stop. She helped Anne and her husband, Gus, get a curb-cut rain garden installed in their Roseville lawn as her capstone project.

At another stop the group visited Kristy Odland’s LEAP award-winning property in St. Paul with several lovely boulevard rain gardens, native habitat and pavers.


Chris Strong, a new Master Water Steward in training who is also participating in the Master Gardener course, checks out the plant diversity in Kristy Odland’s gardens. Kristy’s yard also features a sitting area for passerby to rest and admire the gardens. It’s also a great place to watch the eagles soaring above Beaver Lake across the street.

Training and graduation

The training is intensive! In their first year, stewards get certified by participating in an online course and in person-classes over a six month period. Along the way, they meet regularly with a cohort of other Master-Water Stewards in-training from Capitol Region and Rice Creek watershed districts.

After this initial training, they complete an “in-the-ground” capstone project and an outreach project. Next, they are required to put in 50 volunteer hours in the first year. In subsequent years, the hour requirement drops to 25 hours to keep their certification active. They are also required to complete 8 hours of continuing education annually.

Once their training is complete, a graduation ceremony and project showcase is held for Master Water Stewards across the east metro area. It’s a good opportunity for participants to connect with other stewards and learn about their capstone projects. At this year’s ceremony, Rebecca Flood, assistant commissioner for water policy at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, read a proclamation by Gov. Dayton declaring this graduation date the state’s official Master Water Stewards Day.


Our cohort of Master Water Stewards show off the Governor’s proclamation. Top (L-R): Phil Plumbo, Phyllis Webster, Paul Gardner, Bill Cranford. Middle (L-R): Linda Neilson and Rachel Hanks. Front (L-R): Anna Barker and Chris Strong.
After becoming certified, Master Water Stewards work with us to initiate new projects that address watershed issues like stormwater pollution and habitat. They work on educational projects and demonstration sites, volunteer for District events, help us brainstorm new directions, and play the important role of being sounding boards. They can play a strong role precisely because they are based in their communities and have a unique vantage point to identify opportunities for local engagement.

Our new Master Water Stewards

So who are these new Master Water Stewards? Why were they interested in joining the program, and what do they hope to gain from participating? Let’s take a look!

Phil Plumbo, Maplewood

Phil Plumbo is one of the two head beekeeper volunteers at Ramsey County's Tamarack Nature Center. He has taught beekeeping seminars and trained many beekeeper volunteers.

Shortly after he began the program, Phil helped out with a L’Etoile du Nord School field trip to Beaver Lake. He also assisted Stephanie Wang, a seasoned Master Water Steward, in improving a recently installed rain garden in that neighborhood. Phil is planning to do a shoreline restoration on Beaver Lake for his capstone project.

Phil Plumbo and his wife, Ann, assist Stephanie Wang in replacing the mulch at a Beaver Lake neighborhood rain garden.
Why are you interested in being a Master Water Steward?
I took a limnology course while at college and it sparked my interest in lakes. I have lived on several lakes and have witnessed their declining water quality.


What do you expect to gain from your participation in the program?
A better understanding of ways to improve the environmental health of our lakes, streams and rivers.


What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
I would like to see wider adoption of rain gardens, and improved water quality in our area lakes.

Michelle Natarajan, St. Paul

Michelle Natarajan investigates our office site’s dry creek bed that directs roof-run off into a rain garden.
Michelle was introduced to us by an organizer in the Como Lake neighborhood because of her interest in developing a similar adoption and cleanup program around Lake Phalen where she lives. Two of our Master Water Students and I met with her, and the next day she applied!


Why are you interested in being a Master Water Steward?I would like to be more involved in protecting water quality in my community. I work in an environmental lab, testing water quality and lake sediment samples. But because my undergraduate work was in an unrelated field, I feel that I could still benefit greatly from the scope of topics covered in this program. I would like to add to what I've learned in graduate school and my professional life in order to be a more effective advocate and steward of urban lakes, streams and rivers.

What do you expect to gain from your participation in the program? I hope to refresh and add to my knowledge of basic hydrology. I hope to better understand how storm drainage systems connect with surface water in my community. I hope to learn about local laws regarding water quality and ways that public policy and community engagement can be used to enhance and protect our natural resources. I hope to learn about strategies that can be implemented by individuals and businesses to keep local lakes clean and I hope to complete a Capstone project that makes a measurable difference in my neighborhood.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?I would like to encourage more community members to take ownership of and pride in our natural water resources so that we can work together for good policy, regular clean-ups, responsible landscaping choices, and regular water quality monitoring.

Chris Strong, St. Paul

Chris Strong (right) surveys the beautiful natural habitats in Kristy Odland’s Leap award-winning yard.
Chris Strong worked many years for a neighborhood non-profit that provides community rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities. She spent the last nine years working as an human resources director. She has skills in writing, policy development and training. She also has a strong interest in gardening and just retired last year.

Why are you interested in being a Master Water Steward?I live just off East Shore Drive, and for the past 30 years have enjoyed being close to Lake Phalen. Living in a city, on a lake filled with wildlife, is a real privilege – and I would like to see this preserved for perpetuity.
What do you expect to gain from your participation in the program?Giving back to the community and using my skills in a meaningful manner.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?A public appreciation of the natural resources that we have and an understanding of how personal actions impact the community as a whole.

Melissa Peck, Maplewood

Melissa Peck, Master Water Steward from Maplewood participates in the basic hyrdology class.
Melissa recently completed a Master’s Program in natural resources science and management at the University of Minnesota. She now works for the Environmental Quality Board at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as an environmental review planner. She is also a committee member of the community design review board for the City of Maplewood. She has training in civic engagement, public opinion and meeting facilitation.

Why are you interested in being a Master Water Steward?I’m interested in improving water quality in my community and networking with water management professionals.

What do you expect to gain from your participation in the program?Education, networking opportunities, skill building and a resume builder.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?I hope to help increase awareness of impaired water and what causes it, as well as increase community involvement in improving water quality. I am also excited to participate in water improvement projects myself.

Melissa Peck (right), Phil Plumbo and Watershed Project Manager Paige Alhborg discuss priority areas for stewardship projects in the the district.

District, Ramsey County receive grant to restore wetland and forest habitat near Snail Lake

by Bill Bartodziej, Natural Resources Specialist


Photo by Sage Passi.


Natural habitat in need

Nestled between Snail and Grass Lakes lies a large parcel of Ramsey County parkland supporting wetlands and remnant oak forest that have been spared significant human disturbance. Additionally, it has unique topography with an impressive diversity of micro-habitats and plant species. Popular walking trails encourage residents to enjoy the area, and it is the largest undeveloped parcel in the northern part of our watershed.

Unfortunately, the area has become degraded by invasive plants over the last few decades, and in recent years has been threatened by flooding.
Mature oak forest habitat has been degraded
by invasive buckthorn. Photo by Sage Passi.

In November, the District and Ramsey County were awarded a DNR Conservation Partners Legacy Grant of $252,000, to restore this land. It is an extremely competitive grant program, so we are quite fortunate that this project was selected. The ecological restoration will involve erosion control, invasive species removal, and the reintroduction of native plant species to improve the health, integrity and sustainability of the parkland.


Project partnership

Site preparation work will begin this year, and revegetation efforts – seeding and planting – will begin in 2019 and conclude in 2021. The District and the county is committed to monitoring and maintenance over the long term. We will focus our efforts on 60 acres of degraded forest and 4,000 linear feet of wetland edge, totaling 4 acres of wetland buffer. District staff will lead the buffer restoration work, while county staff will head the upland forest restoration. This type of partnership with Ramsey County has worked well in the past, where we have maximized technical know-how and project funding. 

The wetland buffer restoration will address areas that were inundated by the high water conditions and overrun with invasive plants like reed canary grass and buckthorn. Eliminating erosion and increasing native plant diversity will have substantial ecological benefits to the entire wetland complex.
Shoreview Public Works Director Mark Maloney and
others toured the restoration site in September.
Photo by Kathryn Keefer.
Before any revegetation takes place, findings from our ongoing hydrological study of the area will be used to develop a restoration plan for the wetland buffer. Being adjacent to a popular walking path, park users will be able to view the restoration as it matures over time. We hope this will demonstrate a viable land management option to residents who are contemplating their own wetland or lakeshore restoration projects.


We look forward to bringing in additional community partners, including more than 300 students from five local schools. Master Gardeners and Master Water Stewards will assist the students with native planting. The Ramsey County Correctional Facility will grow the plants to be used in this restoration and also supply inmate work crews to conduct site preparation. We will also enlist local volunteer groups to collect native seed from nearby restoration sites to use on the project.

We expect these partnerships to provide excellent educational opportunities, community ownership and substantial cost savings. Most importantly, the project will bring much needed stewardship to this important ecosystem.

Restoration map

The project will restore 60 acres of woodland (shown in red) and 4 acres of wetland buffer (in yellow).






Tuesday, January 16, 2018

District proceeds with plans to optimize drainage near Grass Lake and Snail Lake

Winter weather means construction season in the watershed world, and we are moving forward with plans to optimize drainage and restore natural habitat in the Grass Lake and Snail Lake area. This work is part of an ongoing study commissioned by the District in response to persistent high water conditions and concerns among local residents.


This map shows the location of projects underway to restore habitat and optimize drainage of the Grass Lake and Snail Lake system, along with surface water flow paths shown by the blue arrows. Numbered items are explained in the “Projects underway” section below.


Projects underway


1) Restore natural habitat


In partnership with Ramsey County, we were recently awarded a Conservation Partners Legacy Grant of $252,000 from the Minnesota DNR to restore 60 acres of degraded forest and about four acres of wetland habitat. This 4-year project will begin this year as we remove invasive vegetation like buckthorn and prepare the site for native planting.

2) Grass Lake berm

Plans are underway to construct a permanent berm along the north side of Grass Lake to replace two sections of temporary sandbags. The berm will help contain high waters on the lake’s northern shoreline, and construction is slated to be complete by March.


3) Twin Culverts under Ramsey County trail

East of the berm, we plan to add two 44-inch by 26-inch culverts to carry water from Grass Lake underneath the Ramsey County walking trail to an adjacent marsh. This will improve drainage beyond the smaller 18-inch culvert currently running underneath the trail.


4) Dredge Grass Lake east shoreline


We will remove about 775 cubic yards of sediment along east shoreline of Grass Lake and dig out a 360-foot-long channel 2 feet below the lake bottom to allow better drainage to the new culverts being installed.


5) Improve channel between Grass Lake and Railroad Tracks

To improve flow between Grass Lake and a wetland area near the railroad tracks to the east, we will remove about 1,825 cubic yards of sediment and dig out a 560-foot-long channel.


6) Improve channel into West Vadnais Lake

To improve flow from Grass Lake into West Vadnais Lake, we will remove about 160 cubic yards of sediment from the downstream end of two Rice Street culverts. Riprap will be placed at the end of the culverts to keep sediment from building up in the future.


7) Replace West Vadnais Blvd. culvert


To keep water flowing south under West Vadnais Boulevard, we will replace the current 12-inch culvert with a larger and slightly lower 44-inch by 26-inch culvert.


8) Improve West Vadnais Lake outlet

We are pursuing permits to improve the West Vadnais Lake outlet, which flows south under I-694, by replacing a section of the current 15-inch pipe with a larger 24-inch pipe. In addition, a new trash guard and riprap will help keep debris from blocking the outlet.


Potential projects

We are studying the feasibility of several potential projects to create additional water storage within the Grass/Snail Lake system or move water out of the system. These options are outlined in a recent Barr Engineering study and include:
  • Installing an outlet pipe from Snail Lake, which is currently landlocked, to Grass Lake. The pipe would be equipped with a manual gate to prevent backflow into Snail Lake, and only opened when Grass Lake water levels are low enough to accept flows from Snail.
  • Pumping water from Snail Lake to Sucker Lake in order to lower water levels in Snail Lake. An augmentation pipe is currently in place to carry water from Sucker to Snail (when Snail Lake levels are low), but it was not designed to work in reverse.
  • Study the connection between Snail Lake and the marsh bordering it to the northwest to confirm its connection to Snail Lake and its availability to store Snail Lake flood waters.
  • Managing water levels in ponds around Gramsie Road.
  • Constructing an emergency overflow on Grass Lake that would carry water north in very large storm events, reducing the risk of Rice Street flooding.
  • Lowering the outlet for West Vadnais Lake to create additional water storage in both West Vadnais and Grass lakes.
  • Installing a system to pump and treat water from West Vadnais into East Vadnais Lake in order to promote drainage of the entire Grass/Snail lake system. Since St. Paul draws its drinking water from East Vadnais Lake, any water pumped there would need to meet strict quality standards according to St. Paul Regional Water Services and other regulators.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Conservation heroes honored at annual recognition dinner

Glass artist Eric Sommers designed this year's Watershed Excellence Awards based on the structure of a water molecule.

During our annual recognition dinner held Nov. 8 at Keller Golf Course in Maplewood, we recognized several local citizens and conservation professionals for their outstanding efforts in the watershed. The evening was also a great chance to connect with dozens of friends and partners who continue to make positive contributions in our community.


Here are this year’s Watershed Excellence Awards recipients, followed by photos of other attendees who helped make this a special night.


Watershed Excellence Awards

Mark Gernes
Roger Lake Stewardship Excellence Award
Award recipient Mark Gernes(left) with presenter
Dana Larsen-Ramsay. Photo by Anita Jader.

Mark Gernes has been a RWMWD volunteer for 24 years, contributing scientific expertise and enthusiasm to countless watershed projects. As a research scientist for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, a former state park naturalist and Maplewood resident, he brings a wealth of plant and animal knowledge, monitoring expertise, and dedication to improving the natural environment. He is a current member of the District’s Citizen Advisory Commission and serves as co-chair of its LEAP and Environmental Forum teams.


Virginia Gaynor
Outstanding Partner Award

Award recipient Ginny Gaynor (left) with presenter
Mark Gernes. Photo by Anita Jader.
Virginia (Ginny) Gaynor, natural resources coordinator for the City of Maplewood, has successfully merged city projects and District goals through her vision, support and open communication. She is instrumental in the preservation and  restoration of open spaces including Fish Creek Natural Area and Gladstone Savanna. She has championed new conservation techniques such as using compost bags for shoreline stabilization at Kohlman Creek and a reinforced turf parking lot at Bruentrup Heritage Farm. A creative leader in rain garden design, Ginny has developed innovative prototypes and led many workshops.


Ann Hutchinson (left) accepted her award in costume
with presenter Sage Passi. Photo by Anita Jader.
Ann Hutchinson
Youth Engagement Award

Ann Hutchinson, lead naturalist at Maplewood Nature Center, is a creative leader in engaging youth in watershed, habitat and outdoor learning projects. Since the early 2000's, she and her team of naturalists have engaged hundreds of local students in watershed topics by using theater, puppets and outdoor experiences like rain garden planting. Ann recently partnered with RWMWD to offer pollinator and watershed lessons for students in St. Paul, North St. Paul and Maplewood, along with service learning opportunities at Southwood Nature Preserve, Fish Creek and Beaver Lake.


Anita Jader
Conservation Champion Award

Award recipient Anita Jader, District Administrator
Tina Cartsens and presenter Michele Hanson.
Photographer Anita Jader has helped to raise awareness of native landscaping in the watershed, and she has photographed dozens of RWMWD events including the annual awards dinner and WaterFest. Anita and her husband Scott were pioneers in restoring their shoreline on Kohlman Lake, using native plants to prevent erosion and provide pollinator habitat. She has generously shared private access to the lake for carp management and other District projects, and she actively supports invasive buckthorn and garlic mustard removal in the watershed.


Cathy Troendle
Community Catalyst Award
Award recipient Cathy Troendle (left) with presenter
Karen Wold. Photo by Anita Jader.
Cathy Troendle is a strong leader in restoring Southwood Nature Preserve in North St. Paul as a valuable natural area and educational resource for the community. She has volunteered thousands of hours to remove invasive species, organize prescribed burns, grow plants, coordinate volunteers, raise funds and implement the preserves’ management plan. Cathy organizes an annual Prairie Days festival, leads classroom lessons and field days for local students, and has been active in the Master Naturalist program for the past 10 years.


Debbie Meister
WaterFest Champion Award
Award recipient Debbie Meister (left) with presenter
Linda Neilson. Photo by Anita Jader.
Debbie Meister has been the driving force and creative impetus behind the success of WaterFest, RWMWD’s annual community event, for many years. Thanks to her collaborative leadership, WaterFest has become a rich venue to learn about water, natural resources and taking action in the watershed. Beginning months in advance, Debbie engages cities and partner agencies, solicits sponsorships, coordinates exhibitors and volunteers, and promotes the festival to local media. WaterFest 2018 will be held June 2 at Phalen Regional Park.

Faces in the crowd

Enjoy a few candid shots of this year's recognition dinner captured by Anita Jader, Conservation Champion and our go-to photographer for District events.

The watershed community celebrates at Keller Golf Course.

Board members Cliff Aichinger and Dianne Ward.

Master Water Steward Chris Strong and her husband Richard showed off their
door prizes: buckthorn walking sticks created by Carol Gernes and Debbie Barnes.

Youth Engagement Award recipient Ann Hutchinson fittingly donned a heron
costume she uses to teach young people about watershed conservation.

Jordan and Sarah Wein of Carp Solutions and Capitol Region Watershed District, respectively,
brought their son Cooper (the evening's youngest guest).

L-R: Sherry Brooks, retired Farnsworth Elementary science specialist, Henriette Bissoy,
L'Etoile du Nord science specialist, and Ed Shinbach, Master Gardener school coordinator.

Board member Jen Oknich looked on as her daughter received a door prize from intern Matt Doneaux.

Artist Eric Sommers (left) displays Mark Gernes' Watershed Excellence Award. Eric crafted
this year's awards using glass, white marble and cedar at his studio in Minneapolis.
 

Ramsey County Master Gardener Sally Prouty was the lucky winner
of this wooden birdhouse handmade and donated by Dave Nelson.

Announcing the arrival of twins – Woodbury rain gardens

by Sage Passi


Rain Gardens, like births, are harbors for crests and hurdles, heroines and heroes. This birth analogy surfaced in an article I wrote to describe Woodbury’s first school rain garden created at Crosswinds Arts and Sciences ten years ago. Woodbury Elementary School’s latest project is the “sixth child” in our most recent series of school rain gardens.


These two rain gardens emerged last month as the final demonstration sites in Clean Water Legacy and District cost share funded school projects, which were initiated in 2014 to treat runoff from large impervious expanses of parking lots, driveways and roads adjacent to schools in our district.

Fourth graders “rock it” by planting prairie dropseed on the rain garden
berm on School Drive. Across the street is the second rain garden.

Preceding Woodbury Elementary in this installation process were Maplewood Middle School, Weaver Elementary and Harmony Learning Center rain gardens planted in the fall of 2016. The next projects at Roseville Area Middle School and Central Park Elementary were completed only a week or two before Woodbury in early October 2017.

The rain gardens in Woodbury are HUGE. They needed to be built to a scale that would allow them to capture runoff from such a large drainage area.

The Woodbury Elementary and Middle School campus areas that produce runoff to Battle Creek Lake
include the blue areas (2.5 acres of impervious surfaces) and the green areas (5.5 acres) that
are considered semi-impervious since much of the turf is compacted and contributes runoff.

Strong school advocates

Woodbury Elementary was granted a letter grade of “A” in a watershed district-wide public school assessment process and ranked as a top priority because it had high ratings for potential stormwater benefits, constructability and educational value.

The people involved in this project are equally deserving of high marks.

The first hero to emerge was Mike Vogel. For the first two years after our assessment, this potential project seemed to be stalled, despite our initial efforts to pitch the idea to the school district. We just didn’t seem to be getting a green light until Mike was hired as director of facilities and construction management in School District 837. Then everything changed.

When we met at the school in mid-November of 2016 with Mike and Connha Classon, the school’s principal, they were both receptive to the idea of a project on their site. Unlike our other five school projects, this one required presentations at several school board meetings. But with Mike at the helm, it went like clockwork, even when we had to go through two votes to get approval.

Connha became a strong advocate for the rain gardens. She believed in the viability of this project, helped us coordinate our efforts with the teachers, gave a positive pitch at the school board meeting and arranged for press coverage during the planting. Her affirmation made a big difference!

Fourth graders contemplate the amount of impervious parking lot
and roadway surfaces that will drain to their new rain gardens.
 


All hands on deck

With Woodbury we started by engaging fourth grade classes in the fall of 2016 to the spring 2017 with a variety of educational activities with help from Master Water Stewards, Master Gardeners and Washington Conservation District staff. Fourth graders from this school had been attending the Metro Children’s Water Festival for the past three or more years, so we knew there was some interest in water issues. But this event had been our only previous contact with students from this school.

The fourth grade teachers rose to the occasion and jumped into the lessons and activities we had in store for them! See the March issue of the Ripple Effect for a description of the previous school year’s lessons.

In the spring and fall of 2017, we added lessons for the Woodbury Middle School sixth and seventh graders since this school is located next to the elementary school, and we needed all hands on deck for planting. They expressed a strong desire to help with the project, too. Kudos to their science team for stepping up to the plate and getting their students involved in the project!

Melissa Habeck’s seventh grade science students kick off the planting marathon by planting native shrubs on the hillside.

Months of preparation came together when we teamed up those 17 classrooms (564 students) and their 10 teachers, teaching assistants and parents with Washington Conservation District staff, Washington and Ramsey County Master Gardeners, Master Water Stewards, Maplewood Nature Center naturalists, Watershed District staff and interns. The true community value of projects like these culminates in that realm of team-building, relationship bonding and joint experiential learning.

Wrestling with a rootbound pot is sometimes the only way to free a plant.

This student knew exactly how to loosen this plant from its pot.
He admitted he had a lot of experience planting prior to the project.

I believe it was well worth the long wait to position this Woodbury project at the end of the series. As a watershed district, we needed to be ready to take on a project of this magnitude, and we had certainly learned a lot during previous projects that we could apply here.

As someone who started out designing and building “baby size” home rain gardens alongside Ramsey County and Washington County Master Gardeners, I have come to the conclusion that no matter what the size and the complexity of a project, there are always surprises, challenges and amazing high points. Of course, it’s all good and part of the birthing process!

Meet our team!

The people are what make these projects come alive. Engaging students and partners in the planting, for me, is always the frosting on the cake. But the planting process is also the measure of our true grit! Here are some of the people who helped by hauling equipment, working with students and performing countless other tasks needed to get 1,433 native plants in the ground.


Back (L-R): Sage Passi, Scott Hanson, Stephanie Wang, Carmen Johnson, Anna Barker,
Angie Hong and Judy Koster. Front (L-R): Konnie Her and Lauren Haydon.

Angie Hong, Washington Conservation District, takes a moment to pause for the camera. 

Lauren Haydon (center), Washington Conservation District, helps break through
the compacted berm so that students can plant their gallon pots of prairie dropseed.

Judy Koster, Washington County Master Gardener, helped with the planting all three days.
When I thanked her afterwards by email she responded by saying, “It was fun working with you
and your team. You can call on me as a volunteer for other local projects.”

Anna Barker, Washington County Master Gardener and Master Water Steward, recruited her
fellow Master Gardeners for the project and was a great support person who worked with the classes. 

Five Washington County Master Gardeners (Anna Barker, Jody Koster, Carmen Johnson, Lisa Moran and Laura Opsahl) stepped up to the plate to help on the project. I was thrilled to have their involvement on multiple days because there had been a long hiatus in their involvement with the District over the past ten years (except for Anna B) as their organization experienced a lot of transitions.

L-R: Lisa Moran and Carmen Johnson, Washington County Master Gardeners, and Angie Hong.

Many years ago teams of Washington Master Gardeners worked with us on several demonstration home rain gardens as we were learning the process of design and installation. They also helped us at Crosswinds School. So getting them involved again was a giant leap forward. We also had the great assistance of a Ramsey County Master Gardener, Don Vegoe.


One of our Master Water Stewards, Stephanie Wang, provided a high level of support in both the set-up and the installation. She transported equipment, assisted volunteers with planting, providing three days of labor and lots of morale building! Another great duo of support were Maplewood seasonal staff Konnie Her and Kayla Wolfe. Thank you to Dana Boyle for meeting me out at the site the night before (in the dark) to install the signs for our planting areas.

Stephanie Wang, Woodbury Master Water Steward, teases the roots of a plant the students will put in the ground.

Scott Hanson, a parent volunteer, would prove to be a champion during the three-day planting. We couldn’t have done the project without his dedication. He showed up early each day for set-up,  hauled the shovels home every night so we didn’t have to leave them onsite, helped students with planting, assisted with clean-up and watering of the trees each day, hauled water buckets so the kids could water their plants and recruited his wife for the project. His fourth-grade daughter was one of the students who helped in the garden.

Scott Hanson, Woodbury parent and volunteer extraordinaire,
protects newly planted Joe Pye weed with several stakes.


Tracy Leavenworth kept up the pace of providing orientation demonstrations for each of the 17 classes and assisted us with layout and coordination each day.

Tracy Leavenworth demonstrates how to plant.

Chris O’Brien, our communications coordinator, assisted with the planting and used our Go-Pro Camera to capture the time-lapse video below.




We appreciated Chad Snuggerud, school district grounds foreman, who appeared each morning with a 250-gallon container of water we used for watering the plants and trees and picked it up at night. He even showed up for our Smart Salting workshop in late November. Chad rocks!

Thanks also to Barr Engineering staff, especially Matt Kumka, for design and project management, Watershed Project Manager Paige Alhborg for her oversight,  the contractor SunRam and the behind-the-scenes planting and maintenance contractors, Wetland Habitats and Minnesota Natives.


Paige Ahlborg, watershed project manager, assists students with planting.

Working with the students and their teachers is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, and the purpose of this project rings loud and strong. The true affirmation of our work comes when you open up the possibilities for students to become empowered and they get to express the joy of digging in the dirt, handling the plants and working together to solve community issues.

Thanks to Wetland Habitats for installing interpretive signs at each of our six rain garden projects.

Our many thanks to the teachers and their students who participated in these projects. Fourth grade: Nicky Thompson, Melissa Craig, Alana Hansen and Zach Hendrickson. Fifth grade teachers: Ali Flaata, Burt Roberts and Patti Diamond. At the Middle School level, science teachers: Ashley Schultz, David Rafferty and Melissa Habeck. We couldn’t have done it without you.

We'd like to acknowledge and thank the schools we have worked with on these projects for being models to the community and providing us with places to foster unique educational and watershed stewardship opportunities.

Although these first large-scale projects are now complete, we will continue to identify locations to install best management practices on school grounds in the coming years. Stay tuned!