Monday, December 24, 2012

Sweet Sixteen and In the Driver's Seat

Have you ever wanted to help the environment but not know how, or needed approval and support rather than “go it alone?”  Sixteen months ago District staff discovered many such people around Lake Phalen.  Interests in the restored shoreline, water quality, litter control and invasive plants were frequently expressed as well as interest in outdoor recreation.  While some were already taking action on their own, support and coordination needs were frequently expressed.

In search of support and coordination opportunities, District staff held a get-acquainted picnic in August 2011, followed by brainstorming meetings that Fall, resulting in a 2012 Action Plan.   

Throughout 2012 many of the Action Plan activities were accomplished and new activities added (Girl Scout Service Projects, wood duck house maintenance, helping educate people at an event in the upper reaches of the Chain of Lakes) with the help of the District education program staff. 

Sixteen months later, the Stewards of the Phalen Chain of Lakes  (SPCOL) are taking over the driver’s seat, and moving forward with a growing foundation of local government staff on common goals, including enhancing the existing Water Trail though the Chain of Lakes as far upstream as Markham Pond and Casey Lake. 

Looking back we can see the evolution of leadership that made it possible for local leaders to discuss among themselves their Chain of Lakes Water Trail vision.

Foung leads a wildflower tour for Hmong elders at Lake Phalen
  • Foung Hawj brings a strong interest in watershed education and stewardship to the Senate floor as a newly-elected Senator.  For many years he introduced his friends to recreation on and around Lake Phalen by recruiting them for the Clean Water Dragon Boat Zaj Dej Huv Paddlers at the annual Dragon Festival.  He also drew people to similar interests through the Asian Outdoor Heritage group that he started, his Environmental and Outdoor Enthusiasts Facebook Group, and his bike and canoe trips along the Chain of Lakes. He also assisted with educating local residents about the restored shoreland plants at Lake Phalen. 
Rep. Tim Mahoney speaks at the
Phalen Park Stone Arch Bridge
Dedication at WaterFest 2012
  • Tim Mahoney, State Representative, grew up in the neighborhood, graduated from Harding High School and attended SPCOL meetings to express his vision of the Phalen-Keller Regional Park as a “recreational bonanza”  (St. Paul Legal Ledger November 3, 2008). 

    SPCOL Clean-ups team
  • Advocates of litter cleanups along the Chain of Lakes from St. Paul upstream through Maplewood met several times in 2012 to plan collaborative cleanup events.  Their efforts seek to improve the beauty and water quality along the Chain of Lakes. The group had the exciting opportunity to support local Girl Scout troops this fall during their Centennial Day of Service. On October 13th, the girls collected and removed hundreds of bags of leaves from our watershed in their effort to improve water quality.  With continued support from the Stewards of the Phalen Chain of Lakes, the troops hope to create a tradition of a fall leaf clean-up service project.  [From left to right in photo above:  St. Paul Parks and Recreation Volunteer Coordinator Andy Rodriguez, St. Paul Public Works staff Kris Hageman, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Green Team member Dennis Paulson, cigarette butt litter collector hero Roger Svendsen, and members of the Maplewood Environmental and Natural Resources Commission.]    
MN Standup Paddleboarders stage a
cleanup along Lake Phalen during
WaterFest 2012
  • Dave and Cherie Englund sought a wide variety of ways to give their Minnesota Standup Paddleboarders opportunities to cleanup the waterways they love to explore. 
This list is just a sample of the powerful actions being done by a few visionary residents we've been involved with.  Are you a dreamer too?  Or already in the driver’s seat?  If so, share your projects and ideas in the comment box below.

Louise Watson
District Education Program

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