Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring into Action: Signs of the Season in the District

By: Sage Passi

Here are some true signs of spring after such a long and fickle entry for this year's season!

1.  The arrival of spring ephemerals, and their fans.

Left: Ann Hutchinson, Lead Naturalist at Maplewood Nature Center, leads a wildflower hike at Fish Creek. 
Top middle: Merrybell rises above the oak leaf blanket along Fish Creek.  Top right: Rue anemone pops up at Fish Creek. Lower right: Ann leads a group into the Fish Creek Preserve to search for spring wildflowers.

2. The annual clean-ups get scheduled and rescheduled……………

This year despite everyone’s best efforts at organizing, many of the city clean-ups had to resort to other tactics for coordinating people to help with clean-up of city parks due to spring snowstorms and inclement weather. Two postponements for the city of St. Paul led to them respond creatively by turning to social media as a way to solicit help. They offered groups the opportunity to post their clean-ups on Facebook and win tickets to use the city’s aquatic facilities (see our News and Events tab for more details).

Patty Kamas, Business Outreach Manager at the Postal Credit Union (PCU), gives
instructions for the clean-up at North St. Paul's Environmental Learning Center. 

Each year, the Watershed District partners with the Postal Credit Union to organize a clean-up at North St. Paul's Environmental Learning Center around PCU Pond across from Target.  This year 87 Richardson third and fourth-graders teamed up with 25 Harmony Learning Center students (Randee Edmundson, teacher) to clean up the perimeter of the pond.

3.  Spring brings a flurry of new prospects for rain gardens.
Henriette Ngo-Bissoy's students at L'Etoile du Nord School remove chicken wire
that was protecting bulb plantings done last fall.  Next, they will plant native seedlings grown
by students over the winter for a legacy garden to be left for the new school that moves in next fall.

Each year the Watershed District, Maplewood Nature Center and Ramsey Conservation District partner to offer classes in rain garden construction and design. The last in the series is Wednesday, May 23.  More information and registration info here.

If you already have a rain garden, take part in our Rain Garden rewind class to get a handle on weed identification and maintenance tips for your garden. It will be held on Thursday, June 20 at Robinhood Park in Maplewood. More information here.

Class participants get a Soils 101 identification lesson to help them
determine their soil's infiltration capacity and depth for their rain garden.
Participants in earlier classes in the Stopping Water Where it Drops series had a lesson in site assessment (photo to right).  Here they are shown getting in-the-field experience at Liz Biagi's yard in North St. Paul.  Liz went through the class this year, offered her home for the demo class this spring and has begun the process of making plans for her rain garden.  She will be taking advantage of the 75% cost-share reimbursement from the District.  See our BMP Incentive Program page for details.

4.  Time to clean out those inlets and sediment traps for your rain gardens!  Doing so will make it easier for water to get into your gardens and be filtered.

Do you have one of these at the inlet to your rain garden? If so, open up your grate and remove the sediment, leaves and debris that this filtering box has collected over the fall and winter.
Even if you don't have a sediment grate as shown in the photos (most residential gardens do not have a grate), look at where the water enters the rain garden.  Remove leaves and scoop out fine sand from this area that can clog your rain garden.

5.  After months of being stuck indoors, it's time to reconnect with the earth, explore the out-of-doors and check out your local lakes and wetlands.

L'Etoile du Nord School (French Immersion) fourth-graders spent the last few months learning about issues at Ames Lake.  In late April, they finally got out to the site to see it for themselves.  One student in particular was so compelled into action during the investigative trip to Ames Lake that he spent the entire field trip on a personal mission to pick up trash (image below).  They've planned a clean-up at the lake in May and hope to do some advocacy for trash cans and recycling bins.

Left: A L'Etoile du Nord student on a clean-up mission.Top right: L'Etoile du Nord students gather by the boardwalk and remove trash in the lake.  Bottom right: Ginny Newman leads a students in a discussion.

Ginny Newman, St. Paul Community Education Service Learning Coordinator has been a loyal partner with the Watershed District for years. St. Paul Community Education supports service learning investigations, bus trips and pays for project costs for watershed school partners. In the photo of Ginny above, students document and discuss issues discovered at Ames Lake on the east side of St. Paul. The lake was restored after a shopping mall built on a former wetland and lake was removed in 2000. The area continues to be a vibrant study area for classes from the area as well as for residents who live nearby the lake.

Thanks to everyone for your stewardship actions this spring!

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