Sunday, November 17, 2013

Honoring Outstanding Landscapes & Watershed Excellence

Beautiful awards were hand crafted and designed by local artist, Aaron Dysart.
Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District volunteers, partners and staff gathered on November 14 to honor 2013 Landscape Ecology Award Program (LEAP) winners and the celebrate the first-annual Watershed Excellence Awards.
We are very proud to announce the winners from these two categories (in no particular order)

Landscape Ecology Awards

Since 2002, LEAP has recognized private residences and public and commercial properties that preserve and improve water quality and natural resources. The City of Shoreview, Trinity Presbyterian Church in Woodbury, and homeowners in St. Paul, Little Canada and Maplewood received awards this year.

  • St. Paul resident Karri Bitner of 2280 Case Ave. E, lives on a one-acre lot near Beaver Lake with her husband and two children. A horticulturalist, Karri has developed a love for insects that pollinate and control pests. The family’s yard includes asters, bee balm and coneflowers that attract beneficial insects, and Karri’s passion for habitat has rubbed off on her children, who have each created and maintain a garden plot.
Left: Karri Bitner at her award-winning property.  Right: LEAP Team members Phyllis Hunter
and Dana Larsen-Ramsay present Karri with a yard sign (one of many fabulous prizes)  
  • Becky Brenner and Steve Van Allen of 2879 Arcade St. in Little Canada converted their steeply sloped front yard to a native garden dotted with decorative rocks that attract birds and butterflies and control erosion. For Becky it was not hard to make the change. “I was doing all the mowing and wrestling with it,” she said. “I’m not a fan of turf grass and want to show alternative ways to landscape our yards.”

Left: Becky wasn't a fan of turf grass, or of mowing the hill, so she got creative. 
Right: Becky and Steve accept their award.

  • Mary Leigh and Joel Sabean inherited a water problem when they purchased their home at 2413 Hillwood Dr. E in Maplewood. Their steeply sloped backyard was dominated by invasive buckthorn and ponded water in the spring. They worked with a landscaper to create a natural landscape, removing the buckthorn and other invasive vegetation, planting native grasses, flowers and shrubs and adding a 700-square-foot shady rain garden. They also redirected their downspouts into dry creek beds that lead to the large rain garden.
Left: A dry creek bed helps guide runoff into the rain garden. 
Right: Mary Leigh and Joel accept their award.

  • The City of Shoreview, represented by Volunteer Coordinator Kent Peterson and volunteer Karen Eckman, was recognized for its native plantings at the Haffeman Pavilion. An Eagle Scout started the project in 2008 with a native buffer strip along Brennan’s Pond. When the scout went off to college, city volunteers stepped in to maintain the buffer and add native plant gardens. The strong focus on native plants brought in a wealth of wildlife—great spangled fritillary butterflies, tree frogs, bumble bees and many birds. The city hosts summer concerts at the pavilion each week, and with the project’s signage and the eye-catching landscape, Kent notes, “we have the opportunity to educate the public.”
    Left: A former Eagle Scout project, the shoreline of Brennan's Pond has been adopted by city volunteers. 
    Right: Kent Peterson and Karen Eckman accept their award.

  • Trinity Presbyterian Church at 2125 Tower Dr in Woodbury has catalyst Barb Outcelt to thank for their ever-growing landscape projects. Encouraged by the City of Woodbury with a $500 grant, the church installed a small rain garden a few years back. When that project proved successful, they installed a large 750 square-foot, showy, manicured rain garden, funded in part through the Watershed District’s Best Management Practices (BMP) Incentive Cost Share Program. The newest addition is a patio with pervious pavers and a cistern that captures stormwater. “We are a small church with about 250 members,” Barb said. “We could not have done the rain garden without the Cost Share Program.”


Watershed Excellence Awards

Awardees with District board members.
This new award program honors the accomplishments of exceptional “leaders” that are improving the health of the watershed.

  • Jack Frost was awarded the Roger Lake Stewardship Excellence Award, named for the 30-year Watershed District leader who passed away last December. A fitting first recipient of this award, Jack has had a long dedicated career as a public servant and Manager of the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District. Jack’s innovative, practical approaches to water quality and flood control, service as the Board Treasurer and excellent financial management contributed enormously to the Watershed District’s effectiveness.
Left: When he was not helping us make important decisions, Jack (in blue) helped host countless events.
Right: Cliff Aichinger, District Administrator, presents Jack with this lifetime-achievement award.

  • Sherry Brooks, Science and Technology Specialist at Farnsworth Aerospace in St. Paul won the Youth Engagement Award for her years of hands-on science education work with K-4 students. Her classes designed, planted and now care for the school’s native demonstration garden. With her help they continue to grow hundreds of plants for neighborhood rain gardens, BMP projects and school demonstration gardens in the district. Sherry is also very active in supporting non-point source education for her classes, engaging students at WaterFest and promoting awareness about the water-friendly features at Maplewood Mall.
Left: A fantastic butterfly garden outside Farnsworth School is just one of Sherry's many projects.  Middle: Demonstrating how water runs off surfaces on a watershed model.  Right: Receiving the Youth Engagement Award.

  • University of Minnesota graduate students Justine Koch and Reid Swanson received the “Carpie” Award that recognizes individuals who have enthusiastically persevered in the face of adversity. All hours of the day and night you can find them conducting surveillance and simultaneously masterminding many technical hurdles in pursuit of the monumental goal of helping the District determine how to manage carp and their impacts on water quality.
Left: Justine holds up one of the oldest carp they've found in the Phalen Chain to date.  Middle: Justine and Reid are presented with the Carpie award.  Right: Reid pulls migrating carp out of a trap net.

  • The City of Maplewood was honored with the Innovation in Government Award for adopting a Living Streets policy and implementing a model project in the Bartelmy/Meyer neighborhood to add “green” enhancements during street reconstruction. Through the project, streets were narrowed from 32 to 24 feet wide, sidewalks were added, 32 rain gardens and one regional infiltration garden were installed and 200 drought-resistant boulevard trees were planted.

Left: Sidewalks, rain gardens, and narrowed streets are just a few of the features installed in Maplewood that benefit both neighborhood and local waters.  Right:  Steve Love, City Engineer, accepts the award on behalf of the City of Maplewood.

  • Maplewood resident and LEAP award winner Mary Leigh Sabean received the Citizen Engagement Award in honor of her strong role in advocating for water quality improvements. Her neighborhood garden parties to promote the District’s BMP Incentive Cost Share Program and native habitat restoration have resulted in four new rain gardens and several native plantings for habitat. She also notified the City of Maplewood about drainage problems on private lands and collaborated with the city to install three rain gardens on parkland.
Left: When she's not hosting rain garden parties for the neighborhood, Mary Leigh tends to her native plantings, rain gardens and dry creek bed.  Right: Mary Leigh accepts the award for Citizen Engagement.

  • Simon Properties, owner of Maplewood Mall, was selected for the Outstanding Partner Award for the Maplewood Mall Volume Reduction Retrofit Project. For the past five years, the District has worked with Mall management staff and headquarters, tenants, anchor stores and maintenance staff to retrofit the property with stormwater management features while beautifying the site. Tree trenches have created parking lot groves, rain gardens frame the parking lot and main entrance, and a cistern collects some of the roof runoff. These all work to accomplish the goal of treating the first inch of rainfall runoff from the entire site to improve water quality of Kolman Lake and the remainder of the Phalen Chain of Lakes. This project is the first major mall retrofit in the country and has attracted national and international attention.
Left: Maplewood Mall was retrofitted to include several artistically-designed stormwater management features.  Right: Jennifer Lewis and Tim Pozner accept the award on behalf of Simon Properties.

If you know of people or projects that are making a difference in the watershed, let the District know about it! Nominations for the 2014 LEAP awards will be due July 1, 2014. For details visit and click on the Natural Resources Program. Candidates for the Excellence awards can be suggested to Watershed District staff, which will review suggestions with the Citizen Advisory Commission.

We leave you with a few more shots from the Recognition Dinner.  A big thank you to those who attended, and to Anita Jader, LEAP Team member and photographer at the event!

Over 100 guests gathered for dinner, conversation, and awards.

One of our newest board members, Jen Oknich.

Our recently retired board member, and winner of the Roger Lake Stewardship Excellence Award, Jack Frost.  

LEAP Team members from left to right:  Phyllis Hunter, Gail Acosta, Glenda Mooney, Dana Larson-Ramsay and
Anita Jader.  

Our fantastic welcoming crew, left to right: Nicole Soderholm (District Inspector), Paige Ahlborg (District Project Manager) and Shelly Melser (District Secretary).

Toddlers are not really big fans of awards ceremonies.

Marion Seabold, one of our favorite local historians.

Cecilia Shiller, artist creating the next art installment at Maplewood Mall (photo of her prototype below)

Dinner is served.

District Administrator, Cliff Aichinger and Board President Paul Ellefson.

A prototype of the new sculpture to be installed at Maplewood Mall in 2014.

Farnsworth current and retired teachers, principal, and student.

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