Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Keller Golf Course- The Preferred Oasis for Golfers, Birds, Bees, Butterflies and Golf Ball Scavengers

Farnsworth 5th-graders at Keller Golf Course
Farnsworth fifth-graders show off their discovered "trophies" after pitching in
to help with the restoration mid-May.

If you want to see dramatic contrasts between landscapes, experience nature in its prime, learn about biodiversity, bird watch while swinging those irons and stroll while you roll, Keller Golf Course is the place to go.

The perfect spring day at Keller Golf Course.
The perfect spring day at Keller Golf Course.
Transformations, in progress for several years during the restoration, have created a unique atmosphere on the golf course. The course has yet to open officially after a two year hiatus during its renovation, but the compliments keep rolling in from visitors who have had a sneak preview. Chat amongst yourselves because there’ is a lot to talk up and celebrate. Even the Baltimore orioles were very conversive when we were planting with our student volunteers at the golf course this spring. This is year two of an intensive Watershed District partnership restoration grant project. With help from Ramsey Conservation District, Natural Resources staff has been very engaged in restoring a variety of habitats and creating buffers in no-play areas within the site.

Bill Bartodziej and Ramsey County Corrections crew prepare a buffer area for planting.

While prepping a group of fifth graders from Farnsworth during a series of three days of planting, we discovered a hill with beehives near our restoration site. That’s the kind of surprise that is inevitable on such a diverse site. There’s plenty to talk about at Keller Golf Course, but that unexpected opportunity provided a perfect teachable moment to pontificate about pollinators, neonicotinoids and our threatened food resources. And we didn’t have to go more than 50 feet! That’s pure heaven for Master Gardeners who have been assisting the Watershed District and providing educational support for many years on restoration projects like this.

Left: Krogh's class plants on a steep incline at the golf course to slow erosion.
Right: Jaci Krogh (holding the props for her class's performance at Phalen Lake for
WaterFest 2014) is a St. Peter's teacher who has a fondness for Keller Golf Course that
dates back to her childhood.  Protecting the water of nearby lakes has been a theme
all year for her students.
Years ago, Keller Golf Course was a winter playground for Jaci Krogh, a teacher at St. Peter School when she was growing up. She spent lots of time in the area, sledding and hiking. Her nostalgia for the lay of the land and connection to its nearby lakes, I would venture to guess, played a significant role in her decision to involve her class in a year-long project on water this year. Her students wrote poetry and created performances for both a Maplewood Mall art dedication and WaterFest. It only seemed natural to invite her class to be part of the restoration this year, given her long-time relationship to the area. Her class, along with Mitch Thomsen’s three high school classes from Mounds Park Academy and four fifth grade classrooms from Farnsworth Aerospace were the teams this year that helped plant 2600 native plants this spring on the course.

Betsy McNulty, Ramsey County Master Gardener, assists a
Farnsworth student during the restoration of this low-lying area.

So what’s behind the efforts at Keller Golf Course these days?

RWMWD Natural Resources Technician, Simba Blood, orients students about planting native plugs.

Bill Bartodziej, Watershed District Natural Resources Manager, Simba Blood, Natural Resources Technician and her interns, Jake Lindeman and Zola Pineles have been knee deep in projects out at the site since the snow melted this spring. Wasn’t that just yesterday? So I asked Bill to make it short and sweet and narrow it down to five bullet points to cover the highlights of the project.
Here’s how Bill summarized it:

  • We are addressing the restoration of 7.5 acres of prairie, wetland buffer, and connected woodlands.

  • Buffers help treat water before running into wetlands and Lake Keller. Large prairie areas reduce run-off and create exceptional habitat. Over 100 native plant species are being introduced into the restoration areas.

  • Keller Golf Course is in the Phalen corridor and is directly connected to county park natural areas.

  • We look at the natural areas in the golf course almost as a preserve. These areas are less disturbed by humans, compared to the adjacent parklands. (A practical example is that colorful forb species are not dug up by plant thieves, like we have seen at Lake Phalen. Also, trampling by foot traffic will be less evident.)

  • This project is a win-win for all of the partners. Golfers are able to experience incredible natural areas in the city. Educational signs will help golfers understand key habitat areas. Water runoff will be reduced. Biological diversity will increase. Quality habitat in the Phalen corridor will substantially increase.
That's a lot to feel good about!

A natural team - Paul Diegnau, Superintendent at Keller Golf Course, and
Bill Bartodziej at home in a golf cart at WaterFest 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment