Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Watershed Excellence Awards Recognize Clean Water Heroes

Award winners received this beautiful blown-glass art piece with their names engraved in the cherry wood. 
Watch the January eNewsletter for an article featuring the artist who created these.

A hundred thirty leaders, partners and volunteers joined the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to honor winners of the 2014 LEAP (Landscape Ecology Awards Program) and the Watershed Excellence awards at a recognition dinner held at Keller Golf Course Clubhouse in Maplewood on November 19.

What are the Watershed Excellence Awards?

Watershed Excellence Awards recognize individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the Watershed District. At this second annual award presentation event, seven leaders were recognized with five awards: this year’s awards honor Youth Engagement, Outstanding Partner, Roger Lake Stewardship, Buckie and Visionary Leadership. Recipients received a glass paperweight designed and handcrafted by Minneapolis artist Eric Sommers.

And the Winners of the 2014 Awards Are.....

The Youth Engagement Award  : Ginny Newman and Bev Blomgren,

Left: Ginny Newman instructs her students at Ames Lake south of Lake Phalen. Middle: Ginny and Bev accept the Youth Engagement Award.  Right: Bev discusses wildlife with her students.
The Youth Engagement Award went to Bev Blomgren and Ginny Newman, both recently retired from St. Paul Public Schools Community Education. Both have partnered with the District since the late 1990s to engage thousands of St. Paul youth in watershed-based service learning projects. They have provided large sums of money in grants and support to cover bus transportation, school garden demonstration projects, education projects, neighborhood raingarden construction and shoreline restoration.

Strong advocates for watershed education at the school district level, Bev and Ginny also worked very hard to encourage teachers to make watershed awareness a part of classroom curriculum.

Bev and Ginny have fostered community involvement on projects around the District including the Lake Phalen, Keller and Keller Golf Course restorations and church raingarden projects.

Ginny’s specialty is helping students see the big picture to understand watershed issues and address them creatively. Bev brings her Master Naturalist training, visionary capacity and ability to integrate service learning through the arts to engage students and the community. The award was presented by District Watershed Education Specialist Sage Passi and Citizen Advisory Committee member Jill Danner.

The Outstanding Partner Award  : Brian Nelson

Left: Brian working with students to plant native prairie plants at the Carol Matheys Center for Children & Families in Oakdale.  Right: Brian accepts the Outstanding Partner Award.

Brian Nelson of Nelco Landscaping was awarded the Outstanding Partner Award. As the landscaping contractor for the Carol Matheys Center for Children & Families in Oakdale, Brian not only designed and installed a raingarden and pavers for the center, but involved the children and their families in the planting and learning about stormwater, raingardens and plants. He helped the center “become stewards of the landscape.” 

Brian also worked with the Washington Conservation District to design landscape features in their new office in Oakdale, including a pervious green “overflow” parking lot with an adjacent bioretention basin and native plantings.

Brian credited his work experience with Metro Blooms and the influences of his mentor Rusty Schmidt and others in the field with helping him shift his priorities to “working on sustainable projects that have the capacity to reap positive impacts a hundred years down the road from now.” District Permit Coordinator Paige Ahlborg presented the award.

The Roger Lake Stewardship Award  : Glenda Mooney

Left: Glenda helps us plant shoreline and emergent plants in the rain!  Middle: A surprised Glenda accepts the Roger Lake Stewardship Award.  Right: 'Ribbit!' Glenda's amazing self-designed and hand-made frog costume has become a mascot for the LEAP program, and for the District as a whole.  Here she is at Waterfest with an excited group of kids.
Glenda was presented this award for the significant and long-term role she has played in watershed management and demonstrated leadership in natural resources stewardship.

A retired teacher from White Bear Lake, Glenda has been active in the watershed for the past 21 years. As a founding member of the District’s first citizen advisory committee, she helped author the District’s 50 Year Vision for natural resources. While serving on the Natural Resources Board, Watershed Advisory Commission and Citizen Advisory Committee, she has been instrumental in developing many programs and projects such as LEAP, the Environmental Forum and WaterFest.

She has brought her knowledge about watersheds and natural resources management to the City of White Bear Lake where she served on the Planning Commission for 17 years. But Glenda’s most noted contribution is her creation of LEAP Frog—the District’s first and only mascot! From the design to the sewing, to the many hours she has “played” LEAP frog, Glenda has brought hundreds of children into District events and made people laugh, inquire, wonder and learn about water and animals.

“Ribbit,” said Glenda in accepting the award from LEAP Team co-chair Dana Larsen-Ramsay. “I have added a lot of time and energy and it always pays off. Watershed District people have been a pleasure to work with.”

The Buckie Award  : Dave and Donna Nelson

Left: Dave and Donna tirelessly pulling invasive plants. Right: Dave and Donna accepting the Buckie Award.  Linda Nielson (left) holds a buckthorn gavel that Dave created.
Dave and Donna earned this award for their dedication to controlling buckthorn, an invasive plant in the face of adversity. Master Naturalists since 2007, the Nelsons have dedicated many hours to transforming a buckthorn infested plot of land into Southwood Nature Preserve in North St. Paul.

Over the past seven years, they have organized many volunteer teams, coordinated Master Naturalists, personally purchased materials and equipment including a tractor, taught others and restored areas of the park with prairie plants. Since the restoration, 9 leopard frogs (not previously seen) and an owl’s nest have been spotted.

In accepting the award from Community Advisory Committee member and Master Gardener Linda Neilsen, Dave noted the important role of city support, community volunteers and other factors that helped them achieve the award. Dave has also become famous for crafting hand-turned gavels out of the buckthorn removed in this project and awarding them to others in recognition of their work to improve the environment.

The Visionary Leadership Award  : Cliff Aichinger

Left: Cliff in one of his many roles as a guide/educator to the public. 
Right: Cliff accepting the Visionary Leadership Award.
Cliff was presented this award for his strong capacity to envision, guide and manifest innovative and impactful projects and initiatives that model stewardship and water quality improvements on many scales.

Since 1989, Cliff has served as the District’s full time Administrator. Prior to that during his 12 years as a consultant for the District, he was the sole “employee,” who “did it all.” Recent exemplary projects include the development of the Living Streets plan and demonstration project in Maplewood and the Maplewood Mall Volume Reduction Retrofit project.

Throughout his career at the District Cliff has been a strong advocate and leader in education, research, planning and policy. He has built many successful partnerships on state, county, city, business and local levels which have strengthened the community’s effectiveness in protecting the watershed. Many look to Cliff as a mentor and see him as the “go-to-guy.” With Cliff's visionary leadership and dedication, the capacity and impact of the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District has been greatly expanded.

Upon receiving the award presented by District Manager Bob Johnson and the new District administrator Tina Carstens, Cliff reflected on the evolution of the District from a “one man operation” to an operation with 13 full-time staff, a model office building, and a track record of 42 completed capital improvements that provide flood control, water quality improvement and significant habitat improvement. “There are significant water management challenges in our future,” he said, “but I believe the Board and the District’s young, energetic and creative professionals are up to the challenge.”

Congratulations to our winners, nominees, and those we know and recognize make a difference in their community for clean water.

To see winners of this year’s LEAP Awards, link to that article HERE.

Thank you to those who were able to join us on this chilly evening of warm celebrations. If you missed it this year, we hope you can come next year. Heck, maybe you’ll even be on the list of those nominated or even winning an award!


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