Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Connecting the Spots: Keller Creek Knits it Together

Steep banks and buckthorn on Gervais Creek in the fall of 2014.  Most of the invasive buckthorn has been cleared from this slope over the winter.  Native shrubs and flowers will be planted here in the spring.

Over the last 15 years, the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul have worked to restore over 2.5 miles of public lakeshore and 32 acres of upland natural area in the Phalen Chain of Lakes Corridor. You may have walked along the blooming shoreline of Lake Phalen, picnicked near the flowers lining Keller Island or followed the progress of native restoration that is part of Ramsey County’s Keller Golf Course renovation. This year, RWMWD and Ramsey County, with assistance from the Minnesota DNR will begin a multi-year project to restore the corridor that connects these areas: Keller Creek.

This remnant stand of native prairie cord
grass and aster will have an opportunity to
expand once invasive reed canary grass
is removed.
Keller Creek is an integral part of the Phalen Chain of Lakes, controlling the water flowing from Keller Lake into Round and Lake Phalen. It is also a regionally vital fish and wildlife corridor. And of course, with the addition of the new Ramsey County trail & boardwalk, the creek is part of a large connected recreation area of lakes, parks, and trails.

In 2015-16, we plan to work on the east bank of the creek, between Frost Avenue and Highway 61 (see the map below). A majority of the creek shore is owned by the DNR, but is actively managed by Ramsey County. In addition to the Watershed District and Ramsey County, a DNR Aquatic Habitat Grant will help support this ecological restoration effort. The project will be managed by Watershed staff in collaboration with staff from Ramsey County Parks. Local students, Ramsey County Master Gardeners and other volunteers will assist with planting.

In the coming year, our work will include removing non-native, invasive plants and enhancing the patches of native plants remaining along this stretch of the creek. We will be planting native shrubs and trees, along with woodland wildflowers in shady spots, prairie grasses and flowers in open areas, and wet meadow species along the creek bank. We will be reshaping the creek bank in a few spots, and using other methods such as brush bundles and coconut fiber logs to reduce erosion near the water’s edge.

Buckthorn trees with berries will be hauled offsite for disposal.
In addition to plant restoration work, we are looking to improve the portage around the weir structure in the channel. We’d like to make it easier for more canoeists, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders to take advantage of the water trail through the chain and enjoy the restored shores from an aquatic perspective.
This cut brush will be used to protect the creek bank.

We have already started our restoration work; beginning in late January we started cutting and hauling out the invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle trees & shrubs. Some of these cut shrubs will be used to create brush bundles to protect the creek bank as plants become established. Earth moving, erosion control and planting projects will begin in April or May, depending upon the weather, and continue through the growing season.

A map showing proposed restoration areas along Keller Creek between Frost Avenue and Highway 61.  Click to enlarge.

Please stay tuned – we will report on our progress in future editions of The Ripple Effect!

Power tools in the winter.

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