Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Three Creeks in One - A Meandering Mirror of the Past

by Sage Passi

The "looking glass" of the new Frost Avenue Bridge over Keller Creek

Keller Creek, Gervais Creek, Phalen Creek ... One creek or three?

I often think of these three creeks as one flowing stream reflecting character names from the past.

The 1848 land survey map below shows a creek flowing through what is now called the Phalen Chain of Lakes. Lake names have been added to the map. Keller Lake is missing, Kohlman is identified as a wetland and Spoon is far south and really small. These bodies of water were originally large marshy areas connected by creeks. They occasionally held more water some years and dried up in others. They didn’t officially become lakes until they were dredged much later. The creeks are intimately connected to these lakes and their southern channel flowed directly into the Mississippi River. 

The story begins here with Keller Creek but the history of Gervais and Phalen Creeks will be told in a future article. Like the tenacious cat sitting by my keyboard staring up at me, they have had many lives and have a persistent habit of calling attention to themselves now and again.


Chain of Lakes Map - 1848

Given a creek with a split personality like this one, there’s got to be more to the story than meets the eye. Clues about Keller Creek are best discovered by strolling along its gnarly shoreline on a spring day with someone like Bob Jensen, the President of Maplewood Area Historical Society, who has a passion for the meandering “past life” of this shape-shifting channel.

Keller Creek has been altered many times with many
changes made to the nearby land and water bodies.

I met Bob in a parking lot at Keller Regional Park on one of those early balmy spring days when I’d have been amiss not to step out into the sunshine and set off on some fanciful expedition. For several weeks, Bob had been e-mailing me an array of old black and white photos, detailed chronologies, newspaper articles and newsletters. It was time to put a face and a place to those photos.

My last experience on Keller Creek was several years ago when I
led Farnsworth students on a tour about Dakota life in this area. I'll
tell the story of their connection to this area in the next installment.

Memorial Tree Groves by the Creek

Bob walks and kayaks Keller Creek quite often. He lives near this stretch of the creek, just west of Highway 61 and has been collecting stories and memorabilia about it for years. Joining us that day on our hike was Nicole DeGruzman, the Executive Director of the Maplewood Area Historical Society. She was getting her bearings for a walking tour guide she is writing about the memorial tree groves planted along the creek from 1927-1932 by a group of community-minded women.  

Maplewood Area Historical Society has been working with the University of Minnesota’s Forestry Department to determine if any of those trees still exist and locate the markers that identify each of the groves. Their research efforts will be brought to the public light during an Arbor Day celebration on Saturday May 16. CLICK HERE for details for that event titled The Case of the Missing Groves -- Who (or What) Done It? It’s billed as an event for families, history buffs, tree lovers, and wanna-be detectives.

As we strolled along the creek, Bob helped us get acquainted with the location of several of these memorial groves. There are big rocks (erratics) positioned in various places along the creek and in other locations that mark the efforts of the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs to establish municipal forests in several plots of Keller Park to promote conservation and reforestation.

One of those areas, on the slope where the Frost Avenue Bridge crosses Keller Creek, was planted to celebrate the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday of February 22, 1732. The photo below shows the unveiling of the large rock with a brass plaque. The three children were direct descendants of Augustine Washington, a half-brother of George Washington. Mrs. C.N. Akers, (far right) was the great-granddaughter of a chaplain who served in Washington’s army at Valley Forge. She helped lead the tree-planting committee along with Mrs. Russell E. Van Kirk (third from the right). (Information provided by Bob Jensen). At the Arbor Day celebration in May, this grove will be replanted and the rock returned to this location. The rock was found in the woods near the trail and brought to the public works office.

The George Washington Memorial Grove planting by a Minnesota Women's Club
was celebrated by the unveiling of a large rock marker in 1931.

Deciphering Keller Creek's Past
Bob Jensen stands near the Frost Avenue Bridge over Keller
Creek. The sign explains some of the changes that have
happened in this area in the past 150 years.
At our first stop along the trail, Bob, Nicole and I linger at a recently installed sign below the new Frost Avenue Bridge. Underneath one arch of the bridge, the creek still flows south to Round and Phalen Lakes. Under the other arch, where only a sidewalk now remains, a road once passed. Who built it and what happened to it? The story itself is a winding tale that can be traced back to the 1800’s when the city and park planners first started envisioning changes to this waterway.
Jensen’s Maple Leaves newsletter article for the Maplewood Area Historical Society from December 2012 outlines a sequence of actions that are connected to Keller Creek’s history.

“In 1869 the Minnesota legislature authorized the private St. Paul Water Company to construct open channels between Lake Gervais, Spoon Lake and Phalen Lake to improve the flow so water could be diverted from the south end of Phalen for drinking water for the city of St. Paul.”

Lake Phalen provided drinking water for the City of St. Paul from 1869 to 1913. Channels between the lakes in the chain were proposed to increase the flow of water for the drinking water supply.
Maplewood Area Historical Society

“By 1879 tourist guides were promoting Lake Phalen as a popular recreation area that included excursions around the lake on privately operated steam launches. By 1894 St. Paul was making plans to extend the park to include Spoon and Gervais Lakes, increasing the possibility for launches to travel the entire chain. They wanted to develop the Phalen Chain of lakes into “the most unique and beautiful aquatic park possessed by any considerable city in inland America.” (Board of Park Commissioners’ Annual Report 1895).

Maps like this one from 1900 highlighted proposed roads around the perimeter of these lakes and channels between the lakes that would connect these "jewels" in the Phalen Chain of Lakes.
 1897  Minnesota Historical Society

Note: The name Keller Lake was not applied to the lake until 1923, when the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners changed the name to recognize the contributions of Herbert P. Keller to its creation.
A local newspaper from this time period wrote, “Spoon (Keller) Lake between Lakes Phalen and Gervais, was a lake only in name. In fact it was what is known as a slough, too much water to make a meadow and not enough for boating. At high water, there was just enough of a channel, weed-grown though it was, for expert canoeists or rowboat-men to work their way through from Lake Phalen to Lake Gervais.”
Did this “slough,” as this derogatory term refers to it, look something like this back then?

Arrowhead and other emergent plants surround and line a waterway.
Is this what Keller Creek looked like in its earlier days?

Make Way for the Boats - Linking of the Lakes

As time went on, the land directly around Lake Phalen was “condemned” by the city so they could incorporate it into Phalen Park. By 1902 dredging began in Lake Phalen with a coal-fired dredge. In 1904 the St. Paul Park Board ran into opposition to their Linking of Lakes Project and had to appeal to Ramsey County’s authority to acquire more land outside the city limits. In 1909 the dredging of the canal north of Lake Phalen was begun but then delayed for the next few years while the project was turned over to the county and they could secure more land.

This early twentieth century dredge was used to clear and widen the channel through
the marshy area between Lake Phalen and "Spoon Lake".

Minnesota Historical Society


By 1913 the county had completed .75 of a mile of Keller Boulevard and dredged 1800 feet of channel connecting Phalen Lake with Spoon lake, making the channel an extra 14 feet wide. The next year dredging began in the location where Lake Keller is now and continued for several more years. In 1923 Spoon Lake was renamed Keller Lake in honor of Herbert P. Keller who initially introduced the linking of the lakes project. What had once been marshy land with water flowing through it was recreated into a shallow lake with several islands. Channels that had been dredged connected it to the lakes to the north and south of it.

Launches, first steam powered and then eventually gasoline-powered, operated by the Park Department continued to provide cruises that navigated up and down the channel through the Phalen Chain of Lakes into the 1930’s.

A Keller launch boat carries passengers through the Phalen Chain of Lakes in 1927
under the Highway 1 Bridge and along the creek. Low water prevented this in previous years.

Minnesota Historical Society

As we passed under the arch of the new Frost Avenue Bridge and then beneath an older version of it that still remains, Jensen reminded me that the path we were walking on was once the road that connected these lakes. I tried to visualize one of those model T Fords bouncing along happily as it traveled on this same promenade between the lakes that we were now exploring on foot. Frost Avenue was not fully surveyed until 1906 and became a major street in 1926 when it was first paved. The bridge over the creek on Frost Avenue provided access to the Gladstone area from Highway 61. 
Remember the famous Tourist Cabins located just down the road? Driving around the lakes then, like now, was a favorite pastime both for the community and visitors traveling from a distance.


Making the drive around the Phalen Chain of Lakes
 Minnesota Historical Society

Bridges, Dams and a Waterfall

There have been a number of different bridges built over the creek beside the Frost Avenue bridge including one built by the Wisconsin Central Railway in 1906. A WPA dam was built on the creek in 1937 and later rebuilt by the Watershed District in 1991 as part of a regional flood control project.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) is seen here constructing a dam across Keller Creek.
Two hundred yards north of this spot, the old Highway 61 Bridge can be seen in the background.

Photo St. Paul Daily News - 1938 - Minnesota Historical Society

The WPA dam was rebuilt by the Watershed District
in 1991 to help regulate lake levels
and prevent flooding downstream.

Honeymoon Falls was constructed southwest of the intersection of Highway 61 and Keller Creek Boulevard in 1932. Water was pumped from an artesian well, cascaded over a rock ledge and flowed beneath a parking lot to Keller Creek to ensure an adequate water level for the excursion launches. It was removed in 1974 along with the parking lot and creekside roadway.

Honeymoon Falls was created to raise the water level in the creek. It was removed in 1974.

 Crossing the 45th Parallel

Keller Creek crosses the 45th parallel.
Is this a marker stone that marks the spot?

As we completed our journey up the creek, Bob pointed out a large stone located about five hundred yards south of the bridge where Highway 61 goes over the creek in Keller Park. He speculates that this is the marker stone for the 45th parallel. If it is indeed that, Keller Creek has the distinction of crossing a point halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. The creek shares this honor with several other scenic locations across the U.S. including Yellowstone National Park and Egg Harbor in Door County. 

The Restoration of Keller Creek circa 2015
A stretch of  Keller Creek that will be restored in 2015

Below the hill where the erratic stands is the upper stretch of the creek where the Watershed District is beginning a four year project of restoring Keller Creek. The first segment of the project involves the ecological restoration of over 31,000 square feet of shoreline that includes 1) a wooded slope, 2) a remnant patch of sedge and a few native wetland forbs, 3) an extensive wet meadow fringe, 4) a shrub prairie thicket, 5) an herbaceous edge and 6) a shrub-prairie edge.

Segment A (in yellow) on this restoration map is the area on the east side
of Keller Creek that will be done in 2015.

Twelve classrooms from St. Paul, North St. Paul and Maplewood will help transform its shoreline into a haven for birds, butterflies, and other creatures by planting native prairie and wet meadow species along its banks. See the March issue of the Ripple Effect for a short introductory article about this project.

Watch for future issues with more detail about this project in coming months. Once again Keller Creek is is becoming a shape-shifter and getting a face-lift, this time in the 21st century. 

Check out the history of its sister creeks, Gervais and Phalen, in next month's issue.

Keller Creek channel widens out as it flows down
toward Round and Phalen Lakes.

Thank you to Bob Jensen, President of the Maplewood Area Historical Society, for his awesome help in providing resources for this story.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Tis the Season to Make our Lakes and Streams Merry

Learn How to Design and Install a Rain Garden in Your Own Yard

Gene Whipple adds plants to his home rain garden in the first season.

Sometimes it takes a village….. as the saying goes. Gene Whipple, then a high school junior, decided to build a rain garden in his own yard after he saw several rain gardens installed at his school, Crosswinds in Woodbury. He responded to a survey sent out by students from nearby Battle Creek Middle School who were looking for a yard in which to learn how to design and install a rain garden. Several classes and Master Gardeners chipped in to help him design and construct it.

Take a look at Gene’s rain garden a couple years later. This rain garden captures run-off from both his and his neighbor’s driveways and rooftops, keeping it from polluting nearby Battle Creek which is impaired from sediment. It’s been a win-win. Gene got his rain garden and the students in science classes learned a valuable lesson about keeping Battle Creek clean.

Gene's rain garden two years later. Note the prolific butterfly milkweed
in the front of his garden. His soil drains well because of its high sand content.

You’ve seen them on boulevards, at your city hall, school, library, church and in your neighbor’s yard. A rain garden is a shallow depression dug into the ground that allows stormwater to slowly soak into the soil. Native plants, mulch and soil in the rain garden naturally remove pollutants contained in the stormwater. Rain gardens receive run-off from impervious (hard) surfaces such as roads, rooftops, sidewalks, driveways and patios, reducing the amount of stormwater and pollutants they carry from entering our lakes, rivers and streams.

Frogs and other aquatic life benefit from the
stormwater protections like rain gardens and
other BMPS's (Best Management Practices)
installed in your community.

Why not get inspired yourself and take on a rain garden project this year? You can learn more about doing this at our workshop coming up on May 14. Invite your neighbors to help you and you may inspire them as well. See below for details.

Sometimes it takes a village!

Here are a couple examples of rain gardens done “village style.” 

Mary Leigh Sabean, a resident of South Maplewood,
built this series of shady rain gardens behind
her house to capture run-off from multiple yards.

Mary Leigh Sabean worked
with her neighbors to
redirect excessive run-off
that was washing into her
yard by designing and
installing a series of rain gardens that capture the
run-off in the common space behind their homes.

Dennis Paulson (left) and Mitchell Thompson (right) team
together to plant a rain garden at Our Redeemer Lutheran
Church on Larpenteur Avenue near Lake Phalen.

Dennis Paulson was compelled to install a rain garden at his church, Our Redeemer Lutheran when he learned about them while attending meetings of the Friends of Phalen which met regularly for a year in his church’s fellowship hall. He mentored a Boy Scout, Mitchell Thompson, also a member of the church who earned an Eagle Scout award through this rain garden project.

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church rain garden was thriving in its second summer.


This cheery rain garden in St. Paul, built by
Bill Cranford & Rachel Hanks, won a LEAP
(Landscape Ecology Award  Program)
from the Watershed District several years ago.

Sign Up for the
Design Your Rain Garden Workshop on May 14th!

Learn tips about designing and building your own rain garden from experts from Ramsey Conservation District, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and Maplewood Nature Center when you attend our next rain garden workshop on Thursday, May 14 from 6:30-8:30 PM at Maplewood Nature Center. The Nature Center is located at 2659 E 7th St. in Maplewood.

We’ll start off the workshop by touring the fun rainwater features at Maplewood Nature Center. Discover what rain garden plants are popping up in mid-May.

Find out how to determine what kind of soil you have and how fast water soaks into your soil. These are details you will need to know to properly design and install a rain garden in your yard.

Learn how to choose plants and get advice from technical staff and Master Gardeners in planning your rain garden design.

Prior to the class you will be sent a questionnaire and a worksheet to fill out that will include a drawing of your yard. Please complete these forms before the workshop and bring them with you to the class. At the workshop we will provide an aerial map of your site to use in planning your rain garden.

This native perennial, butterfly milkweed, blooms in June and makes a great addition to the berm of your rain garden. Monarchs love it!

Purple coneflower is a popular choice for gardeners wanting to attract butterflies to their rain garden. It blooms in July to September. The seeds are a very attractive food source for the American Goldfinch.


Turtlehead, a native wetland plant should be planted in the lower part of your rain garden.
It’s the host plant for the Baltimore butterfly
and blooms from July to September.


This FREE workshop is sponsored by RWMWD, Maplewood Nature Center, the City of Maplewood, Ramsey Conservation District and Blue Thumb. For more information about the class, contact Sage Passi at 612-598-9163.

To register, call Debbie Barnes at 651-792-7959 at RWMWD or email her at by May 1. Please provide your name, address, email and phone number. Before the workshop you'll receive a questionnaire about your yard. Please fill it out and bring it with you to the workshop.

Learn about incentives available through cost-share and grant programs in the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District HERE. In Ramsey County, contact Michael Schumann at 651-266-7275. In Washington County, call Tara Kline 651-330-8220 x28 to help reduce your costs and get technical consulting.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Welcome Matt Brust, Water Quality Intern

Here's Matt already hard at work
checking sediment levels in
catch basins at Maplewood Mall.
Matt Brust is the first of the new crop of summer
interns and is very excited to be working with the
Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed staff!

Matt graduated from Vermillion Community College
last spring with a degree in Natural Resource Technology
in Forestry/Wildlife.

During the two summers between semesters, he
volunteered with Conservation Corps Minnesota and
Iowa Apprentice Academy.

  • The first summer he worked with the Anoka Conservation District. This was where he
    developed a passion for working with water
    resources and gathering data.

  • During his second summer with the Corps
    he worked with the Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District where he learned a lot
    about soils and the best management practices
    for agricultural benefit.

As the District Water Quality Intern, Matt hopes to
meet new challenges head-on and gain more experience
in the water resource field. He plans to use this experience
to help him reach his long-term career goal of becoming an
Environmental Educator.

Welcome Matt!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Reflections from Retirement - Chapter 4

by Cliff Aichinger

What are the Future Challenges for the District?

Watershed management is a constantly evolving “science” and “practice”. The evolving “science” informs us about new issues and new approaches that can be used to address the issues and solve problems. The “practice” is the art of management and government relations side of watershed management. Districts, and all local governments, should be striving to find more cost-effective and efficient ways to implement programs and projects called for in the local plan (the District’s Watershed Management Plan). But they are also required to respond to new state and federal laws, rules and regulations. These are the ongoing challenges facing all levels of government.

Focusing on Internal and External Challenges

There are also internal and external challenges. We would all like to be able to focus our efforts on our own family or business (internal focus), but the fact of life is that there are other people, programs and agencies that can have a significant influence on how we manage our affairs (external influence). 

Government agencies are no different. We would like to focus on our own programs and looks for ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs, but there are other rules and laws that require the District to implement new programs and prepare new plans and rules. Sometimes these laws may seem unnecessary for us, but compliance is still required.

Two Federal/State programs that have recently impacted our cities and watersheds are the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) and the Impaired Waters programs. These two programs have forced local governments and Watersheds to complete detailed assessments of any waters that did not meet state standards for surface waters and implement efforts to maintain and improve the storm sewer systems that exist in our communities.

The objective for both these programs is to improve the management of stormwater and reduce the levels of nutrients reaching our water resources. Even though the District supports this objective, we have been making significant advances over the past 25 years without these two programs. This is a “one-size-fits-all” type program that requires all impaired waters and all urban cities and watersheds to comply with one set of rules. These programs have resulted in significant additional costs for the watershed and our cities.

The District has promoted a more efficient “Watershed-Based Approach” for the implementation of these programs, but this has not been supported by the state. The ongoing challenge for the District will be to meet the requirement of these programs while also prodding the state to allow local watersheds the option of a more efficient approach.

Reducing Nutrient Pollution in Urban Areas

Fertilizer, grass clippings, leaves and soil that wash onto
hard surfaces and then into our water bodies through
storm sewers contain phosphorous, a nutrient that has
negative impacts on water quality and aquatic life.

A major challenge for all urban water management organizations is the increasingly difficult challenge of reducing nutrient pollution in urban areas. In 2005 the District completed a study that showed about 70% of the phosphorus loading to our lakes is coming from the impervious surfaces (approximately 37% of our land cover). We also found that we have very limited land area to use for conventional stormwater treatment.

The only way we are going to make substantial reductions in phosphorus loading is to reduce stormwater runoff volume and provide for much improved maintenance of the impervious surfaces that currently exist.
There are only two options available to make substantial reductions in the volume of stormwater runoff and resulting nutrient loading:

Maplewood Mall before the retrofit


Retrofit Existing Impervious Areas

We demonstrated this with the Maplewood Mall Project. Even though we know how to implement these improvements, they are very expensive relative to other water management practices. The District will need to work with private landowners and communities to identify opportunities for collaborative projects. The District will need to develop a program to identify possible projects, establish priorities for project funds and develop some type of incentive for private landowners to work with the District and make improvements needed that result in pollutant reductions.

Fifty-five rain gardens at Maplewood Mall filter about
nine million gallons of stormwater runoff in a typical year.

Reduce the Amount of Impervious Surface in the Watershed

The Maplewood Living Streets Project was implemented
in 2012 to reduce the amount of runoff from streets
thanks to the city's adoption of the Living Streets Policy.

This can only be accomplished with a long-term program of reducing roadway widths (as demonstrated by the City of Maplewood and the District with the Living Streets program) and reducing parking space requirements for retail and commercial businesses. The only problem with this approach is that it will take 30-50 years to have an impact on most residential streets and commercial areas. Change can only happen when the street or parking lot needs to be replaced. This will only happen if the local community is supportive of the approach and willing to make innovative change. Recent discussions with the cities in RWMWD have shown a reluctance to adopt the Living Streets approach and a resistance to reduced streets widths. The challenge will be to make convincing arguments to local officials to gain their support and develop appropriate incentives for public and private participation.

Maintaining a Healthy Collaboration

As mentioned above, any new approaches to water management requires working with cities, counties and the state on the management and replacement of existing infrastructure. The fact is, almost all the District programs and projects over the past 30 years have involved collaboration with other units of government and private landowners. It will be an ongoing challenge for the District Board and staff to maintain healthy collaborative relationships with all the necessary partners. These collaborations take time (and often times some economic incentive) to develop and maintain.

The evolution of the “science” of watershed management involves a number of issues, including climate change, relationships between water quality and other area of environmental study (fisheries, wildlife, hydrology, social science, etc.), surface water/ground water interactions, effects of chloride on surface waters, best management practice performance, new technologies and more.

Just being a part of these discussions and monitoring the research is a major challenge. District staff cannot be experts in all these areas. They need to have good advisors, consultants, and be connected to professional groups that can provide information that can be used to advise the Board of Managers.

Scientific and Research Challenges on My Radar

  • Climate change and its impact on water resources – both surface and groundwater. This is an issue of understanding what is happening, as well as an issue of what can we do as individuals and agencies to have an impact on the changes. The public is crying for action, but research is needed to identify strategies that will have an effect.

  • Complex interrelationships in our environment – it seems that every year we learn more about the relationships between elements of our environment that we previously thought of as separate and distinct, e.g. carp and water quality, carp reproduction and pan fish, groundwater and lake levels, drinking water use and impacts on groundwater levels and natural aquatic organisms that can make us sick or die. All these issues require continued research and new issues continue to surface. Government agencies at all levels need to support the research that is needed to understand the problem and identify practical and affordable actions to manage the problems. As one example, the District investment in Carp research was key to identifying a key strategy for improving water quality and identifying practical approaches to controlling Carp populations. Much of the needed research should be paid for at a regional or state level, but the support is currently lacking.

The District has partnered with U of M researchers for
more than five years to study the movement of carp
through the Phalen Chain of Lakes and upstream
wetlands and reduce their impacts on water quality.

Jim Levitt, DNR Specialist,
stocks blue gills at Casey Lake
to lessen the carp population in
the nursery wetland for Kohlman,
Gervais and Phalen Lakes.

  • Communications among our diverse resident populations – we appear to have just surpassed a milestone in our urban population where minority cultures now make up a majority of our residents. Understanding cultural norms and values are often different for each group. Our educational messages may mean different things to each group or our messages may not be reaching these individuals. How do we best communicate with our residents? Do we need a different communication approach for each ethnic group?

    • Social marketing is the new strategic communications vehicle – how can the District use this vehicle to better connect with our residents?

    The District currently relies upon the social media channels
    of Facebook, Twitter, its website,, the monthly
    blog, The Ripple Effect, and more to reach the community.

    • New technology is providing new challenges – can street sweeping be the most cost effective pollution reduction practice for the District? If so, how do we work with our communities to properly and efficiently implement such a program?

    • What is the proper role for the Watershed District on issues like toxic blue green algae or other water born organisms?

    High temperatures, coupled with rainfall washing excess
    nutrients into the water can combine to create harmful
    blue-green algae in lakes. This type can be
    harmful to pets, livestock and even people.

    • How does the District implement an ongoing program to control common carp populations in our District lakes?

    Developing a District Watershed Management Plan that Evolves

    The “internal” challenge will be developing a District Watershed Management Plan that can evolve with time, adapt to these new challenges and prioritize action plans to address the critical issues and new technologies, while maintaining the attention needed for ongoing activities. The budgetary challenge will be to establish priorities for staffing and spending. All government agencies face the challenge of more demands for service than can be reasonably funded through property tax levies.

    The District will be completing its new Watershed Management Plan over the next year and will be asking for your input on these tough issues. Participate in this process and help establish the District goals, strategies and program priorities.

    Celebrate "A Water Wonderland" at WaterFest on May 30th!

    Every year Wilderness Inquiry helps hundreds of WaterFest visitors paddle voyageur canoes around Lake Phalen Park.

    WaterFest, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District’s spring festival of clean water, is quickly approaching! This year marks our 15th anniversary of this free community-building celebration. Each year several thousand people attend this collaborative event held in conjunction with St. Paul’s Get Out-of-Doors Day in late May. "A Water Wonderland" is the theme for this year.

    WaterFest will be held at Lake Phalen Park on Saturday, May 30 from 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM. The festivities start off with Pre-fest lakeside yoga at 10 AM.  Our Water Wonderland Celebration begins
    at 11:00 AM at the park amphitheater. Bring your dancing shoes and join the fun!

    So what’s new this year at WaterFest?
    CHAT (Center for Hmong Arts and Talent) will emcee and coordinate the
     afternoon WaterFest entertainment and performances at the amphitheater

    Take a look at some of the new events and exhibitors below!
    Water Games
    • Ups & Downs of the Watershed -  a life-size board game
    • Shrinking Wonders - a take-off on musical chairs
    • Water Expanding Machine - Tracy's invention will stump you!
    • Water Olympics - Learn secrets about properties of water.
    • A New Version of the Wading Pool - What belongs in our water?
    • Catch-a-Critter with a Net - Harriet Alexander Nature Center leads this
    • Discover clean water and get a free T-shirt (while supplies last)
    • Complete Passport activities and get your passport stamped for each one.
    • Enter to win gift certificates! Turn in completed Passport at the Information Booth.
    Center for Hmong Arts & Talent - Amphitheater 1-4 PM

    Obstacle Course led by MN Army National Guard

    Flash Dance - Amphitheater at 11 AM

    New exhibitors this year:
    • ZipCar
    • Minnesota China Friends
    • Muscle Busting
    • Local healthy food
    • Dragonflies
    • And more!

    For a complete listing and schedule of all the WaterFest activities click HERE.

    Check out our WEBSITE for additional details about volunteering and a map. Sign up to volunteer for a shift or two and then spend the rest of the day taking in all sorts of fun activities. For more information about volunteering, call Debbie Meister directly at 612-647-6816. 

    Harding High Earth Club members make props
    for the "Shrinking Wonder" water game.

    Some of the "regulars” who volunteer each year
    were asked a few quick questions about WaterFest.
    Here's what they had to say:

    Joe Fox
    Who comes to WaterFest?

    "I can't think of a better event that
    brings families together
    in a learning environment
    about our natural resources.
    The fun and games turn into an
    education experience
    for the young and old."
    - Joe Fox
    Joe has volunteered at WaterFest since 2000 when the festival first began. He oversees the parking and helps set up chairs with the North St. Paul Lion's Club the day before the event.


    How'd you describe WaterFest to someone who's never attended?
    Linda Nielson
    "If you're looking for a free, family-oriented event,
    WaterFest is the place to be!"
       - Linda Nielson
    Linda Neilson, Ramsey County Master Gardener and District Citizen Advisory Commission member, provides a lively description of what there is to do at WaterFest. "Have fun on or in the water while you learn what you can do to improve its quality. Experience a new activity. Paddle a voyageur canoe, learn how to balance on a paddle board or take a paddle board lesson. Scale a climbing wall. Pet a snake. Or try out a tame activity like viewing the inside of a storm drain. Watch the Farnsworth Marching Band perform in the park. Meet your friends and neighbors. Have a great time! Those are just a few of the free activities we've heard visitors rave about!"
    Wheel of Fun provides access to free canoes, paddleboards,
    kayaks and other boats at WaterFest.
    Linda goes on to highlight some of the other WaterFest activities, "Students of all ages lead hands-on activities and enthusiastically explain their projects. Experts are on hand to answer your questions about anything from native plants and their adaptability to survive with minimal care to how to identify and rid your property of pesky invasive plants. These and many more things can be experienced and enjoyed by all. And, did I mention that it's all free?"


    One of the very popular activities for all ages at Waterfest is Dean Hansen’s display of large macroinvertebrates that he collects in east metro streams.
    Shann Finwall, Maplewood
    Environmental Planner
    What is unique about WaterFest?

    “WaterFest is a great venue for sponsor cities
    to spotlight their environmental goals. 
    In Maplewood, our Nature Center and
     Environmental and Natural Resources Commission sponsor environmental booths
    to educate the community on clean water and
    other issues that impact our watershed.” 

    - Shann Finwall

    Friends of Maplewood Nature Center help WaterFest visitors create pollinator hats to educate about the issue of neonicotinoids and other threats to bees and butterflies.

    Debbie Meister and husband take a well-deserved lunch break.

    “WaterFest is
    a wonderful combination
    of fun and information.”  
    - Gene Christenson,
    husband of Debbie Meister,

    WaterFest Consultant

    We’re sure Gene is up on the nitty-gritty of WaterFest minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day. After all he’s the husband of Debbie Meister, the lead coordinator for this event. Preparing for WaterFest takes many months. We appreciate all the hard work and creativity that Debbie puts into this event and thank her and Gene and the many other volunteers, exhibitors and partners who help out in a lot of different capacities at this event each year. Thank you too to all our contributors who help out financially. 

    The Minnesota Well-Diggers Association lends their water
    droplet costume for use at WaterFest each year.
    But don’t just take these “experts” at their word. Come and check it out for yourself!
    We guarantee that you will enjoy WaterFest! And invite your friends and families to join you too!
    Check out the complete WaterFest SCHEDULE and then join us for a celebration of A Water Wonderland at WaterFest 2015!