Thursday, January 28, 2016

Eyes on a Natural Treasure: Tamarack Nature Preserve

By Sage Passi

Glistening snow beckons us to explore Tamarack Nature Preserve
photo credit: Dana Boyle

Dana Boyle has a real eye for beauty, no matter what season is gracing us. Through the changing rhythms of the year, her photos eloquently draw out the nuances of nature that may elude us.

Cattails reaching toward the fall sky. Only the broad leaf cattail is native
to Minnesota. Narrowleaf and hybrid cattail are non-native and invasive.

photo credit: Dana Boyle

A Tamarack Nature Preserve Field Guide, just completed by Boyle, features an array of stunning images of the different habitats and close-ups of plants that grow in the rich fen and along the woodland trails in this wetland preserve. Her guide is a work of art that captures her skills as a photographer and as an astute observer of the natural world.

Dana and her dog are frequent visitors to Tamarack Nature Preserve.

Marsh Marigold is an early spring arrival.
photo credit: Carrie Magnuson

Sensitive Fern after a summer rain
photo credit: Dana Boyle


The Watershed District is providing a link to this guide on our website so anyone can appreciate and download this resource and use it to become familiar with some of the rich diversity of plant life while strolling through this unique wetland or simply click this link to go directly to the Tamarack Nature Field Guide.

Boyle comments,

“As a 19-year resident, I’ve come to appreciate the amazing biodiversity of the Tamarack Swamp, which is truly a rare community asset that deserves our great respect and continued protection. On daily walks through this special environment, observing migratory warblers and waterfowl, identifying numerous plant species and tracking reptile and mammals, I am reminded that our sophisticated and growing suburb serves as a rich habitat for so many unique living things, offering an opportunity for inspiration from the natural world.”

Calla Lilies grow densely along the edge of the boardwalk.
photo credit: Woodbury Bulletin

A few years ago Dana offered us a hand at several of our Watershed District tours in Tamarack Swamp in Woodbury. Each summer during our public tours, we would draw significant crowds of people who were interested in learning about the unique and diverse plant communities that grow along the boardwalk and trails in the preserve. We would lay out laminated plant photos along the board ahead of the time for the tour.

We hired Jason Husveth, a local plant ecologist, and his staff and engaged other volunteers like Dana, naturalists from nature centers, Master Naturalists and other volunteers to help familiarize the public with the Preserve’s complex of plants and environments.

Jason Husveth, Critical Connections, explains how the PFS ponds
keep sediment and pollutants out of Tamarack wetlands.

For a map to the plant community locations in the Preserve follow this link.

One of our intentions with the tours was to draw attention to the geology, history of land changes in the area and the impacts of increased stormwater on the swamp’s delicate ecosystems, especially those that support the tamaracks. Tamarack trees are rare in the Twin Cities Metro area. They are usually found farther north and need a very specific wetland bog habitat that is sensitive to stormwater and fluctuations in water levels.

Frosty cattails in Tamarack Nature Preserve
photo credit: Dana Boyle 

In pre-settlement times Woodbury was covered in oak savanna, wetlands and prairie. A walk through Tamarack Nature Preserve takes you back to pre-settlement days because the variety and size of plant communities were once widespread in areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin. As land was converted first to agriculture, and later developed for housing in Woodbury and other communities, many wetlands were drained while others received increased stormwater runoff.

During our tours, we were pleased to see that there were so many people who were curious about this unusual oasis in the middle of a suburban community. Around that time we learned that Dana was also leading plant walks through this fine jewel in her own “backyard”.

One day a beautiful emerald green painting arrived in the mail at our office from Dana. This was our first clue about Dana’s talents as an artist. 

Dana's Calla Lily painting

Over time it’s become evident that Dana has a special connection to this place and a strong commitment to sharing her love of nature with others.

A crisp fall walk through Tamarack Nature Preserve
photo credit: Dana Boyle

When she reached out to the Watershed District this summer to get input on the field guide she was creating, I felt privileged to be a witness to her talents as a photographer and writer. Around the same time I was asked by the City of Woodbury for recommendations for their 2015 Environmental Excellence Awards. Woodbury’s award program was developed to recognize businesses, organizations and individuals that are making the city a more sustainable community through innovative programs and practices that demonstrate environmental leadership.

I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I nominated Dana.

At the City Council Meeting on November 18, the City of Woodbury awarded Dana Boyle with the Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Education and Awareness.

Photo credit: Laurie Oleson
(Connecting Children and Nature)
Dana describes her commitment and interest in engaging other people in learning about this very valuable preserve in her city,

“In order to share this special place with others, I’ve created popular family-friend events called Hidden Bog Tours that were modeled off the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District tours (for which I’ve served as a volunteer guide).
I’ve developed color-field guides to educate people of all ages – both inside and outside our community to one of our region’s natural treasures, giving a new appreciation for Woodbury and for the environment.I appreciate the work that you (the Watershed District) and your colleagues do to make this such a beautiful place, helping us maintain an optimal balance between civic growth and the wilds.”

We want to thank Dana for this labor of love and also offer our appreciation to her son, Brendan Boyle, who contributed his layout skills for the field guide.

Wild Cucumber at twilight
photo credit: Dana Boyle

For a link to the District’s Tamarack Nature Preserve brochure (due for an update soon) and other managed sites around the District go to: and then scroll to Managed Sites and click on Tamarack Nature Preserve.


Key: Yellow - Treatment Systems / Red - Parking Lot / Orange - Trails

Tamarack Nature Preserve is located in Woodbury on Tower Drive north of Valley Creek Road. On Tower Drive, take the second right to the parking lot and trail.

We encourage you to take a stroll through Tamarack Nature
Preserve any time of year to enjoy its wild beauty
 photo credit: Dana Boyle

In case you missed the link above, here is the link to Dana's beautiful field guide:
Tamarack Nature Preserve Field Guide

Stepping into Eric Sommers' Glass Art Studio

By Stephanie Wang and Sage Passi
Local glass artist Eric Sommers
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

Photo Credit: Sage Passi

Sage Passi, Watershed Education Specialist, visited Eric's studio that he shares with two artists in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis and witnessed his artistic process first-hand.

"As I walked into his studio, I was awed by the amount of complex equipment and tools required for glass blowing." 

Eric and his studio partners Andrew Shea and Susan Warner, a ceramic artist, often collaborate on projects. Susan and Eric have currently been commissioned to create art for two wall spaces at Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport.

Last November, the Watershed presented its 2015 Watershed Excellence awards to honor the accomplishments of exceptional “leaders” in water resources management, watershed stewardship and civic engagement. Local glass artist Eric Sommers was chosen to custom design and create the awards.

Eric says he enjoys the challenge of glass-blowing. "Working in glass means creating variations from piece to piece. It has taken me ten to twelve creations to come up with the final six that I use for the Watershed Awards."

Creating glass artwork requires a special kind of patience and a great deal of technical expertise.

The glass-blowing studio where Eric creates his beautiful art
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

The first day of a project is typically spent preparing the molten glass. Batches of recycled glass and raw material silica sand are slowly charged to the furnace. Plenty of heat and precise temperature controllers are needed to bring the 150-pound batch of glass to the target temperature of 2400 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the bubbles to refine and rise to the surface creating the exceptional molten glass. 

The hottest of multiple ovens
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

For the District awards project the creative process began on the second day. Eric drew images of sunfish and crappies on sandblast resistant tape, then cut the images out and attached them to shards of flat, colored glass. Sandblasting etched the fish onto the colored glass. To protect the image and to create a sculptural effect, the etched glass was encapsulated in molten glass.

Photo Credit: Sage Passi

This process was slowly repeated to avoid sudden temperature changes that could shatter the glass. During each step he added molten glass, smoothing and shaping it carefully. Each time the piece was heated in the 2000 degree oven so that it could be shaped and smoothed repeatedly into its final form.

Photo Credit: Sage Passi

Once this stage was complete, the finished products were annealed (hardened), slowly cooling the glass pieces to room temperature over twenty-seven hours, allowing the molecules in the glass to change from a liquid to a solid.

To finish the awards, the sculptures were mounted on blocks of 100-year-old Douglas Fir cut from boards salvaged from a barn in Maple Grove, Minnesota, and then laser-engraved.

At the Recognition Dinner, Eric met the recipients of his work and learned what winning the award meant to these six individuals. Eric had an opportunity to talk about the creative process in crafting the beautiful fish sculpture awards. 

Eric concluded his talk for the award recipients with this wish,

“My hope is that this small sculpture of water and environment will reinforce the importance of clean water stewardship and will resonate with your recipients the heartfelt thanks for their efforts.”

A display of Eric's finished artwork
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

We extend our sincere thank you to Eric for sharing his artistic talents with us and know that the recipients are honored to receive their unique awards.

If you'd like to contact Eric Sommers, you may reach him at 763-566-2274.

Winning Stories from Landscape Ecology Awards Program

By Simba Blood
 Kari Samuel, Rick DeMarchis (center) with
LEAP team members, Phyllis Hunter (L) and Dana Larsen-Ramsay (R)

Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Last month's Ripple Effect blog featured stories about some of the LEAP Award winners who were honored at our Annual Recognition Dinner on November 12, 2015, that was held at Keller Golf Course Clubhouse.

The Landscape Ecology Awards Program (LEAP) recognizes private, public and commercial landowners within the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District that use good management practices to preserve and improve water quality and natural resources.

And, as promised, here are the rest of the stories ... we hope you enjoy them!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3M Crew at work.
Photo Credit: Kari Samuel


Changes in 3M Center’s grounds management came to LEAP Team member Phyllis Hunter’s attention when she noticed the replacement of the old fountain and mowed turf with perennial flower beds. This prompted her to nominate 3M’s Maplewood location for the LEAP Award.

The details of current land care management came with the completed application and illuminated the wonderful progress supervisor Kari Samuel and the rest of the grounds department have made in moving the campus towards a showcase of sustainable and water-friendly practices. 

Photo Credit: Kari Samuel
In addition to the upgrade of the former fountain, an entire suite of improvements have been underway on the site. Flower beds and planters filled with annual plants have been replaced with perennial plantings, many of them filled with Minnesota native species. 

A massive upgrade to the irrigation system allows watering to be prompted by moisture level monitoring, rather than a schedule dictated by a timer. Some formerly mowed rough turf areas have been restored with native prairie plantings. The crew is making progress in removing invasive plants – buckthorn is a persistent foe – and are committed to maintaining a high level of education in current land care best management practices. 

Photo Credit: Kari Samuel

One of the most interesting projects on the grounds is the addition of beehives – a collaboration between 3M and the University of Minnesota’s “Bee Squad”. With the installation of educational signage, this effort not only provides the benefit of pollinator habitat, it also serves as an educational opportunity for 3M employees and visitors.


Photo Credit: Kari Samuel

Congratulations to Kari and the grounds crew at 3M Center – your work is inspiring!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Janet Koenst (R) and her daughter Stacie Waters (L)
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Janet and Walter Koenst

The origins of Janet and Walter Koenst’s landscaping journey lie in their desire to be good neighbors. Rainwater from their roof and the hillside behind their home was creating a shallow pond in the yard next door. While ephemeral ponds can be valuable habitat, it’s generally not considered a bonus when they start turning up unexpectedly in your lawn! Even though Janet and Walter had no legal obligation to attempt to help solve this problem, they stepped up and sought out assistance from specialists at the Washington Conservation District. With the aid of some technical assistance and cost-share funding, they constructed two rain gardens and a gravel “creek” that directs the rainwater.

Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Although working in a challenging site – lots of water, shade and steep slopes – the projects have been very successful. The rain gardens can redirect, contain and infiltrate the runoff generated by a 2” rainfall. In addition to the benefits to downstream water quality – and the neighbor’s yard – the rain gardens have attracted lots of positive attention. Janet has received compliments on the showy front garden from neighbors and strangers alike. Perhaps the highest compliments are those from the birds, butterflies and other wildlife that now grace their yard.

Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Janet was very gratified to learn that she would receive a LEAP award for the projects, but the presentation ceremony was scheduled for the middle of their annual trip to sunny Mexico. Members of the LEAP team were prepared to accept the award on her behalf, when we received a wonderful surprise – Janet had flown home early to attend the ceremony!

Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Thank you for your dedication, enthusiasm and hard work, Janet and Walter!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Justin Zimmerman, Ponds Superintendent with
Phyllis Hunter and Dana Larsen-Ramsay from the LEAP Team

Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Ponds at Battle Creek

The Ponds at Battle Creek is a beautiful and challenging Ramsey County nine-hole course in South Maplewood. One of the unique aspects of this course – the one celebrated by the LEAP award - is the focus on maintaining many no-play areas in diverse native habitats.

The LEAP nomination for the Ponds at Battle Creek came on the recommendation of a biologist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. This generated a lively discussion amongst LEAP team members, as the District has a hand in the current round of restoration projects at the course. 

Photo Credit: Bill Bartodziej

The collaboration between the District and the Ponds staff has its roots in an erosional gully that manifested near the green on hole number four. Course Superintendent Rob Adams and District Natural Resources Specialist Bill Bartodziej developed a plan to repair the gully using bioengineering techniques. During this repair, invasive plants that had colonized the adjacent shoreline were controlled. Native rushes, grasses and flowers were planted both in and around the repair area. The slope is now stable and boasts a variety of sturdy perennial plants. This success paved the way for a large scale, long term restoration and management plan.

Photo Credit: Rob Adams

Ecological restoration efforts have continued to build upon the diverse remnant native plant communities in the buffers surrounding the wetlands on the course and the inclusion of native short grass prairie species in the initial seeding of some no-play areas. The large buffer surrounding the pond between holes six and seven is one of the most visible projects on the course. Prairie seeds were sown here in 2013. By the summer of 2015 this area was awash in black-eyed Susan, bergamot, vervain, Canada wild rye and other native plants.

In early 2015 Rob Adams passed the Ponds torch along to new Superintendent Justin Zimmerman. Justin has a background in restoration and is enthusiastic about continuing this work at the Ponds. When receiving the LEAP award, Justin remarked that many golfers have commented on the spectacular blooms that now dot the course. And, of course, “Nellie”, the course’s resident red-tailed hawk, appreciates the habitat created with these improvements.

Photo Credit: Bill Bartdoziej

On behalf of the LEAP team, Nellie and all the other creatures who have been enjoying this transformation – way to go, Justin!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Read more award-winning stories in The Ripple Effect by clicking on the links below:

A LEAP Award for a Caring Congregation

Honoring Landowners committed to "Water and Natural Resouces Friendly" Practices

A LEAP Award for a Caring Congregation

By Sage Passi
LEAP Team visits Our Redeemer Lutheran Church’s rain garden

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church parking lot rain garden in east St. Paul exemplifies a project that has many “heroes”. The lovely, well-cared for, pollinator-friendly rain garden, ablaze in the summer with prairie and meadow blazing stars, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, blue flag iris and butterfly milkweed came to the attention of the LEAP Team this past summer three years after it was installed.

Cardinal Flower in its splendor
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Dennis Paulsen, a member of the congregation’s Caring for Creation team, played a starring role, but teamwork with others was integral to this project. Dennis and Pastor Karsten Nelson enthusiastically accepted the LEAP Award in November at the awards banquet on behalf of everyone who assisted with this project.

Dennis Paulson (middle left) and Pastor Karsten Nelson (middle right)
receive a 2015 LEAP award for Our Redeemer Lutheran Church’s rain garden.

Before this rain garden was installed, I’d always admired the church’s lush, well-tended front garden when I drove by on my way to tending Marian Seabold’s nearby rain garden. I could tell there had to be some dedicated gardeners at this church. Their parking lot seemed like a good candidate for a rain garden. Its location upstream of Lake Phalen was another clue that this could be a good spot.

Our Redeemer attended a workshop led by Sean Gosiewski at
Cross Lutheran Church to learn about rain gardens.

Sean Gosiewski from the Alliance for Sustainability played a hand in the story. The Watershed District had hired him to recruit churches for BMP projects. He used the strategy of connecting with churches’ “Caring for Creation” teams because he thought they would be enthusiastic supporters of rain garden projects due to their environmental ethics. In 2011 Sean organized a workshop for church representatives from around the district at Cross Lutheran Church where a rain garden had just been installed. Our Redeemer Caring Creation member, Lana Larsen, attended the workshop and came back enthusiastic about the possibility of getting assistance for the church’s erosion issues. 

Phalen Stewards discuss ways to protect Lake Phalen at Our Redeemer
Lutheran with help from Sean Gosiewski and Rachel Hefke.

The Watershed District enlisted the aid of Ryan Johnson from Ramsey Conservation District in a site assessment on Our Redeemer’s grounds to investigate its run-off and erosion problems. In 2011 Louise Watson, the District’s Education Coordinator, began organizing a collaboration of residents, organizations, city staff and schools called Stewards of the Phalen Chain of Lakes. She was looking for a neighborhood location near Phalen Lake for the group to meet. Redeemer Lutheran Church, on Larpenteur Avenue, just east of Lake Phalen, fit the bill.

Pastor Karsten was approached and was supportive of the Phalen Stewards meeting at the church. The group met for about a year there to create a shared vision for watershed stewardship and hands‐on projects around the community. Participants rallied the church to install a rain garden to infiltrate run-off from its large parking lot.

Mitchell Morgan, a prospective Eagle Scout, and another Boy Scout,
Master Gardeners, Linda Neilson and Carol Mason Sherrill prepare to plant.

Mitchell Morgan, a high school student from the church, proposed an Eagle Scout Project to Pastor Karsten. The pastor and Mitchell decided to propose a rain garden on the church site. Dennis became the project lead and main advisor to Mitchell. After a lot of planning and many hours of training sessions with Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District, a BMP grant was submitted and a successful church fund raiser was held.

Prairie Blazing Star and Cardinal Flower in full bloom

The 650 square foot rain garden is designed to infiltrate a one-inch rainfall from the west parking lot. Previously the runoff from the parking lot carried rotting plants, fertilizer, sand and salt to the storm sewer which empties into Phalen Lake. The garden was excavated in November 2012. Mulching and planting of the garden was organized in May of 2013 by Mitchell with help from Dennis, several other Boy Scouts, Ramsey County Master Gardeners, Linda Neilson, Carol Mason Sherrill and Sage.

Dennis Paulson and Eagle Scout Mitchell Morgan plant the rain garden.

The LEAP Team’s assessment of the garden included the following compliments:

“It’s impressive. The rain garden looks like an ornamental garden, but successfully handles water run-off. It has a nice design with flowers in spring, summer and fall with nice variety. This is one of the best-maintained sites our team has seen!”

Orange butterfly weed accents the blue salvia around the edges
of the rain garden during the garden’s second summer.

 Photo credit: Sage Passi

The planting design was completed with the help of Sage Passi from RWMWD, Dennis Paulson and Master Gardeners, Linda Neilson and Jodi Refsland. 

Master Gardener/landscape architect student, Jodi Refsland,  Dennis Paulson and
Ramsey County Master Gardener, Linda Neilson team up to create a rain garden planting
design for Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.

In the design, native flowers and sedges are interspersed with cultivated perennials to give the rain garden a more formal look. The garden is surrounded with small shrubs such as pink flowering spirea and “bushy” yellow moonbeam coreopsis, both plants that are more familiar to the average gardener. Native plants like blazing stars, turtlehead and sedges were placed in the center because they can tolerate more water. This design concept emerged after the rain garden team met with the church’s garden team to get their input on the style of garden they preferred.

The design for this rain garden combines both formal and wild elements.
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

Dennis continues to be responsible for the care of the rain garden. If you visit this garden in the summer adjacent to the west parking lot at 1390 Larpenteur East in St. Paul, you'll see many visiting monarch butterflies, bees and insects.

A monarch and a bee enjoy a Prairie Blazing Star in the rain garden

Congratulations to Redeemer Lutheran Church! Thank you for creating this beautiful rain garden out of care for Lake Phalen! It is a real labor of love!

RWMWD Master Water Stewards Program has Launched

By Sage Passi
2016 Master Water Stewards converge at the
Minnesota History Center for a kick-off event.

It was a “watershed” moment. January 19 marked the launching night for the 2016 Master Water Stewards Program in the East Metro area facilitated by the Freshwater Society, in partnership with several Watershed Districts. The excitement at this event was palpable. Sixty-eight Master Water Stewards gathered at the Minnesota History Center to initiate their year-long involvement in this program that includes online and in person training over the next six months, the creation of capstone and community outreach projects and on-going volunteering for Watershed Districts in coming years. The expansion of the program from Minnehaha Watershed District to the East Metro area comes after a three-year pilot in the western suburbs.

Peggy Knapp addressed the Master Water Stewards.
Her own
life story pictures behind her were used
 to explain the ice breaker.

Peggy Knapp, Director of Programs for the Freshwater Society, is a dynamic and compelling leader who has dedicated a great deal of creativity and expertise to building this program for the past four years along with support from many resource people around the community. She drew the volunteers into a lively ice-breaker activity. The buzz in the room grew as Master Water Stewards were offered their first “official” opportunity to interact and meet each other.

Mary Hammes, A Master Water Steward facilitator,
passes out new journals to the Stewards

Blank journals were passed out. The assignment: Illustrate your life story in pictures on one page in five minutes or less (without words). Once that was completed, each participant received someone else’s journal (given to them anonymously). 

Interpreting the pictographs became an interesting challenge.

The next step: Figure out whose journal you have and interpret their life story by looking at their pictures. To conclude this activity each “artist” told their partner their own version of their life story pictured in the journal.

Master Water Steward cohort facilitator Tara Hanlon-Nevins hears
her partner’s version of her life story as interpreted through his “eyes”.
The activity continued until everyone had their journal story told by their partner and interpreted it themselves. It was a creative way to model and introduce the skill of getting to know people that Master Water Stewards will need to apply in their role as citizen activists. Volunteers loved the experience!

Bonding between Master Stewards has already begun!

The evening continued with an introduction to the elements of the program and a preview of the on-line website that will be the “scene” for learning and action for the rest of the year. 

The program's technical support person, Alex Van Loh,
is a Green Corps member for Freshwater Society this year

I asked one of the Master Water Stewards to offer a few reflections after the event.

“I can see the classes will be informative and fun. I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and becoming a Master Water Steward. The momentum from last night was great. I hope it stays at that level. It was energizing! I want the quality of our local lakes like Bennett Lake where I live to improve. My dog wants to swim in it!” - Linda Neilson

Linda Neilson, Master Steward (front right) To her left are Hallie
Finucane and Idelle Peterson. Tina Carstens, District Administrator
(under the light) also participated in the event.

What are the Goals of the Master Water Steward program?

The Master Water Stewards program focuses on the empowerment and engagement of the community to address local water pollution and increase public awareness, education and action on water quality issues. Coupled with that is the implementation of stormwater infiltration projects in local watersheds. Freshwater Society’s long-term goal is to expand this program to a state level. Spreading it metro-wide is the next step in that bigger vision.

A City of Eagan team gets acquainted

How Will the Program Operate?

Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, Capitol Region Watershed District and Rice Creek Watershed District are teaming together as a cohort to host the training sessions that will rotate between their Watershed District offices and in the field. Two trained Master Water Stewards, Mary Hammes and Tara Hanlon-Nevins will co-facilitate these classes that begin February 2 and continue bi-weekly until mid-summer.

What Will the Training Include?

Master Water Stewards will participate in an online course. Taped by experts and viewed ahead of time by participants, these lessons will focus on topics that include hydrology, climate change, water quality, rain garden design and construction. After watching the presentations, Master Water Stewards will send in their questions and get them answered during the in-person classes.

They will be given assignments to complete online and in the field prior to class. Then their class time can be spent in interactive activities and talking with local watershed professionals and specialists.

Master Water Stewards will tour their watersheds, design and construct infiltration projects and develop a stormwater capstone project with Watershed District support. Their capstone project will include a community outreach project.

What Can Master Water Stewards Offer?

Master Water Stewards gather for the introduction on January 19.

Our new Master Water Stewards bring a mixed set of skills and perspectives, have diverse ages and experiences, can build momentum, create unique strategies that insure successful projects and help us make behavior change and community empowerment a reality.

Master Water Stewards have something no one else can offer: their unique connections to their own community. The people they know, the credibility they have, being a local resident and their capacity to influence their community contacts is invaluable. We look forward to supporting their efforts and building on the connections they make within their communities to protect local lakes and water resources.

Who are our volunteers and what experiences and skills do they bring to the program?

Mary Hammes, cohort facilitator for our three watershed district teams,
did a graduate research project study in the Casey Lake neighborhood
for North St. Paul's Resilient Communities Project.

Here’s the “short” list:
  • Several Master Gardeners who have coordinated school gardens, led community watershed projects, designed and built rain gardens, taught about tree care and done habitat restoration
  • A scientist who has given presentations at Science, Environment, Toxicology and Chemistry Symposiums (SETAC) and facilitated meetings with the EPA and taught short term courses at the University of Minnesota Extension on soil
  • A retired chemical engineer with a longtime interest in environmental issues
  • A summer naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center with extensive facilitation skills with youth and college students in team-based learning
  • Individuals who have worked with Parks and Recreation programs, Nature Centers and volunteered with their churches
  • Several volunteers with knowledge about native bees
  • A Toast Master and other individuals with extensive public speaking experience
  • A volunteer who has run professional development workshops and led workshops for college students through Water Education for Educators (Project WET)

We asked our new team several questions. Here are their responses:

Stephanie Wang, Woodbury 
Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District Citizen Advisory Commission

Why are you interested in becoming a Master Water Steward?
After leaving a 17-year career at 3M, I looked for opportunities to become more “green”, such as installing a rain garden and then serving on my city’s Environmental Advisory Commission and the Watershed District’s Citizen Advisory Commission. Becoming a Master Water Steward will enable me to take the next step in becoming more proactive, especially through the capstone project.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
Raise Awareness: In my community examples of BMPs exist at city-owned properties, churches and even neighborhoods. I would like to expand on the work of others to increase the awareness of these projects, especially for those neighborhoods, home owner associations or property management where installation of BMPs could have the most impact. I would like to simplify the process for those interested parties so that installations are viewed as a success long after the planting is finished.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anna Barker, Woodbury
Retired formal and informal educator for 40 years and Washington County Master Gardener

Why are you interested in becoming a Master Water Steward?
My becoming a Master Water Steward will activate the much-needed process for our great state to have a Best Practices for Water (PW) Model to replicate and disseminate for individuals and their communities. I look forward to pioneering the effort as a Citizen Catalyst and bridge the public and private sectors with a network of volunteers and professionals who coordinate across disciplines.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
Woodbury and the East Metro area of the Twin Cities are ready to have a bridge and models for behavior change that encourage them to see that they have the citizen power to join together and co-create new infrastructures that both inspire and require what is necessary to eliminate the environmental problems that exist in our community. I am ready to leverage the capacity I have to be a positive example and conduit for helping to effect these changes.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Brian Bohman, Shoreview

Graduate student in the Water Resources Science, M.S. Program at the University of Minnesota

Why are you interested in becoming a Master Water Steward?
I am fascinated with water. Water holds a role of key importance in all aspects of my life: personal, recreational, academic and professional. I want to give back to my community in order to protect and improve local water resources for the benefit of future generations. I want to explore the potential broader impacts of my academic experience, develop relevant professional skills and give back to my community to protect and improve the quality of our local water resources.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
My primary aim is to raise awareness, passion and appreciation for our water resources. I have found that my fascination with water has deepened as I have learned more and experienced more. Through active engagement, my level of concern and willingness to address local water quality issues has increased significantly. Exposure and education opens the pathway for concern and engagement. I want to focus on exposure and education as a Master Water Steward to allow for future concern and engagement to develop within the community at large.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Idelle Peterson, Roseville
Retired Chemical Engineer, former Master Gardener and Master Naturalist in Missouri

Why are you interested in becoming a Master Water Steward?
I have time to volunteer since I am retired and I like to contribute to my community. As a retired chemical engineer and former single-family residence owner, I can bring some technical knowledge and experience to the program. Park View Terrace (PVT) Condominium Association, where I live, received a Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District grant for a large rain garden which was put in during 2015. The successful maintenance of PVT's rain garden is very important to me so that it can be an inspiration to the community and function to improve water quality and benefit the environment. I enjoy interacting with people, so I think I can be an asset to the program.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
Improvement in water quality, especially in Bennett Lake located just across County Road C from where I live in Central Park. Beautiful landscaping with minimal use of fertilizer and pesticides. Community awareness of the need for water quality stewardship.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Linda Neilson, Roseville
Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District Citizen Advisory Commission, Ramsey County Master Gardener

Why are you interested in becoming a Master Water Steward?
I enjoy working with others and welcome the opportunity to learn more about improving water quality and sharing that knowledge with other members of the community.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
Greater citizen awareness that the actions they take do affect water quality and that every individual can make a difference. It can be as simple as being a responsible dog owner and picking up dog feces and disposing of them properly or keeping leaves, grass clippings and fertilizers out of the street so they do not flow into the storm sewer and directly into water bodies. I would love to see people become motivated to take action-big or small. Helping build a rain garden in a public area or putting one into their own yard: redirecting downspouts so rainwater flows into a garden or on the grass rather than down a sidewalk or driveway.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Hallie Finucane, Roseville
Attorney, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District Citizen Advisory Commission

Why are you interested in becoming a Master Water Steward?

I have always been concerned about the use, pollution and waste of our precious water resources. The training offered by the Master Water Steward program would provide information that can be used as an outreach or educational tool with community members. I would like to learn more so that I can work with my neighbors and community members, especially in Roseville, to make a positive impact on the water in our watershed district.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
The importance of small changes in activities or methods that can make big changes so that we are better protecting our water. I would like to hold informational sessions to pass on information that could raise awareness.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Evan Pugh, Roseville
Former Fulbright scholar in Morocco and prospective graduate student

Why are you interested in becoming a Master Water Steward
Having returned to Minnesota after a long absence, I am excited to find public interest in watershed protection to be at an all-time high. I am eager to join the grassroots push for increased protection of Minnesota’s ecosystems. I have contributed to various one-time habitat restoration projects around the metro area, but I am looking for a more substantial program to which I can contribute. I am very drawn to the Master Water Steward Program because it uniquely promotes a long-term, high-quality training methodology and ambitious goal to increase understanding of water stewardship on a communal scale.

I intend to enter a graduate program in the natural and agricultural sciences at the University of Minnesota by 2018. However, I have not yet decided on my specialization. As with my past experiences, I know that the field and classroom experience that the Master Water Steward Program provides will help me refine my long-term scientific interests and decide on a graduate degree.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
My street runs along the gradient of a hill, with me and my neighbors inhabiting the bottom. Rainwater moves unobstructed down this hill, and we often experience flooding as a consequence. I would like to collaborate with my neighbors to develop a network of rain gardens along this hill that will systematically increase water infiltration and retention. As communal stakeholders, I hope to get my neighbors to become jointly invested in this enterprise and learn about water conservation in the process.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Rochelle Robideau, St. Paul
Gardener and Landscaper, Hillcrest Golf Course, Ramsey County Master Gardener School Program Coordinator

Why are you interested in becoming a Master Water Steward
First of all, all living organisms require water in order to live. Although, we may have an abundance of this natural resource in Minnesota compared to other states, we should step up and take a guardianship role in order to insure this resource's quality is not degraded. We must be ahead of the game in preventing unforeseen problems. Coming from a background in environmental effects and fate (water and soil), I recognize how important it is to keep abreast of water quality issues. Educating the public correctly is key to obtaining the sustainability of this resource and its surrounding environment.

What changes are you hoping to affect in your community?
Educate the community that there needs to be a change in the current practices in order to achieve sustainability. I would like to see the community readily accept alternatives. A simple change could be as easy as the use of rain barrels.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Please stay tuned to hear more about this program as it unfolds and learn about the up-and-coming accomplishments of these motivated Master Water Stewards!