Thursday, January 28, 2016

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

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