Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Fabulous Phalen Corridor

By Bill Bartodziej

Southwestern side of Lake Phalen (restored)

Ah, how times have changed. The days of vast stretches of eroding lakeshore, weedy reed canary grass thickets and noxious buckthorn and smooth brome slopes have fallen by the wayside. Over the last fifteen years, the Watershed and numerous public and private partners have succeeded in restoring over forty acres of critical parkland area in the Phalen Chain of Lakes corridor. And the great news; there is still much more ecological restoration on the horizon!

This year we will be focusing our restoration efforts on a stretch of Keller Creek just south of the lake and north of Frost Avenue (see Section B below). We completed the first area (Section A on map) last spring and will be finishing Sections C and D in subsequent years. This is a cooperative project with Ramsey County and the DNR.

Yellow Section A - 2015  /  Purple Section B - 2016
Blue Section C - 2017  /  Red Section D - 2018

Last fall we got a jumpstart by removing a good portion of the buckthorn in the creek buffer area. A Conservation Corps Minnesota crew (employed by the county) conducted the majority of this very labor-intensive work.

Ramsey County Corrections Crew removes pile of cut
buckthorn next to Keller Creek.

Ramsey County Correction inmate crews hauled the material off site. This really helped us get an early start on the site preparation component of the project.

An area of Keller Creek on the west side, once choked with buckthorn,
is now cleared and will be ready for prairie seeding next summer.

More site preparation work will take place this spring and planting with many local school classes and adult volunteers will happen in May.

Brush bundles were constructed by volunteers this past fall.
They will be used along the creek edge next spring to protect
 emergent plants like bulrush and burreed.

Oak savanna with invasive understory in Keller Regional Park

Mike Goodnature, Ramsey County’s Natural Resources Specialist, recently received word that the county has been awarded a Conservation Partners Legacy Grant for the “Keller Lake Savanna and Woodland Project.” 
Mike Goodnature and Bill Bartodziej

The project centers on a twenty-acre Ramsey County parcel directly to the west of Keller Creek and south of the lake (see red area on map below). This parcel is an essential component in restoring and connecting natural areas in the Phalen Corridor. Located in the southwest corner of Keller Regional Park, this oak forest/savanna has been set aside for wildlife habitat.

Although currently degraded by invasive species (e.g., buckthorn and smooth brome), this area is the largest tract of forest within the Phalen Corridor. After restoration, this parcel will become a prime refuge for migratory waterfowl. songbirds, amphibians and other species. Planning and site preparation work will happen this spring. The bulk of the native plant establishment will take place in 2017-18.

Buckthorn near oak savanna

The Watershed District is very excited to have an opportunity to work with the County on this project. Cumulatively, our efforts are coming together to make Phalen one of the highest quality urban lake corridors in the Twin Cities area.

For more information on previous phases of this Phalen Corridor restoration initiative by location, follow the links below:

New emergent plants along Keller Creek shoreline
photo credit: Ramsey County

Check out the Battle Creek Bucktorn Project in Motion  for details on another exciting project in Ramsey County Parks.

Battle Creek Buckthorn Project In Motion ...

Crew stacks woody invasives in Battle Creek Regional Park

Ramsey County has begun a multi-year, $288,000 project to clear out invasive species and
restore native vegetation in Battle Creek Park. They're focusing on a large swath in the northwest corner of the park. The Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Department will complete ongoing restoration improvements to the oak savannas, woodlands and prairies in the northwest section of Battle Creek Regional Park from summer 2015-2018.

A DNR Conservation Partners Legacy Grant through the Outdoor Heritage Fund, provided by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Funds, is covering ninety percent of the costs of this project. The remaining ten percent of the project funding is being matched by Ramsey County. 

The restoration work will include permitted prescribed burns (planned for spring 2016 and 2018), removal of buckthorn and other invasive woody material, and sowing of native seed over the seventy-acre site.
Buckthorn cut at Battle Creek Regional Park

According to Mike Goodnature, that area is being targeted "because it contains a unique mix of habitat types, such as oak savanna, wetland seeps and bluff prairie areas".

Oak woods are opened up after invasive removal.

The goal will be to improve habitat for deer, nesting birds and migratory waterfowl that travel along the Mississippi River corridor. It’s an ambitious and noble goal. We appreciate your efforts, Mike!

Anna Barker - Citizen Catalyst

Anna Barker engages Joy Cedarleaf’s Century College Environmental
Science students in rain garden maintenance at Crosswinds Arts and
Science School in Woodbury.

The Watershed Excellence Award that Anna Barker received at the District’s award ceremony in November highlights her key role as a “CITIZEN CATALYST.” Anna navigated the complexity of connecting a governmental agency, Washington Conservation District (WCD), with the interested parties in the private sector and four Carver Lake Homeowner’s Associations (CL-HOA’s) in Woodbury.

Anna Barker weeds out invasive burdock in front of a Woodbury
townhome next to a stormwater pond.

Anna is currently a member of one of those Woodbury homeowner’s associations. Starting in 2014, the WCD held a workshop focused on creating interest at the Carver Lake HOAs to implement stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs). Fortunately for the Conservation District, the workshop attracted one attendee, Anna Barker. Committed to seeing improvements in her neighborhood, she ensured that the decision-makers were engaged and in attendance at the next WCD workshop. Tara Kline, at the WCD, reports that three of the CL-HOA’s are moving through the concept/decision stages of BMP projects. Without Anna’s advocacy, the bridge connecting the Carver Lake HOA’s and the WCD would not exist.

Anna encourages other HOA members to learn
 about how they can change the lawn care practices
on their community property to improve water
quality in nearby Carver Lake.

Anna Barker’s green contributions dot the City of Woodbury. She has been a long-time champion for the environment and has been a formal and informal educator for forty years. As she self-reports, since 2005 she has broken her tools as “guardian” of the trails around Carver Lake. She believes that “beauty speaks truth to people’s hearts and leads to personal investment to get involved.”  

Weed whipping in Crosswinds rain garden. Anna B is not afraid
to get her hands dirty or use equipment!

Anna Barker was a catalyst in convincing her church to install rain gardens at Trinity Presbyterian in Woodbury to prevent run-off from heading to nearby Tamarack Swamp, the District’s “crown jewel” wetland.

Anna B inspirited her congregation to install
rain gardens at Trinity Presbyterian Church.

She also headed up a team to get rain gardens designed and installed at Crosswinds Arts and Science School where she taught. She engaged students in the care of the school’s two rain gardens for many years, recruited Sentence-to-Serve teams, involved college students in maintenance and engaged other teachers to lead educational activities about the wetland adjacent to the school and nearby Battle Creek Lake. She also initiated a School Forest program at the school.

Anna B with Crosswinds students during an intercession activity at the rain garden.

This rain garden at Crosswinds Arts and Sciences takes roof and sidewalk run-off.

Anna is a longtime Washington County Master Gardener, a Tree Care Advisor and volunteers at many events including buckthorn busting, Woodbury’s landscaping workshops and native plant sales. She also helps city staff on a variety of environmental projects. 


Anna Barker is a very active
Washington County Master Gardener.

In November Anna Barker was awarded the City of Woodbury’s Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Education and Awareness, a new category created in 2015. She was chosen to participate in RWMWD’s Master Water Stewards Program in 2016.


Anna Barker attended the Watershed District's Community Conversation
in Oakdale to give input for the upcoming Management Plan Update.

We look forward to continued collaboration with Anna. We thank her for her incredible commitment, creativity and energy for engaging citizens to protect water and improve the natural environment and for her skills in catalyzing people to action!

“Water Steward” Roger Fox is a Champion for Snail Lake

By Sage Passi

On November 12 at the District’s dinner ceremony, RWMWD recognized Roger Fox with a Watershed Excellence “Lake Steward” Award. This award recognizes an individual or organization that enthusiastically engages in lake neighborhood communication and watershed education in their local community.

Roger Fox, winner of the Lake Steward Award
with Sage Passi, RWMWD Education Specialist

I first encountered Roger Fox at an education event at Shoreview Community Center a few years ago that Maddy Jackson, a high school senior, organized to familiarize her community about aquatic vegetation in Snail Lake and its water quality issues. I spent some time talking to Roger, a videographer/photographer and volunteer water quality monitor, another resident on the lake. I was inspired by his dedication and long-time interest in water.

Fall reflections on Snail Lake
Photo Credit Roger Fox

Maddy’s event drew over fifty people, many of them residents on Snail Lake. I was impressed with this friendly, enthusiastic group of people that showed up to learn about water issues and support the efforts of this young steward. It was my first opportunity to witness the level of community and environmental passion that people like Roger and Maddy share about Snail Lake. 

An aerial view of Snail Lake

When a call went out last summer to the RWMWD’s Citizen Advisory Commission for Watershed Excellence Awards nominations, Kathryn Keefer, a resident on Snail Lake and Shoreview representative, jumped at the chance to nominate him.

One of Roger’s many contributions has been his twenty-five years of service in monitoring water clarity of Snail Lake for the Pollution Control Agency’s Citizen Lake and Stream Monitoring Program.

Roger Fox with his secchi disk at Snail Lake
Photo Credit Sage Passi

In her nomination, Katie Keefer cited Roger’s long-time dedication to citizen water quality monitoring and added,

“Beyond this long-term attention to the clarity of Snail Lake, Roger has advanced the unity of the Snail Lake neighborhood and the various issues of lake level by keeping the residents informed through emails and providing a continuous, updated list of the residents. He provides photographs and videos of neighborhood events, lake activity, waterfowl and issues relating to high water challenges - such as floating bogs."

The early morning stillness and beauty of Snail Lake
Photo Credit Roger Fox

"Roger's concern about the lake quality, the characteristics of the private and public land surrounding the lake and his diligent attention to keeping the neighborhood informed is worthy of recognition by RWMWD. Roger also drew their attention to various issues regarding natural resources' impact on the neighborhood health and safety including those relating to road improvement, future park (county) issues and the very recent removal of bog materials which resulted in a contract between the neighborhood, the city and county. Roger's communication support was most helpful throughout these challenges.”

The remainder of the bog that detached in a storm and floated
to the other side of Snail Lake.

Roger has a special talent for conveying the beauty and significance of Snail Lake to his community through his photography. Here are several other photos he shared with the Watershed District:

Red Sky Morning

Photo Credit Roger Fox

A Solitary Fisherman
Photo Credit Roger Fox

A Foggy Day
Photo Credit Roger Fox

In 2004 Roger attributed credit to his monitoring partner, his dog named Binky, a Yorkie who for many years accompanied him when he monitored Snail Lake.

Binky accompanied Roger during his secchi disk monitoring.

Roger’s story was recently reprinted in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s newsletter, Reflections 2014: A Yearbook of the Citizen Lake and Stream Monitoring Program, when Roger was honored for his twenty-five years of volunteer service. The PCA acknowledged his dedication to water quality and commitment to healthy lakes.

Binky and the Lake Monster
by Roger Fox

I moved to Snail Lake in Shoreview during the summer of 1973. I was thoroughly enjoying it until one evening about 1985, I was outside when a Ramsey County Policeman stopped to inform me that someone had reported some kind of “monster” in the lake earlier that day and it was his duty to inform everyone that lived on the lake about this event. He was very embarrassed to even have to explain it to me and we joked about it a little and then he went on his way and I forgot all about it. But then, I joined the CLMP (Citizen Lake Monitoring Program) in 1990 and began taking secchi disk readings at two locations on the lake. By this time, we had a Yorkie in the family named Binky who loved to go with me in the canoe when I took my readings. She would bark and bark at something in the water that I could never see. Fish maybe or just the waves?

One day, two people in a boat next to us asked what she was barking at and I replied “it must be the lake monsters". The idea kind of stuck with us after that, so that when I told the story to our program coordinator at the time, Jennifer Klang, she liked it so much that when our next award was handed out, she made certain that Binky received one too. By that time, Binky the Wonder Dog, as she was then known, was on her last legs and when I took her to the Vet and it was decided to give her “the shot”, it was really a sad day in our household. When I got home again, I noticed the day’s mail where I had dropped it during the excitement of getting her to the Vet. I opened the large manila envelope and there was Binky’s award. I wish she could have lived another day so that she could have seen it.


Roger's PCA Certificate


A huge thank you to Roger Fox and Binky the Wonder Dog for your steadfast dedication to your community and to Snail Lake.

Want a Rain Garden on Your Property? We can Help!

Rain gardens maintained by volunteers at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Paul.
It’s not too early to start thinking about installing a rain garden on your property next spring!

RWMWD is now accepting applications for the 2016 BMP Incentive Program. This program offers technical assistance and cost share funds to support projects that improve water quality. Funds are available to homeowners, churches, homeowner associations, and commercial properties interested in installing clean water projects on their property. Projects are funded 50-100% depending on the type of project and location in the Watershed. 

Additionally, Washing Conservation District currently has funding to do clean water landscaping projects with condos, town homes, and single family homeowner associations. These funds are available to associations in Washington County who complete projects that will help reduce runoff water pollution, converting turf areas to native plantings, and retrofitting existing stormwater ponds into reuse systems for irrigation.  

A 2011 residential rain garden project done through
the RWMWD cost-share program.

Visit our website for more information or call with questions about the program. Technical service for the cost share program is provided by Ramsey and Washington Conservation Districts. Please call the numbers below to schedule a site visit to see what opportunities are available on your property. We look forward to hearing from you!

It is never too early to start thinking about installing water quality BMPs on your property. Visit our website for more information or call with questions about the program. Technical service for the cost share program is provided by Ramsey and Washington Conservation Districts. Please call the numbers below to schedule a site visit to see what opportunities are available on your property. We look forward to hearing from you!

Ramsey County Residents:
Michael Schumann

Washington County Residents:
Tara Kline
651-275-1136 x28

Phalen Freeze Fest! Don't Miss this FREE Family Event!

The story of Shingebiss and Winter Maker is told
with large puppets at last year’s Phalen Freeze Fest.

Join us on the lake or on the balcony of the boathouse to hear the Ojibwe legend of Shingebiss, dramatized by giant puppets at 5:30 PM. Use small hand puppets to join in the storytelling fun. This is the story of the determined duck that refused to be defeated by the Winter Maker.

Inspired by this plucky duck, you can take the Story Walk, snowshoe, fish through the ice, build snow caves and cook marshmallows over a fire. Try flashlight geocaching, boot hockey and more! Have fun with indoor crafts. Learn how to protect our lakes in the wintertime. Food will be on sale while supplies last. All equipment provided.
Ice fishing is one of many activities at Phalen Freeze Fest.

Faith Krogstad, St. Paul Parks and Rec, and Angie Hong, EMWREP,
prepare for Phalen Freeze Fest.

For a printable flyer of the event, click HERE.

Phalen Freeze Fest Puppet Making Workshops
[note: these workshops are now over, but mark your calendar for next year!  The puppets made at these workshops will be at the Phalen Freeze.]

Director Mary Henke-Haney assists puppeteers with WinterMaker
and Shingebiss puppets made for last year’s Phalen Freeze Fest.

Animal hats and merganser puppets crafted in workshops last year.

This event is free and no registration required.

Contact: Mary Henke-Haney, 651-248-6500 or go to this link for more information. This event is legacy funded.

Partners for Phalen Freeze Fest include: the City of St. Paul. St. Paul Parks and Recreation, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, Wilderness Inquiry, Urban Roots, St. Paul Public Library, Tips Outdoors, Minnesota DNR, St. Paul Natural Resources, Explore Outdoors Saint Paul with funding from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.