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.


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