Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 Citizen Catalyst Award – Gail Acosta

Adapted from "RWMWD Citizen Catalyst Award Nomination" by Dana Larsen-Ramsay

 Dana Larsen-Ramsay (left) presents Gail Acosta (right)
with the Watershed Steward award for Citizen Catalyst
at the 2016 Recognition Dinner

Gail Acosta’s passion for gardening caught our eye in 2004. That year, just two years into our Landscape Ecology Awards Program (LEAP), her expansive habitat gardens earned her a LEAP award. At that same moment, we won a dedicated and contagiously enthusiastic citizen partner. 
 Gail accepting her award in 2004, launching
her dedicated collaboration with RWMWD

Receiving her award was the catalyst for Gail’s involvement in Watershed District programs, resulting in her joining the Natural Resources Board. She has served as a valued member of various teams for twelve years to date, bringing with her many things; knowledge, passion, generosity, artistry, and when necessary, a strong voice for the natural environment.

Knowledge and Passion

Gail came to the table with a keen knowledge of landscaping plants from her nursery trade background. This continues to be a valuable asset to the LEAP team, balancing those with a wildland, but not nursery trade, background. 

Gail (pink shirt in front) poses with the LEAP Team.

She is a constant learner who built off that nursery knowledge and began replacing plants in her gardens as she learned more about the value of native and pollinator plants. What was already an amazing example of garden habitat evolved into an intentional oasis for local species of birds, insects and animals that depend on native plants for food and shelter.

Spreading her talents beyond her own yard, Gail was instrumental in helping her daughter, Carol create an amazing and creative LEAP-winning-facility at Carol’s Playschool Childcare Center. She worked with the children to design and install multiple gardens including rain and peace gardens. Gail totally engaged the staff and students (70-75% of whom are special needs children) in all phases of the projects. They wanted lots of color, and when one student told her “When I eat I feel peaceful”, Gail added blueberries to their plan. Gail continued to give support after the garden was installed as the children began ‘loving the gardens to death’ – they wanted to be ‘in’ the gardens so much. Without missing a beat, Gail modified the planting to provide the kids with opportunities to walk through the gardens without damaging them.

With Gail's encouragement and expertise, she helped daughter, Carol,
install multiple gardens at Playschool Childcare Center in Maplewood.

Scott Ramsay, a naturalist at Richfield's Wood
Lake Nature Center and LEAP team member,
comes to the aid of a
baby Great Horned Owl.

Gail’s influence has spread far and wide as she became the go-to person in her neighborhood for all things nature-related. This past spring Gail’s neighbor called her when they discovered a baby Great Horned Owl had fallen out of its nest. Gail knew exactly who to call for help and the baby owl was placed in a make-shift nest and successfully fledged later in the season.

Generosity and Artistry

Gail is known for her giving spirit and creativity. On top of the many projects she's helped get into the ground, she has opened her home (more specifically her garage) to lead and teach the LEAP team how to make beautiful bird baths out of concrete, a rhubarb leaf, sand, and latex stain. The process of creating the birdbaths and presenting them to LEAP winning property owners has become a tradition for the LEAP team for the last several years.

Left: The completed bird baths are ready to be given to lucky LEAP awards winners.
Right: Dana Larsen-Ramsay (left) and Gail (right) create the birdbaths in Gail's garage.
Left: A few of the LEAP team posing after completing the staining portion of the project.
Right: LEAP team members Simba Blood (left), Gail (middle), and Anita Jader (right)
goof around in garage.
She has generously shared her home, gardens, her expertise, and her time on various projects. When the Exceptional LEAP Tour asked to include her home on the tour, for example, Gail not only added more native plants to her gardens, but she and her family prepared and served delicious hors d’oeuvres, wine and other beverages to the bus load of participants!

A Voice

Gail is not afraid to speak up when there is an issue or when she believes natural resources are not being protected as they should be.

In her neighborhood, Gail worked very hard to ensure that a contractor, who was building multiple homes adjacent to hers, protected the mature pines on the site. And she insisted that new native trees were installed to replace plants that had to be removed during the construction phase.

Gail is "all in" when it comes to gardening.

A Well-Deserved Award

Gail is respected for her knowledge and skills – both plant and artistic. Her passion for both people and the natural world is evident in everything Gail does. She has great perseverance when it comes to natural resources and ensuring that projects are done right and with good quality. She has shared her diverse skills with many throughout the Watershed as a Watershed resident, a Watershed volunteer, a neighbor and a mother. Gail has made a difference in the lives of people of all ages.

Gail is a stellar citizen catalyst and for this reason, we are honored to present the 2016 Citizen Catalyst Award to her!

Enjoy a few other photos of her positive impact and involvement with the Watershed.

Gail (second from right) with the LEAP team

A colorful rain garden at Playschool Childcare Center
that Gail helped design, install and support.

Gail (right) with some of the LEAP team having fun
while taking a tour of nominated properties.

Gail (front middle) with the LEAP team in 2012

Gail (front sitting) with Frost Lake Elementary School students planting
at Marian Seabold's raingarden in St. Paul.

 Gail (second from right) with her daughter Carol (second from left) as Carol
accepts a LEAP award for the rain gardens at Playschool Childcare Center.

Gail (second from left) with other LEAP team members at 2013 Recognition Dinner.

1 comment:

  1. Gail deserves all of those accolades! What a terrific article!