Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Accomplishments

Post contributed by Saint Paul Parks Natural Resources staff:

2012 was a very successful year filled with a lot of hard work, fun volunteer events, and many improvements to our Saint Paul's natural areas!

With the help of our committed partner organizations, community volunteers, grantors and sponsors, Saint Paul Parks Natural Resources was able to accomplish a great deal this year. Below you will find a summary of our 2012 accomplishments.
  • Logged 11,282 volunteer hours (4342 volunteers), equivalent to 5.42 full-time employees.

  • In coordination with partnering organizations, Environmental Services administered approximately $960,084 in grants and donations, including $60,000 of in-kind professional labor to maintain natural areas in Saint Paul.

  • Provided employment and education for 25 Youth Job Corps members in the Eco-Ranger program curriculum and directed another 60 youth in the Youth Outdoors program, in partnership with the Conservation Corps Minnesota.

  • Planted approximately 7,300 trees and shrubs, 20,000 native grasses and flowers and 68,000 floodplain tree seeds.

  • Installed approximately 1 mile of nature trails at Highwood Nature Preserve and Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom.

Many of the projects completed within Saint Paul's natural areas this year would not have been possible without the funding and donations provided by the following grantors: Conservation Partners Legacy, Saint Paul Garden Club, Ramsey Conservation District, Capitol Region Watershed District, Saint Paul Foundation, Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, Urban Bird Treaty, Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, Clean Water Legacy, Friends of the Mississippi RiverXcel Foundation, Saint Paul Conservancy, REI, and Met Council.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: December 3rd-6th

Post contributed by Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Piling brush to be burned

Planting seeds at Crosby

Our last full week working with Saint Paul Parks! It started out warm but this seemed to be the week that winter really settled in for good. We started the week on Monday by hauling brush into piles throughout Crosby Farm Regional Park, which will be burned this winter. This method causes less site disturbance than trying to remove the brush from the park by truck. We started Tuesday by removing a few larger buckthorn from the bluff above the native ephemeral zone in Crosby, and then finished up the hauling project. On Wednesday morning, we seeded the area that we had cleared with oak, basswood and hackberry seeds. It will be interesting to see this area change! In the afternoon we headed to Lake Phalen, where we began a project doing a restoration on an oak savannah that is between Lake Phalen and Round Lake. There are some beautiful Bur Oak trees in the area that we tried to free from encroaching Siberian Elm, Box Elder, and Green Ash. In the spring, the area will be seeded and/or burned, depending on what kind of plants are already present. This is part of an ongoing Lake Phalen restoration that has been incredibly successful. Go check it out!

If you want more information on any of the species here, check out the DNR's list of Minnesota native trees & shrubs.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Conservation Corps Updated: November 26th-29th

Post contributed by Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Hauling brush from Mississippi River Boulevard
The last week of November's fairly mild temperatures allowed our crew to accomplish a variety of projects. Monday, the crew worked in Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom loading and hauling out the "firewood" size chunks left behind from previous volunteer brush hauling efforts. This helps to improve the natural aesthetic of the area. CWOC users wandering through the classroom will notice fewer pieces of wood with saw cut ends littering the forest floor.
Continuing the theme of removing materials, the crew focused their efforts on Tuesday along the Mississippi River Boulevard. They scoured the stretch from Shadow Falls to the North Gate of Hidden Falls for brush that they worked at cutting in previous weeks. The ultimate goal is to provide the many desired saplings planted this spring ample space and sunlight to grow and develop into a mature upland forest.

Raking leaves at Lake Phalen
We've been fortunate that there isn’t much snow yet to slow us down on our projects, especially for raking leaves. Both Youth Outdoors crews concentrated their focus at Lake Phalen on Wednesday performing forest litter management in effort to diminish the leaf litter in the restored prairies and raingardens along the shoreline. Leaves form dense mats which suffocate the vegetation beneath preventing sprouting in the spring. The mats of leaves, in addition to suppressing resprouts, also make it difficult for much needed prescribed burns to move through the prairie in the spring.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: November 13th-17th

Post contributed by Conservation Corps of Minnesota Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Restoration work
around Lake Como

The weather has continued to be warm and sunny.  We realized the other day that with our youth group we have only pulled out our rain jackets twice during their eleven week program.  

This week our efforts have been focused on finishing a big section of the restoration work to be done around Lake Como.  We finished spreading compost and native grass seeds and some grass plugs.  We covered these areas with erosion fabric in order to help prevent erosion while the grasses establish.  

A glimpse at the new trails in
the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom

In Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom, we hauled out previously cut logs to improve the natural aesthetic of the area.  We also cleared a propagation area that the environmental department plans to use in the future as a native plant nursery.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: November 6th-10th

Post contributed by Minnesota Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Erosion fabric with native grasses plugged in will make this
section of lakeshore more natural and less prone to erosion.

On Wednesday, we spent the day planting native grasses and forbs all along the Como lakeshore.  These native plants will grow to have extremely long root structures which will help to prevent further erosion on the lakeshore and improve the water quality too! 
On Friday, we continued planting for the majority of the day and also did other tasks around Como lakeshore. Through the day we worked on some trail erosion sites that we will try to transform into native grass areas. Funds for this project have been provided by a grant that the City of Saint Paul recieved from the Clean Water Funds for water resources restoration.

Volunteers recieving instruction for the
volunteer event at Crosby Park on Saturday morning.

On Saturday, the entire Youth outdoors program along with our youth participated in a volunteer event at Crosby Park near the Mississippi River. It was beautiful weather as we began the day with hauling buckthorn and other undesirable tree species that were recently cut down in the Floodplain Forest section of the park. This removal work created some more open space in the canopy which will create a more favorable environment for more desirable tree species to grow. Later in the morning, we planted seeds of hackberry, basswood, and bur oak trees to replace the removed invasives. Thank you to REI for helping us to recruit volunteers and for providing snacks and t-shirts to get us all movitated! We were excited to have groups from Audubon and Big Brothers Big Sisters working with us on Saturday as well. Great work everyone!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: October 31st to November 3rd

Post contributed by Conservation Corps of Minnesota Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

This last week the Youth Outdoor Crew 2 worked at a couple different locations, the Mississippi River Boulevard and Como Lakeshore.
Wednesday, the crew spent the day sweeping the bluff area along Mississippi River Boulevard for buckthorn and honeysuckle to remove. This effort is a continuation of the initial sweep that occurred last year to restore the area to a native upland forest and open up the understory so that the river can be spotted from the Boulevard. 
Thursday, the youth crews worked at Bruce Vento Regional Trail close to Lake Phalen hauling out invasive trees and shrubs that the crew had cut in the last few weeks. By the end of the evening the crew had removed all the down brush which makes a considerable difference in the understory.
Friday and Saturday, we worked at Como Lakeshore installing biologs in four different areas around the lake to help stabilize the bank. After installing the biologs, we backfilled in areas then put down some erosion control netting and compost to seed native species. After seeding we covered it with fabric to keep the seeds in place in hopes for them to germinate next spring.  In addition to seeding in some areas we have been planting native plugs to give the area a jump start next spring. In a few short months you’ll be able to see a noticeable difference!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: October 24th-27th

Post contributed by Minnesota Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

This past week, most of our efforts were spent on Lake Como doing shoreline restoration.  We placed the wattles and live stakes around the lakeshore to help with erosion control.  We created our own wattles and live stakes from nearby dogwood and nine-bark that needed to be pruned.  While the bio-logs that have already been placed around the lakeshore have been extremely helpful in erosion control we are hoping that this method will last even longer since many of the wattles and live stakes will grow into shrubs, whose roots will help to build a solid foundation.  We also continued removing invasive woody plants around the lakeshore.  

Smoothing out the new trails in
Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom

Installing wattles for erosion control
 at Como Lakeshore

Another task we had this week was to return to the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom to begin smoothing out the new trails and seed some areas with native grasses.  It is looking really neat and if you haven't been over to check it out you should go!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: October 16-20th

Post contributed by Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Creating wattles for erosion
control at Lake Como
It was another busy week with a good variety of projects underway. On Wednesday, we worked with a volunteer group from Great River School at Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom (CWOC) to continue mulching in the coniferous woodland. This area will be planted in the future. We finished off the day by clearing the brand new trails that run through CWOC. They looked great and provide much better access to the different areas of CWOC. On Thursday, we worked with Youth Outdoors (YO) participants, with one crew preparing wattles to be installed at Como Lakeshore for erosion control. A wattle is a bundle of trimmings (in this case we used dogwood and ninebark shrubs) that can take root in the soil to stabilize the bank. Another crew planted plugs at the Plum Overlook at Mounds Park.  On Saturday, the West Minnehaha YO crew spent the day hauling brush on the Bruce Vento trail near Lake Phalen.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: October 2nd-13th

Post contributed by Youth Outdoors Crew 1:
Girl Scouts collecting leaves around Lake Phalen
Youth Outdoors crew 1 (YO1) has been busy at Lake Phalen the past two weeks.  We have spent a fair amount of time removing invasive woody species, such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, and Siberian elm, along the lake shore.  In addition to that, we have helped the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District staff with some shoreline stabilization work.

A short distance from the east side of Lake Phalen, we started cutting invasive trees and shrubs along the Bruce Vento Regional Trail.  The invasive trees along the trail have been contributing to invasive saplings popping up along the shore, so we are trying to eliminate the seed bank.

Last Saturday, with the help of Youth Outdoors Crew 2, we led groups of girl scouts in raking leaves at Lake Phalen.  The groups we led concentrated on two cotton wood stands.  Because cotton wood leaves burn poorly and leaves in general can overload lakes with nutrients, it was important to get as many leaves as we could.  In one priority area alone, the volunteers filled close to 120 bags!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: October 9th-13th

Post contributed by Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

The first full week of October brought cooler working conditions for the crew. Never-the-less it was a week full of progress.
Installing biologs at Lake Como

Wednesday, the crew began at Como Lakeshore assessing the damage to the shoreline caused by foot traffic. There were a lot of problem spots and making note of them was the first step to finding solutions. By mid- morning biologs, which are being used to remediate shoreline erosion, were delivered and the crew began working on installing them along the north end of the lake. For the remainder of the day, the crew secured the logs, fenced in the area, and then did some live staking in hope to establish some roots to anchor the shore’s soil.

Thursday, we worked with out youth crews at Upper Landing Park next to the Mississippi and downtown St. Paul. The goal was to restore the mound features in the park which were overrun with invasive species. The peak of each mound represents the crest of a record flood of the Mississippi River. The crews cleared the weedy invasives out of each mound and completed the day by scattering native grass seeds over each mound and covering the two with the most disturbances with erosion fabric. Hopefully these desirable species will take hold of the areas where we did weed removal.

Restoring one of the mounds
at Upper Landing Park
Friday morning, the crew was back at Como returning to the survey that was started on Wednesday. We evaluated the extent of erosion and formulated a restoration plan to execute in the upcoming weeks. For the afternoon, we returned to the north end of the lake where we had installed the biologs and planted emergent plants.

Saturday’s forecast called for thunderstorms nearly all day, but it actually ended up being pretty idea work conditions. Both Youth Outdoor crews worked in the morning at Como, one planting on the north end again but this time moving outward from the shore to establish native prairie species. The other crew worked at felling larger undesirable trees into the lake as prime sunning spots for turtles. At noon, the crews relocated to assist in the volunteer event held at Lake Phalen in celebration of the Girls Scouts Centennial. The troops stuck it out through the mist and rain to rake leaves from many different areas. Two troops were especially helpful by raking leaves out of a shoreline planting to help prevent the leaves from suppressing the natives and hindering prescribed burning operations next spring.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: October 2nd-6th

Post contributed by Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Planting native grasses at Como Lakeshore
This week was filled with a variety of projects.  On Wednesday we visited the rain gardens in the Como area for one more check and winter preparation. We then went along the Bruce Vento trail along Lake Phalen and removed some invasive trees including buckthorn and mulberry. Thursday, we worked with our youth and added mulch around the newly restored Historic Como Lilyponds in Como Park. The design mimics the historic lilyponds that were originally constructed in Como Regional Park in 1895. The mulch that we spread will help to suppress weed growth next spring and provide a nice planting bed for us to put in native species. The funding for this restoration was secured through Arts and Cultural Heritage Legacy Funds. Friday, we spent the whole day along Como Lakeshore planting native grasses in mulched areas. To conclude the week , we finished a trash sweep around Lake Phalen and collected little bluestem seeds, which we will soon spread at another project site.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: September 25th-29th

Youth Outdoors members compressing
the brush pile at CWOC
When we arrive at work now the sun has just started rising and as the day comes to a close it has reached the far western edge of the sky. The days are still warm though, and we are greatful for every warm day.

The majority of our week was spent at Lilydale Regional Park doing sweeps through the park to remove any invasive plant species. Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris) was prevalent throughout the butterfly monitoring garden section of the park. Removing that, along with the never ending battle against thistle and burdock, took up most of our week.  With the youth, we hauled brush from the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom opening up a lot of area that we had previously cut to make room for the trails that are going to be installed this fall. Trail construction in CWOC is scheduled to begin in mid October.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: YO2 September 18-22

Post contributed by Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

It was another beautiful week in St. Paul; we got a good mix of sun and much-needed rain. We spent Wednesday working on planting a variety of plugs (small nursery-grown plants) around Como Lakeshore. This project will work to remove many invasive and noxious plant species and replace them with beautiful native grasses.

Caitie planting native grasses at Como Lakeshore
On Thursday, we worked with our Youth Outdoors crews clearing debris and mulching the entrance to Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom in preparation for volunteers to plant with native grass plugs. The area will eventually be a prairie and will serve as an entrance to CWOC.

Friday was a busy day at Lilydale Park and Pickerel Lakeshore. We assessed the quality of plants before removing a good amount of black locust trees and common ragweed.

Saturday was another beautiful day of planting native grasses along Como Lakeshore.

Conservation Corps Update: YO1 September 18-22

Post contributed by Sammie of Youth Outdoors, Crew 1:

On Tuesday, all four Youth Outdoors crews took a field trip to the Minnesota History Center to facilitate thinking about the history of Minnesota’s people and their relationship to the land.  This was a great opportunity for the youth to reflect on their own histories and the connection they have to Minnesota’s past, present, and future.

Wednesday morning began with distributing mulch to the areas where we removed foxtail  grass (Setaria sp.)  along the Como lake shore.  We work very hard at encouraging the establishment of a diverse mix of native plant species in order to stabilize the environment. Foxtail was removed because it is has a tendency to take over areas, decreasing biodiversity.

Near the fishing pier, a large willow tree had recently fallen. This opened the area up to sunlight, but the plants that were living under the willow were adapted to living under its shade. We cleared the area of these shade-tolerant plants that were no longer suited to their environment. We then mulched to keep opportunistic weeds at bay, and planted sun-loving native grasses like little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), and prairie brome (Bromus kalmii). 

Unlike the grass you see in lawns, the grasses we have been planting are adapted to our dry open prairies; they don’t require fertilization  (which can cause harmful algae blooms when surface water runoff carries the fertilizers into the lake). Native grasses are adapted to live in this climate and offer many ecosystem services such as shoreline stabilization, water filtration, as well as being an important food and shelter source to a number of native insect and bird species.  Unfortunately, habitat for these beneficial grasses has become extremely scarce. It is hard for many of these once abundant species to spread on their own. With our efforts, the lake shore will soon be host to large bunches of these beautiful and valuable grasses and the abundance of wildlife species that are associated with them.

Wednesday afternoon took us to Lake Phalen, where we identified and repaired areas of fencing that were structurally compromised.

On such a beautiful day you cannot help but notice the people in the community as well as the wildlife utilizing our beautiful urban lakes. We spotted a large bald eagle swooping right overhead at Lake Como as we were planting. At Lake Phalen, we saw a large fish jump near shore as well as a young osprey swooping out of the air and into the lake to catch a fish. 
Youth Outdoors crewmember planting at Eastside Heritage park
On Thursday, the Phalen Youth Outdoors crew got their hands dirty and planted many more native prairie plants at Eastside Heritage Park. It is going to be amazing to see the park grow over the next couple of years! The Hazel crew learned about water quality issues and put their lesson into action by removing over 30 lbs of trash from the Phalen lake shore.  Both youth crews also spent time planning their youth led service projects that they will be completing on the last day of their term.

Autumn has definitely arrived, and we all felt the chill in the air on Friday. In the morning, we removed asphalt and debris from an area that was mulched in preparation for Saturday’s volunteer planting event at Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom. We then headed over to Como lake shore and continued our planting in the areas where we removed the foxtail grass earlier.  We’re in the midst of a planting spree, rushing to get these little plugs into their new homes giving them a chance to establish!

After lunch, we began replacing rotten posts and securing loose ones in the ground with concrete to hold back any further decomposition at Lake Phalen.

Saturday was another day of fence post repair. We replaced rotten posts, sealed decaying posts with quickrete, and repacked soil along unstable posts. 

While were at Lake Phalen this week, we were greeted by someone that just didn’t belong; a bright yellow and green parakeet flew onto the fence next to us and would curiously watch us every day. Likely an escaped pet, parakeets are originally from the Australian outback and cannot survive our cold winters here in St. Paul. The rain garden is a bounty of robust seeding plants though, so the seed-loving parakeet has, in all likelihood, been subsisting on autumn’s feast along with our native bird species in order to make it through the cold nights we’ve had so far!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: September 11th-15th

Post contributed by Youth Outdoors (YO) Crews 1 and 2:


Last week was very busy for YO 1.  On Wednesday, we worked as a young adult crew and started the day at Lake Como.  We divided our time between removing invasive plants, and prepping some sites along the lakeshore for a planting event that was coming up.  When the rain started around noon, we transitioned to collecting seeds for the Crosby Farm Regional Park floodplain seeding that will be happening this fall and next spring.  With the help of YO 2, we collected quite a few hackberry seeds.   

Youth Outdoors crew members giving a
planting demonstration to volunteers

On Thursday and Saturday, both the Hazel and Phalen youth crews (led by the YO 1 young adults) worked at the Eastside Heritage Park.  On Thursday, both youth crews did some site preparation for a volunteer event on Saturday.  The Hazel and Phalen crew members raked up and removed dead vegetation, spread mulch and learned how to plant plugs (small plants, about 4 inches high).  
On Saturday, volunteers from the Minnesota State Bar Association--Environmental, Natural Resources and Energy Law section--arrived at the Eastside Heritage Park and helped plant native grasses and flowers, such as blue grama, little bluestem, and blazing star.  One of the youth from the Hazel crew introduced the Youth Outdoors program to the volunteers, and two Phalen crew members demonstrated how to plant the plugs.  The plant material was paid for by a grant from the Saint Paul Garden Club, which was awarded to a project partner, the Lower Phalen Creek Project. Thanks to everyone who made this planting a success!

Collecting hackberry seeds

The third week of September brought much needed rain to the area and narrowed the project options for the Youth Outdoor 2 Crew. Never-the-less their attention was on two projects. One was forest seed collection for planting later this fall along the Mississippi River floodplain near Crosby Farm Regional Park. Hackberry seeds were the focus for the day but because their seeds are just beginning to fall from the trees.  The crew also collected black walnuts, basswood seeds, and acorns.

The other project focused attention at Como Lakeshore planting native grasses in the Duck Point Rain Garden and along the shore south of the pavilion. The goal is to establish a more diverse population of plants along the shore while continuing erosion control.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: September 4-8th

Post contributed by Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Tuesday 9/4
Today was the start of a new semester of the Conservation Corps' “Youth Outdoors” program. This is a program (similar to Saint Paul Parks’ summer “EcoRanger” program) where high-school aged youth from the community work with us for 12 weeks all around Saint Paul to improve our natural resources and receive some environmental education from their crew leaders. We welcomed the new youth to our program and went over our work policies with them.

Wednesday 9/5
On Wednesday, we continued clearing the ground for the new trail system in Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom (CWOC). We cut all wood and herbaceous plant material which will be hauled out to make room for large machinery to go through and further prepare the future trails for public use. Later in the day, we removed invasive trees including buckthorn, mulberry, box elder, honeysuckle, and black locust from the oak woodland north of the conifer site and then in the conifer site of CWOC.

Thursday 9/6
Thursday, all of the Saint Paul Youth Outdoors crews went to CWOC where they received a tour of the classroom from Saint Paul Parks staff and a quick overview of some of the work they will be performing here in the next 11 weeks. We showed them techniques for properly hauling and stacking brush to create good piles that will be easy for Saint Paul’s Forestry division to pick up.

Friday 9/7
Friday morning, we spent a few hours collecting seeds from hackberry, basswood, and black walnut trees in different areas of Saint Paul. These seeds will eventually be used to help restore the Floodplain Forest at Crosby Farm Regional Park. The grant supporting this project is a Conservation Partner's Legacy grant. Later in the day we returned to CWOC to continue removing buckthorn and other unwanted trees from the oak woodland site.

Saturday 9/8

Collecting prairie grass seeds at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary

Two of the Youth Outdoors crews went to CWOC to haul brush from the cut paths.  We also harvested some jack-in-the-pulpit seeds and sedges from the future trails. These are high quality, native plants which is why we are taking the time to relocate dig them up and replant them in places where they won’t be in the path of the heavy machinery that would destroy them. The other two crews Youth Outdoors crews went to Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary to collect prairie grass seeds which will be spread in the nearby Mounds Park prairies which aren’t quite as well established as Bruce Vento.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: August 28-31st

Post contributed by Conservation Corps of Minnesota, Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Stephan receiving some help
collecting acorns from a friendly passer-by!
Another week spent battling the invasive plants of Saint Paul and working to restore a balance to the open spaces!  We returned to Pickerel Lake early in the week to finish clipping purple loosestrife, many plants started flowering since we had been there the previous week, and we were reminded of how dogged and observant you need to be in order to time an attack on an invasive plant and be effective. 

During the hottest part of the week we spent some time collecting acorns and seeds from walnut and basswood trees to plant in the floodplain forest of Crosby Farms Regional Park this fall.  Many people stopped by to ask what we were up to crawling around on our hands and knees, and we even had some little helpers! 

There were a couple of exciting highlights from the week.  One was that we uncovered a painted turtle nest  along the lake shore at Como Lake.  There were more than a half dozen little turtles in the nest and we watched excitedly as they made a beeline for the waters edge.  We also started an exciting project in the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom clearing vegetation from sections of the woods that are being turned into trails in the near future.  We whipped out our chainsaws and brush-saws and got to work making room for the heavy machinery that will be used to install the trails.  We are excited to see the results!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: August 21-24th

Post contributed by Conservation Corps of Minnesota Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Como Raingarden maintenance
We started the week by finishing off prepping the rain gardens for the Minnesota State Fair. They looked really good, and the additional signage should encourage citizens to pursue them in their own communities.

Later in the week, we continued the fight against invasive species. We focused efforts on two sites: Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom, or CWOC, and Pickerel Lake at Lilydale Regional Park. We started the year at CWOC working against smaller herbaceous plants like burdock and garlic mustard, and we've seen a big improvement in those areas and their season is nearly done. We moved onto clearing out some larger trees and shrubs, targeting the invasive buckthorn. This is a  very fast growing, aggressive. We removed buckthorn and thinned out unwanted boxelder trees to encourage biodiversity. The areas looked a lot healthier when we were done.

Clipping seed heads of purple loosestrife
At Pickerel Lake, we worked on clipping seed heads from an invasive species called Purple Loosestrife. Although it produces a pretty magenta flower, it has begun spreading through the prairie that borders that lake. Purple loosestrife is extremely aggressive and doesn’t provide high quality habitat and nutrition for wildlife like our native species of plants do. We're working to control invasives and maintain the native biodiversity of this beautiful prairie.

Don't forget to check out these sites in person:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Como Park Bluebird Trail, Final Update of the Year!

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer Bluebird Trail monitor:

The bluebird nesting season is over and all the boxes have been removed for cleaning, repair, and winter storage.  On the trail this year, 31 bluebirds, 16 chickadees, and 2 cowbirds fledged from 10 boxes, for a combined total of 49 birds fledged.

The ratio of bluebirds fledged to bluebird eggs laid was 62% (31 fledged/50 eggs).  The extended, extremely hot weather was probably a factor in lowering the survival rate for the bluebirds, chickadees, and tree swallows that attempted nests on the trail this year.  Six fewer bluebirds fledged than in 2011, when the trail had a total of 11 boxes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Conservation Corps Update, August 14th-17th

Post contributed by Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Pickerel Lake
The Youth Outdoors crew 2 saw a variety of work during the third week of August. It began around Pickerel Lake in south St. Paul sweeping for invasive species such as purple loosestrife, burdock, spotted knapweed, and thistle, among others. These invasive species in particular are beginning to throw their seeds and the crew is working to collect and dispose of those seeds before that occurs.

The crew spent a bit of time in Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom (CWOC) in preparation for future volunteer planting events that are scheduled for later this August.

Como Lake Shore received some of that planting this week by the crew restoring some grasses, forbs, and sedges along the south west shore. The plants were all plugs, or young specimens in individual cells ready for planting, so they are a little less obvious to the untrained eye. In a few years, the hope is to have a lush shoreline with a variety of species.

Working in the raingarden
The crew worked around and in Lake Phalen collecting shoreline trash and other debris. Lake users should notice a considerable difference and will hopefully find the clean shoreline aesthetically appealing. The rain garden just north of the boat house received some attention from the crew as well. They took out invasive species, pruned out suckers and volunteer trees, and thinned a beautiful, but aggressive native: golden rod.
With the State Fair quickly approaching, the crew spent the final day of their week preparing Como area rain gardens for the crowds. The crew worked at cutting out any dead or dieing summer plants, thinned aggressive species, edged the beds, and put up protective fencing. If you are in the area, take time to appreciate the beautiful autumn blossoms, there is still a ton of variety!