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.