2014 Triumphs and Lessons Learned

Wow.  I know I said last year was busy, but 2014 was so busy we hardly had time to blog about, well, anything.  Over the last 12 months we’ve worked with some amazing partners to install 96 raingardens, 6 bisowales, 1 trench drain, and 4 permeable pavement systems.  We’ve held 7 corporate volunteer events, educated 430 citizens at our workshops, maintained 18 stormwater management practices, worked with volunteers to evaluate and recognize almost 1,000 gardens, and significantly expanded our work with businesses.  I’d say who’s counting, but clearly we are – Henning-Smithsafter all we’ve got to let all of our generous supporters know what we’re accomplishing! None of these projects would be possible without the work of dedicated citizens who are doing so much to make a difference in their environment.  So before we move on to 2015 and a new series of adventures, let’s remember some of the great projects and partnerships we’ve had the fortune to be a part of in 2014.

Each year we work with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota, citizens, and neighborhood organizations to install raingardens through our “Neighborhood of Raingardens” program.  In 2014, we had a record number of projects – 7 different neighborhoods installed 67 raingardens which provide over 8,000 square feet of urban habitat for pollinators and filter thousands of gallons of photo 2stormwater runoff each year. Five of the neighborhoods, Sheridan, Columbia Park, Longfellow, Cedar Isles Dean and Field Regina Northrop, were new partners, and two, Cleveland and Audubon, continued previous partnerships. During the Cleveland installations we had the opportunity to teach a group of students from South Korea about raingardens (see photo). In total, Metro Blooms has partnered with 18 neighborhoods since 2009 to install 423 raingardens through this community-driven program!

Lesson Learned:  A giant pry bar is the best tool to remove copious amounts of rocks from unpredictably difficult soil (Cedar Isles Dean we’re talking about you!)

In other areas of the metro we were able to partner with local government organizations to design and oversee unique stormwater management projects.  We’ve been working with the City of Bloomington since 2012 on their project Green Streets for Blue Waters to design a backyard bio-swale and 18 cuphoto 2rb cut raingardens in an area of town that drains directly to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.  This summer we saw that project come to fruition while we provided oversight during the installation of the curb cut raingardens and maintenance education for residents post-install.  You can read more about that project in our previous blog.  We also finished up an engagement and installation project with the Vadnais Lakes Area Watershed Management Organization (say that fast) for which we worked with a variety of community organizations and businesses to install 6 stormwater management projects.

Lesson Learned: Pull tree seedlings that creep into your garden early on, or you’ll need a saw, a team of strong pullers, and possibly a horse to get them out.

This was a very exciting year for our Nokomis Neighbors for Clean Water project and residents all over looking to spruce up their alleyways.  The general idea of 1375046_10152738599886585_4152416507782961051_nthe project is to work with neighbors to create community spaces along their alleyway that also have an ecological function: to infiltrate stormwater and provide habitat.  Last spring we got to design a super fun and effective engagement process to implement with neighbors from a couple of blocks to the west of Lake Nokomis. You can read all about that here.  Then, this summer along one of the blocks we installed the first ever Blooming Alley for Clean Water in Minneapolis with funding from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County.  In total, ten residents gave up space on their property and shared in the photo (23)cost to install 5 raingardens, 4 permeable pavement systems, 1 trench drain and 6 bioswales. We worked with 35 volunteers from Cummins, the neighborhood, and the Conservation Corps of MN to install the raingardens and bioswales during a two day digging and planting extravaganza.  The permeable pavement and trench drain were installed by the fabulous crew at Earth Wizards.

I know you’re already planning to check out the alley this spring, so I’ll tell you now, it’s located between 50th and 51st Street and 16th and 17th Avenue just to the west of Lake Nokomis.  The neighbors would LOVE to see you out there.  In addition to providing funding, the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield created a short video about the project as part of their Pulling Together Minnesota campaign, demonstrating how community action can create super cool spaces where neighbors are able to interact and be active.  Check it out below.  To cap it all off we hosted a Blue Thumb Alley Tour for interested professionals and citizens.  Almost 50 people attended, proving the community’s desire to create beautiful community spaces that protect water AND habitat.  I mean really, how could that not interest you?

Lesson Learned: Working with communities means you have to be flexible, but it also guarantees your outcomes are meaningful, and in this case simply inspiring.

Irapson2n addition to our community-focused projects we got to work with a couple of schools on raingardens this year.  Last spring we worked with Professor Mark Pedelty’s class at the University of Minnesota to design and install a raingarden outside of Rapson Hall College of Design.  Thank goodness for dedicated students from Mark’s class and Mr. Pedelty himself – we didn’t have the help of the Conservation Corps on this particular project and it was seriously hard work!  Off campus, our MN GreenCorps member, Aida, taught 4th and 5th graders at Bethune Community School in north Minneapolis about environmental stewardship and raingarden OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdesign.  Thanks to funding from the Hennepin County Green Partners program we were able to install and plant the garden with students in May and then teach them about maintenance this fall.

Lesson Learned: Do NOT, under any circumstances, try to excavate, mulch, and plant a 1,200 square foot raingarden in one day without professional help.

Well I think I’ve rambled on about installations long enough.  Now for the other half of Metro Blooms’ uniqueness: education and garden evaluations!  We kicked off our Raingardens and Beyond workshop series last February, a bit earlier than usual, but after a cold winter we figured everyone was ready to start thinking about being outside again.  From February-June over 430 people came to 16 workshops throughout the metro to learn about raingardens and work with a landscape designer and Hennepin County Master Gardener to design their own property.  By October, 42% had already installed a raingarden or were currently working on one and another 30% have plans to install one in the future.  Stay tuned for our 2015 workshops, Raingardens and Beyond: Clean Water, Healthy Habitats.  We’ll be incorporating more information about pollinators and the plants they rely on in 2015.
State Fair

In other education news, Metro Blooms became the new host site of the Blue Thumb program this year.  Blue Thumb is a regional network of water quality professionals including local governments, nurseries, landscape companies, and nonprofits.  We had a great time hosting Blue Thumb activities this summer/fall including the Blue Thumb Alley Tour, tour of Lakeville stormwater management practices (led by Ecoscapes), Landscape Revival, and State Fair booth and are now exploring a permanent relationship with the program.

Lesson Learned: State Fair visitors LOVE the Blue Thumb “Magic is in the Roots” display.  We need more cool displays.

Our Development Director, Barb, had a very busy year, adding 7 corporate volunteer events to her already packed schedule!  We partnered with about 250 volunteers in 2014 to accomplish some fantastic projects.  Those volunteers include our 113 garden evaluators, who evaluated some 970 gardens throughoutTarget 2014 Minneapolis.  The evaluations culminate in the top 10-15 gardens which we recognize at our annual Garden Awards event.  The event was at the Columbia Manor again this year and nearly 200 people attended to recognize beautiful Minneapolis gardens and the people that create and maintain them.

Lesson Learned: Not only does Columbia Manor have delicious desserts, they also have fantastic appetizers (thanks Prom Catering).

2014 also marked a very exciting year for us in the commercial sector.  We received a Great Streets Business District Support Grant last winter from the City of Minneapolis to work with businesses along East 38th Street and within the Whittier Neighborhood of Minneapolis.  The grant supports site consultations, education, stormwater management plans, and assistance with funding applications for businesses in eligible areas.  Our office just so happens to be located along 38th Street, in Sabathani Community Center, and our designers have had a ball working with them and other businesses such as the Black Forest Inn and the Fire Arts Center.

Lesson Learned: Business owners don’t attend workshops and site consultations at Black Forest Inn seem to take twice as long as usual…I’m sure it has nothing to do with their delicious menu:)

I swore this year maintenance was going to get its own paragraph, because we (by photo 1 (6)we I mean our designer Andy) put a lot of work into it.  This year we partnered with the Conservation Corps of MN to maintain stormwater management practices at 14 Minneapolis Public School (MPS) sites.  But the exciting part is the stormwater credits: we worked with the schools and the City of Minneapolis to secure over $60,000 in stormwater credits for MPS every year due to their stormwater management practices.  We also started working with the City of Champlin to maintain a few raingardens on City property and partnered with volunteers to pull weeds and re-plant at Sentyrz, Irving Triangle, and Folwell School in Minneapolis.

Lesson Learned: Canada thistle looks pretty, until you sit on it multiple times.  Then it’s not pretty, at all.

Like I said, it was a busy year!  Thank you for sticking with us and for your continued support.  We’ve got some exciting projects coming up in 2015, and we can’t wait to share them with you.  In the meantime, Happy New Year from all of us here at Metro Blooms:)

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