Ben Thompson's vision of Saint Paul, a Great
River Park, courtesy of the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation.
- Architect Ben Thompson provides his vision for the Mississippi River valley in Saint Paul for community leaders; coins the phrase "Great River Park."
- The Saint Paul Foundation hires Ellen Brown to develop a status report on past, present and possible future activities related to the downtown Saint Paul riverfront.
- The original project area runs from the High Bridge downstream to Holman Field, on both sides of the river from bluff to bluff. Planting is on both public and private land in the river valley. Goals for the project are threefold: to restore ecological function to this part of the river valley, to create attractive green space on the river near downtown Saint Paul and to involve citizens in planting efforts.
- The first community-volunteer planting is held in April; approximately 175 volunteers plant hundreds of trees and shrubs at the entrance to Harriet Island. By end of 1995, 2,591 trees and shrubs are planted by more than 700 volunteers.
- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides $300,000 in funding to the Greening project through the Reinvest in Minnesota program. By end of 1996, a total of 8,740 trees and shrubs are planted with the help of more than 2,500 volunteers.
- The Greening project receives a $400,000 appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature.
Xcel Energy High Bridge plant has more than 1,000 volunteers plant nearly 6,000 trees and shrubs. By end of 1997, a total of 24,100 trees and shrubs have been added to the river valley through the efforts of nearly 5,000 volunteers.
- The need for expanded restoration efforts in the Twin Cities is determined. Strategic planning for the continuation of the Greening project beyond 1999 begins. The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources recommends funding for a collaborative regional Mississippi/Minnesota river valley restoration project, known as the Big Rivers Partnership. By the end of 1998, a total of 27,671 native trees and shrubs have been planted in the river valley, thanks to the help of more than 6,000 community volunteers.
- A new nonprofit organization, Great River Greening, is established on July 1, 1999. Programs of Great River Greening include the Big Rivers Partnership, the River Steward program and the fee-for-service Greening Strategies. By the end of 1999, more than 31,000 native trees and shrubs have been planted in the river valley through the efforts of more than 7,000 volunteers.
- Great River Greening begins to involve volunteers in new types of restoration activities, including exotic species removal, stewardship and prairie seed collection. Greening hosts 30 events with many new partners, including cities outside the seven-county metro area.
By the end of 2000, more than 31,500 native trees and shrubs have been planted in the river valley, thanks to the help of more than 9,100 volunteers.
- Greening's staff work with volunteers on 25 restoration projects in the river valleys on both public and private land. The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources recommends grant of $910,000 funding for the collaborative regional Mississippi/Minnesota river valley restoration project, known as the Big Rivers Partnership. Greening also assists Calthorpe Associates/Met Council with the natural area protection component of a regional land use planning for the Pool 2 corridor of the Mississippi. By the end of 2001, 10,700 volunteers have helped to plant more than 35,000 trees and shrubs and 16,500 prairie grasses and wildflowers in the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix River valleys.
Greening expanded the new web site, www.greatrivergreening.org making both technical and general information about ecological restoration available to land managers and the public. Also following management plans written by Greening ecologists, began multiyear projects at Mississippi River Gorge, Minneapolis, West Side Blufflands, Saint Paul, and Flint Hills Resources, Rosemount. By the end of 2002, more than 12,000 volunteers have helped for plant more than 37,000 trees and shrubs and 25,000 prairie grasses and wildflowers in the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix River valleys.
Greening joined partners in securing funding from the State of Minnesota as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) for the Metro Wildlife Corridors (MWC), a ten-year collaboration of nonprofit and government partners. Obviating the need for the Big Rivers Partnership, the MWC project acquires and restores a habitat network in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area and expands Greening’s geography from the river corridors. Greening also secured funding from the State of Minnesota as recommended by the LCMR for Bucks and Buckthorn, a pilot program with the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, and the Boy Scouts of America. By the end of 2003, 13,000 volunteers have helped to restore over 38,000 trees and shrubs and nearly 34,000 grasses and wildflowers.
Greening completed River Steward Program, a five-year program to establish measures for long-term stewardship of the original Greening the Great River Park project, and a collaboration of City of Saint Paul, Saint Paul Foundation and Greening. Greening’s work included in the books Nature-Friendly Communities: Habitat Protection and Land Use, published by Clarion Associates, and Ecological Riverfront Design: Restoring Rivers, Connecting Communities, published by American Rivers and the American Planning Association. By the end of 2004, 15,000 volunteers have helped to restore over 39,000 trees and shrubs and nearly 56,000 grasses and wildflowers. Greening also marked its first 34 acres of invasive species removal.
Greening continued work with Metro Conservation Corridors (MeCC; formerly MWC), a collaboration of nonprofit and government partners working on habitat protection in the Twin Cities region. Greening project sites for 2005 included Hidden Valley Park on the Credit River Valley in Savage, a remnant dry prairie with high diversity; Carver Rapids Wayside near Jordan, a unit of the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area that harbors a concentration of state-listed species; and Crosby Farm Regional Park, one of the largest floodplain forest remnants within the Mississippi National River and Recreation area in Saint Paul. By the end of 2005, nearly 17,000 volunteers have helped to restore over 41,000 trees and shrubs and 59,000 grasses and wildflowers. Greening volunteers also helped remove 250 acres of invasive species.
Greening begins its Million Acorn Campaign with the development of 22 projects, including oak savanna reconstruction at Pilot Knob, Mendota Heights, one of the most historically significant locales in the state as the site of the 1851 treaty-signing. A major gift from the Allianz Foundation of North America will help empower youth to take leadership in the Campaign. Healthy Waters—St. Croix also begins with new stream-bank restoration techniques in Carnelian Creek watershed, the awarding of over $400,000 for best management practices in the St. Croix Basin at large and completion of the first case study of sustainable landscape design for affordable housing, funded by Home Depot and Xcel Foundation. Over 17,000 volunteers have helped to plant 50,966 trees and shrubs and remove 370 acres of invasive species since Greening began in 1995.
As part of the Million Acorn Campaign, Greening partners with the Department of Natural Resources and the St. Croix Watershed Research Station in For the Birds, a large direct hardwood seeding effort and Tanglewood Preserve savanna restoration. These projects are designed to improve and enlarge habitat for Minnesota’s bird Species of Greatest Conservation Need, a list of wildlife species recently developed by the Minnesota DNR. The first Million Acorn Challenge engaged over 700 area youth to participate in an acorn drive. Over 19,000 volunteers have helped to plant 54,258 trees and shrubs and remove over 500 acres of invasive species since Greening began in 1995.
Greening accelerates its Healthy Waters St. Croix Initiative to restore the bluffs and streambanks of the St. Croix Corridor. A two-day Healthy Waters Fair at William O’Brien State Park attended by 4,000 visitors showcases the projects along with participatory workshops on restoration techniques. By the end of 2008, 21,334 volunteers have planted 58,161 trees and shrubs since Greening began.
Greening expands its geographical presence with projects in the Anoka Sand Plain and Middle Minnesota River. Removal of invasion species in the Uncas Dunes Scientific and Natural Area near Big Lake is the beginning of multi-year restoration in the Anoka Sand Plain. Development of an overarching conservation plan for the Minnesota River Valley in Redwood and Renville counties is now guiding conservation action in the region. The Science Area Teen Network begins with its classroom sessions and field tours program matching minority professionals with 107 underserved youth to improve endangered green spaces while focusing on environmental science careers. The three-year Million Acorn Challenge culminates with over 4,000 metro area youth collecting 1,377,000 acorns which are then planted in Afton State Park and other parks. By the end of 2009, 23,519 volunteers have planted 59,448 trees and shrubs and restored over 2,000 acres since Greening began.
Greening continued its expansion of geography and scope. Among the highlights of the year were receipt of over $1 million of funds from different sources for terrestrial and freshwater conservation in the Ankoa Sandplain ecological region of Central Minnesota, the advance of significant forest work with private landowners in the St. Croix Valley, and the exploration of conservation work with farmers in the Minnesota River Valley. These accomplishments reflected Greening's move into conservation leadership, facilitation, and capacity building, building parnerships where the needs are great, but where cross-boundary leadership is lacking. By the end of 2010, 25,629 volunteers have planted 60,586 trees and shrubs and restored 4,000 acres.