Lake Minnetonka, located just west of the Twin Cities, is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The ninth largest lake in Minnesota hosts a million visitors annually. Unfortunately, one of the few public beaches on the lake, Commons Park Beach, is frequently closed due to high levels of e-coli. Canada Geese are the primary culprits, as they forage and nest nearby, and their droppings wash into the lake during heavy rains.
Great River Greening is working with the City of Excelsior to directly improve water quality in Lake Minnetonka, in a three-year comprehensive approach that includes restoring the beach shoreline, as well as a nearby Big Woods area: Wood-Rill Scientific and Natural Area.
Revegetating the shoreline will prevent geese from accessing the water and beach area, and provide a natural buffer against sediment runoff into Lake Minnetonka.
Restoring Wood-Rill SNA aims to improve a more complex water filtration system. The 141-acre natural area, located a few miles from the lake, in the heart of Wayzata, holds 350-year-old oak, basswood, and sugar maple trees that provide important water quality functions for Lake Minnetonka tributaries. Its extensive system of meadows, prairies, and forests naturally filters surface and ground water, preventing harmful pollutants and sediment from entering Lake Minnetonka.
Unfortunately, the MN DNR has identified Wood-Rill as “imperiled” due to the spread of invasive plants, specifically buckthorn, particularly along the southern portion of the site. It has severely compromised the forest floor and its ability to filter waterways. Great River Greening will restore and maintain 31 acres of high-risk land within the SNA.
GRG Operations Director Todd Rexine said there are many environmental and recreational benefits to this project:
“We’re raising the quality of the water and the beach, for visitors to enjoy. And the residual impact of restoring Wood-Rill is historical: it preserves a sizable remnant of Big Woods, which is now and endangered habitat.”