A Bush Foundation Innovation grant supports community-led project for improving water quality

A new Great River Greening project harnesses the ingenuity and ideas of one tributary stream’s community to show what local solutions to water resource challenges can do.

Since taking aim at improving water quality in the Minnesota River, Great River Greening has sought local solutions.

The effort began two years ago by placing a staff person in the Nicollet Soil and Water Conservation District offices in St. Peter, MN, building relationships with farmers, learning local practices to managing the land, and working to revive the Seven Mile Creek Watershed Partnership.

A recent Community Innovation Grant from the Bush Foundation provides the Seven Mile Creek community the chance to demonstrate what community-led rehabilitation of water resources in an agricultural landscape looks like.

seven mile creek bridge flickr john_lustig

The Creek that Defines the Community
Seven Mile Creek is a tributary of the Minnesota River. It’s a trout stream, very rare in South Central Minnesota, and anchors a beloved county park widely used by the community for fishing, picnics, horseback riding, hiking and biking. The land that surrounds this Creek is some of the most productive farmland in the country – farmed by people who care deeply about the health of their businesses and the Creek. At Great River Greening, we’ve come to believe that all of these people, collectively, hold the answers to the water quality successes for the rivers, lakes, and streams of the Midwest.


Gather at the Water

The grant is funding a project called: “Gather at the Water: Uniting a Disconnected Community Around the Creek that Defines Us.” Great River Greening will shepherd the community through two tracks, engaging park users and farmers. Each will focus on conservation goal-setting and planning, informed by the wealth of data already collected about this watershed and amplified by local voices, ideas, values, and solutions.

Said Molly Matheson Gruen, Bush Foundation community innovation manager, about the award: “Historically, the approach to water resource management has been driven mostly by government agencies, and Great River Greening is working toward a better model for watershed preservation that reflects the whole community.”

The project was one among only 34 awarded, out of 587 applicants. Partners include the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Research Center (MAWRC), and, most importantly the people who live in, work in, use, and appreciate Seven Mile Creek and its surrounding watershed.

Great River Greening and its partners will work to share the lessons of a community-driven approach to watershed management, conservation, and restoration throughout the Minnesota and Upper Mississippi River Basins.

Funding for Greening’s Minnesota River work also provided by Agribank, Carolyn Foundation, CHS Foundation, Clif Bar Family Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and Rahr Malting