Green growth: new neighborhood grows up around prairie
In 2013, at the same time the City of Cottage Grove was creating Cedarhurst Meadow Park — with a playground and walking paths that connect to a larger trail system — dozens of new homes were beginning to line that public path.
In the center, South Washington Watershed District and Great River Greening began the Cedarhurst Prairie restoration.
It can take three to five years for prairie plants to establish, as their roots extend 5 to 15 feet into the earth. This year, the Cedarhurst Prairie came into its own, and the backyards in this new neighborhood opened to a healthy display of blazing star, big bluestem, and other native wildflowers and grasses.
Great River Greening has been working in the South Washington Conservation Corridor since 2010 to restore former farmland to prairie, with shading oaks, native grasses, and flowers. The benefit is plenty; restored basins deeply enhance the land by providing critical native habitat and improving water quality by controlling storm water runoff in an area where development is booming.
We want everyone to enjoy this space. Here some important ways to keep it healthy:
- The Cedarhurst Prairie is public land, owned by the South Washington Watershed District and open for use: walk the paths and explore the habitat.
- Please do not deposit compost or lawn trimmings, add or remove plants.
- Homeowners with adjacent land should not mow the prairie. If you desire easier access to the paved trail, you can mow a path to it – up to 4ft wide.
- If you do create a path, free “pollinator lawn” seed is available for you to plant in this section, consisting of low-growing native wildflowers that can tolerate high and infrequent mowing. (contact information is below)
Connect Cedarhurst to a larger conservation corridor
Great River Greening will continue to manage the Cedarhurst prairie, in partnership with South Washington Watershed District, to control weeds and other unwanted plants. Most future trees will be suppressed, including female cottonwoods (which produce fluffy seeds).
This fall, Great River Greening volunteers began seeding the neighboring Parkway Ravine which will connect Cedarhurst Prairie to the larger conservation corridor.
Why prairie at Cedarhurst?
Prairies in Minnesota once occupied almost one third of the state’s land, including much of Washington County. Today, only about 1% of the original prairie remains, making it one of the most critical habitats to protect and restore in Minnesota.
In a healthy prairie, you can find up to 50 different species of grasses and 200 species of wildflowers that support wildlife, from endangered pollinators to majestic hawks.
By restoring the prairie, we honor our natural heritage and improve the environment.
- The tall grasses and colorful wildflowers in a prairie attract and provide shelter for numerous birds and endangered pollinators.
- The deep roots of the prairie help stabilize soil and soak up stormwater runoff, filtering nutrients and other pollutants from groundwater before making its way south to the Mississippi River.
- Other Benefits of Prairie:
• Groundwater recharge
• Less long-term maintenance
• Greater resistance to weeds
• Increases soil organic matter
• Rebuilds the soil
Why are trees growing in the prairie?
You find almost no trees in a prairies. However, oak trees add value by providing shade and food to wildlife, and structure for birds and other creatures. In the fall of 2017, Great River Greening and volunteers planted groves of oaks at the Cedarhurst. Some cottonwood trees that had previously established were also left to mature. While not a typical prairie tree, cottonwoods are a choice tree for bald eagle nests.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT US
Want to know more?
Tallgrass Prairie Facts (compiled by the MN DNR)
- Native tallgrass prairie is the MOST ENDANGERED ecosystem in North America. (Kansas State University)
- One acre of established prairie can produce 24,000 pounds of roots. (Iowa State University)
- One acre of established prairie can ABSORB 9 inches of rainfall per hour before runoff occurs. (University of North Iowa)
- One acre of established prairie will INTERCEPT as much as 53 tons of water during a one-inch hour rain event. (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
- Prairie foliage represents a surface area 5 to 20 times larger than the soil area beneath it. (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
- Prairie planted in roadside ditches makes our highways safer by INCREASING the holding capacity for snow in the ditch provided the shoulder is mowed. (Mn/DOT)
- Natural competition of prairie plants REDUCES the occurrence of weeds in an area. (Iowa State University)
- Greater prairie diversity creates greater biotic barriers to PREVENT weed invasion. (University of Minnesota )
- One acre of reconstructed prairie can produce more net bioenergy than land used to grow corn for ethanol. (University of Minnesota)