St. Peter Herald
Saturday, October 31, 2015
By DANA MELIUS firstname.lastname@example.org
Great River Greening’s community-based restoration project Saturday at the Charley and Kathy Vogel farm in Oshawa Township, about 6 miles southwest of St. Peter, attracted dozens of volunteers who braved wet, muddy conditions to pull branches and debris out of a ravine.
About 40 volunteers worked in hopes of contributing to efforts to clean up the Seven Mile Creek Watershed, in conjunction with the Nicollet County Soil and Water Conservation District. Removing such debris up stream improves water quality in Seven Mile Creek, a popular trout stream and regional park area.
Karen Galles, coordinator for the Seven Mile Creek Watershed Partnership, said it’s encouraging and exciting to bring together a diverse group of organizations and volunteers. She adds the partnership is both an educational opportunity to bring such diverse factions together, as well as an effort to provide a long-term solution to protecting water quality.
The project also included a Thursday prairie grass planting, as well.
“These are kind of the first volunteer opportunities for area residents,” Galles said. The project hopes to improve communications between farmers and conservationists who are concerned with watershed conditions, she added, providing “less adversarial” relationships.
While Great River Greening has been in existence for 20 years, Galles has worked in collaboration with the Nicollet County Soil and Water Conservation District for the past two years. She believes farmers and the agricultural industry are often more than willing to partner on conservation efforts and projects to improve and protect water quality.
“I have found if you approach people the right way and ask for their opinions, too, they are more than happy to work together,” she noted. “It’s making sense for both groups.”
Developing “a relationship of trust with people” is Galles’ goal. And she believes the timing is right for such partnerships to flourish. Galles acknowledges “farmers are feeling they’re attacked” at times. Great River Greening’s projects strive to bring different factions together to work on common goals.
“There’s been so much happening politically,” Galles said, with Governor Mark Dayton’s emphasis on farm buffers and other conservation efforts. “There’s more public conversation about it.”
Because three-fourths of sediment in such waterways like Seven Mile Creek often is the result of upstream runoff and ravine areas, Galles said volunteer efforts like last week are critical. Saturday, volunteers slid down the farm ravine, pulling up branches and debris, then piling it along the field edge. This winter, the piles will be burned.
On Thursday, volunteers helped plant cordgrass rhizomes which are designed to reduce erosion and improve water quality. Volunteers also scattered native grass seeds Saturday for additional ground cover.
The Vogels farm 260 acres, land which has been in the family since 1857. They plan to place some 10 acres of land abutting the ravine into the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), also being planted with native prairie grasses.
John Luepke of rural Courtland, a regional board director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, was among volunteers Saturday. He welcomed the diversity of participants, which included students from Gustavus Adolphus College.
Luepke said it’s important for agricultural groups to partner with conservation efforts. While Luepke said some farmers are hesitant to participate in such conservation efforts, idling marginal land makes sense. For Galles, she enjoys bringing such diverse groups together.
“It’s been really cool to see the openness and the willingness of these groups working together,” Galles said, hoping her training assists in such efforts. “It’s a real skill to know the rural culture.”
Reach Associate Editor Dana Melius at 507-931-8568 or follow him on Twitter @SPHdanajohn.