Community-based restoration: Volunteers work to clean Seven Mile Creek Watershed

St. Peter Herald

Saturday, October 31, 2015

By DANA MELIUS dmelius@stpeterherald.com

Courtland area farmer John Luepke (right), a regional board director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, joined volunteer Pam Joachim of Chanhassen on the long walk along wet, muddy conditions to assist in Saturday’s community-based restoration project on the Charley and Kathy Vogel farm in rural St. Peter, Oshawa Township. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

Courtland area farmer John Luepke (right), a regional board director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, joined volunteer Pam Joachim of Chanhassen on the long walk along wet, muddy conditions to assist in Saturday’s community-based restoration project on the Charley and Kathy Vogel farm in rural St. Peter, Oshawa Township. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

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.

A diverse group of volunteers joined conservation efforts Saturday, including several Gustavus Adolphus College students. About 60 volunteers signed up for the restoration project in Oshawa Township; most showed up despite wet, muddy conditions. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

A diverse group of volunteers joined conservation efforts Saturday, including several Gustavus Adolphus College students. About 60 volunteers signed up for the restoration project in Oshawa Township; most showed up despite wet, muddy conditions. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

“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.


Volunteers work along a ravine on the Charley and Kathy Vogel farm in Oshawa Township, rural St. Peter. It was part of Great River Greening’s community-based restoration project for the Seven Mile Creek Watershed, in conjunction with the Nicollet County Soil and Water Conservation District. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

Volunteers work along a ravine on the Charley and Kathy Vogel farm in Oshawa Township, rural St. Peter. It was part of Great River Greening’s community-based restoration project for the Seven Mile Creek Watershed, in conjunction with the Nicollet County Soil and Water Conservation District. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

“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.


Karen Great River Greening's Karen Galles Karen Galles (right), Seven Mile Creek Watershed coordinator for Great River Greening and the Nicollet County Soil and Water Conservaton District, addressed volunteers prior to Saturday's project. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

Karen
Great River Greening’s Karen Galles
Karen Galles (right), Seven Mile Creek Watershed coordinator for Great River Greening and the Nicollet County Soil and Water Conservaton District, addressed volunteers prior to Saturday’s project. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

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.

instructions prior to getting started, removing brush and debris from a ravine on the Oshawa Township farm, on the western part of the Seven Mile Creek Watershed. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

instructions prior to getting started, removing brush and debris from a ravine on the Oshawa Township farm, on the western part of the Seven Mile Creek Watershed. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)