STEWARDSHIP AWARD RECIPIENTS
St. Croix Valley & North Star Chapters of the Sierra Club, shared with the
St. Croix Valley Interstate Group of the Sierra Club
For over 10 years, the Sierra Club, both the St. Croix Valley chapter and the statewide organization, the North Star Chapter, led the fight against a new mega-bridge over the St. Croix River south of Stillwater, on behalf of the integrity of the U.S. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and in support of the river preservation and protection values of the St. Croix River Association.
The Sierra Club was an early proponent of a less impactful solution to a new river crossing. They were the lead plaintiff in a successful lawsuit to force the National Park Service to adequately review the impacts of the proposed freeway style bridge over the river, after political interference by the Department of the Interior during the Bush Administration. They prevailed in that litigation.
Following the 2010 election when politics favored the new bridge and despite withering, inaccurate criticism by local elected officials and many who would profit by the mega-bridge, the Sierra Club both in Minnesota and D.C. consistently fought for a less intrusive alternative and against a first ever amendment to the WSR to permit the bridge to be built. While not successful, their efforts nonetheless were courageous and purposeful.
Port of Sunnyside Club, Inc.
The Port of Sunnyside Club, Inc., established in 1972, is an association of Boat Slip owners at Sunnyside Marina located between Bayport and Stillwater. In 2010 their Board of Directors set a goal to become the first designated “Certified Clean Marina” in the State of Minnesota. In 2012 they achieved that goal when the Minnesota Clean Marina Program certified its first five marinas, including the Port of Sunnyside Club, Inc.
Port Sunnyside Club, Inc. implemented the ambitious $375,000 project to filter and recycle wash down water, keeping cupreous oxide, a toxic antifouling paint used on the bottom of boats to inhibit marine growth, from washing into the river. Since their recycling program began in 2011, a tremendous amount of toxic contaminants no longer discharges into the St. Croix River.
“I just believe we have to be the best stewards of the environment we can be,” said Rick Chapman, Sunnyside’s general manager. Rick’s work doesn’t stop at Sunnyside. He promotes the Clean Marina Program’s 300 best management practices to other Marinas, as one of the leaders in the state’s Clean Marina Program. Certified Clean Marinas meet requirements like working on boat engines in areas where runoff is managed, regularly inspecting and maintaining septic tanks, and even scheduling construction activities to avoid migration, nesting and spawning of fish and wildlife.
Mike Reiter, Citizen Volunteer
Mike Reiter is a very familiar face in the St. Croix River watershed. His passion for the outdoors, can-do attitude, and drive to ensure there is plenty of good, quality wildlife habitat sends him to countless meetings. But Mike doesn’t just go to meetings, he goes with a purpose. Mike is one of those people who sees a need, and then works collaboratively to accomplish the appropriate goals.
Mike is the current chair of the Upper Willow River Rehabilitation District , a group focused on the Willow River, and it recently has been working with St Croix County to implement phosphorus reduction measures on both point and non-point levels. He is also involved with the St Croix County Alliance of Sportsman’s Clubs, the Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust, Friends of the St Croix Wetlands Management District, Wisconsin Conservation Congress, and other organizations.
While Mike felt very honored to be nominated for this award, he said, “This nomination is not about any one person or group but about a unified effort of many to bring the quest (for natural resource protection and restoration) to fruition.” Mike is viewed as a leader by local, state and federal units of government in promoting outdoor recreational opportunities and public education. There were about 28 partners that Mike regularly interacts with listed on his nomination form.
Matt Berg has taught biology in the Grantsburg, WI High School for the past 12 years. Part of Mr. Berg’s instruction includes freshwater mussels where students are introduced to the mussels in the classroom, with the students having the opportunity to perform real world research projects in the summer. In 2003, under Mr. Berg’s guidance, the students did their first mussel survey in the Wood River. Their diving gear consisted of snorkels and inexpensive diving masks. In 2004, with the encouragement of a few state and federal resource personnel, Mr. Berg bid a mussel project on the Wolf River in eastern, WI to relocate an endangered mussel species from an area that a developer planned to put pilings. As a result of winning the Wolf River mussel relocation project, Mr. Berg and his students successfully found, identified and relocated the endangered mussels. They were also able to purchase scuba diving gear.
Each following year, Mr. Berg secured funding and project contracts for his students to use their diving and research skills. In addition to working on projects of new or continued mussel research and invasive species removal, students also did bat monitoring on a number of rivers in Polk and Burnett (WI) counties. During dragon fly research, students discovered the Umber Shadow Dragon Fly unknown to be previously documented in WI. Students also worked on projects for the U of M, Friends of the St. Croix Headwaters, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Macalester College and various lakes’ associations. Students worked on notable projects such as a mussel identification and density study on nine St. Croix River tributaries (i.e. Eau Claire, Totogatic, Yellow, Clam, Wood, Apple, Willow and Kinnickinic), in WI, Eurasian milfoil removal from the Totogatic, on the St. Croix below the Minong dam flowage and on the St. Croix above and below the Gordon dam.
In Mr. Berg’s words, “Most of these kids are not going to go on to be biologists. They are going to go on to be citizens doing any number of things. But I hope that this experience is giving them environmental awareness they would not have gotten another way. And that makes it meaningful and fun.” Mr. Berg’s enthusiasm for biology and learning are contagious as shown by these students’ interest and work in the watershed for the past 12 years.
Anastasia Dion Shartin
Anastasia Dion Shartin has been the Visual Arts Director of The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin, since 2000. Ms. Shartin’s passion for this region and her belief that art can be a catalyst for social change has led her to organize innumerable events, exhibitions, workshops, classes, and interdisciplinary partnership programs to engage people of all ages in conversations about our relationship to the environment and to encourage action to improve its health.
Since 2006, Ms. Shartin has facilitated, the sustainable living group known as What We Need is Here. This network of non-profit art, local food, and other organizations is united to spark local action toward sustainable living in the St. Croix Valley. As the group’s co-founder, she has been responsible for many meetings, public events, a fine monthly e-newsletter, art exhibitions, and an original event of launching handmade paper boats made using natural aquatic vegetation.
Just Add Water art and science workshops for children have been offered as part of The Phipps Summer Art Camp, which Ms. Shartin coordinates. During these week-long classes, students meet with naturalists and artists. The students then use this knowledge to create art in a broad range of media both to take home and for display at The Phipps, as well as at other public venues.
In 2011, Ms. Shartin obtained grants for a collaboration of artists, scientists, and others for The Artful Rain Garden project. Nine grants were later made for artful rain gardens to be constructed in 2012 by local schools and individuals. Plans are underway for extension of this pilot program as far out as 2014.
The Bench Project is an ongoing community art project throughout the lower St. Croix Valley of western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota that engages local community groups in designing, locating, and creating benches, each a unique work of art. Since 2006, through this partnership program with the St. Croix Valley Foundation (SCVF), seven benches have been created, each involving multiple local partners and utilizing community assets.
No one associated with The Phipps has done watershed stewardship work like this previously. It clearly extends the scope of her position and exemplifies Ms. Shartin’s deeply held belief in the power of art to change the lives of individuals and communities.
City of River Falls
Located only 25 miles southeast of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, River Falls is experiencing development pressures from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan area that has the potential to degrade the physical and biological characteristics of the Kinnickinnic River and its tributaries. The City of River Falls leadership and dedication in protecting the Kinnickinnic River are an outstanding example of excellence in the public sector.
The City Council adopted a stormwater management ordinance on April 9, 2002, which set forth stormwater management and erosion control standards applying to all land development activities. It requires infiltration of additional runoff generated by a 1.5 inch rainfall. Furthermore, before being accepted by the City, infiltration performance must be tested and shown to be twice that required by the ordinance. This safety factor is required to account for anticipated degradation in performance over time.
In 2004, the City wanted to demonstrate the functionality and appearance of rainwater gardens so the City partnered with the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust (KRLT) on a rainwater garden demonstration project. The City purchased all plantings for this project and furnished necessary equipment. The goal of the project is to have a local example to show citizens a practical and aesthetic way to help the water quality of the Kinnickinnic River.
In 2005, the City began installing signs around stormwater management areas in order to prevent detrimental encroachments into the facility by neighbors and to educate people of the facilities function. These signs were installed in conjunction with bluebird houses in order to promote wildlife and make the added signs more appealing.
The City of River Falls, in cooperation with River Falls Municipal Utilities, initiated a rain barrel rebate program providing 50% cash back, up to $30, for any rain barrel purchase. Rain barrels fabricated by St. Croix County Land and Water Conservation Department were sold at City Hall and at Kinnifest for $30 as part of this cooperative effort. The City sold 50 rain barrels and granted 28 rebates during the programs first year. The second year was much more successful; the city sold 105 barrels and granted 45 rebates.
Cynthia Landers is a Hudson Middle School science teacher who led her students in design and construction of seven rain gardens that clean up water destined to join the St. Croix River. She partnered with the city and has led the students in erosion control improvements of a retention pond and control of invasive buckthorn, thistle and birdsfoot trefoil in the school forest.
She took the two-week Earth Partnership course in Madison and in the next three years organized classes and curriculum-writing programs in Hudson among her peers. She also started a Women in Science program that introduces 50 girls to science careers at the University of Wisconsin-Stout each year. She was a featured speaker at the Lower St. Croix Management Commission’s summer education boat tour last year and she also speaks to neighboring community groups to get them involved in conservation education projects. At least two of her students are pursuing natural resource science careers as a result of her inspiration and in 2005 she was selected for the St. Croix County Conservation Leader Award.
Deer Lake Conservancy
Jim Miller accepted the Stewardship Award on behalf of the Deer Lake Conservancy. The Conservancy was organized as a Wisconsin charitable organization in 1995 with the purpose of preserving the lake and the surrounding land that contributes to the natural, scenic, recreational and productive value of the lake. A principal goal of the Conservancy has been to work for improved water quality of the lake, and particularly the reduction of phosphorous. The Conservancy is managed and operated by volunteers, apart from, but often in cooperation with, a much older Deer Lake Improvement Association of lakeshore owners.
Deer Lake is located about 5 miles east of St. Croix Falls in Polk County. It drains into the Balsam Branch River, then into the Apple River, a tributary of the St. Croix River. It is an 840 acre lake with a maxim depth of 46 feet. Most of its shoreline is developed with upscale homes, and it is a popular lake for boating and fishing.
During its relatively short existence the Conservancy has made dramatic strides in improving the water quality of Deer Lake based on recommendations by professional consultants, primarily by acquiring nearly 162 acres of land in four areas through which agricultural runoff flows to the lake; and by constructing holding ponds and planting prairie grasses and flowers in those areas. The conservancy has now installed water control structures in the nine largest watersheds draining into the lake. (The prairie plantings have been unique, having been done with local ecotype seeds collected within 50 miles from the lake, and including as many as 100 varieties.)
The resulting improvement in lake water quality has been dramatic. Runoff of phosphorous into the lake was reduced by over half in the decade from 1997 through 2006. Water clarity in the lake as measured by Secchi disc measurements has gone from 7 – 13 feet in 1993 to 19 – 29 feet in 2010. The lake has transitioned from eutrophic (nutrient rich with profuse and unsightly algae bloom and aquatic weeds) to mesotrophic. Deer Lake is one of only two lakes in Wisconsin where this has occurred, the other being Mirror Lake surrounded by park land.
Hayward Boy Scout Troop 70 and the All-Girl Venture Crew
The 2010 recipients of the Bob Burns Memorial St. Croix Watershed Stewardship Award were Scoutmaster Bill Schmelzer, Hayward Boy Scout Troop 70, and the all-girl Venture Crew for their collective promotion of conservation in the St. Croix Wild and Scenic river corridor.
For example. They recently conducted a citizen-science project in the Upper St. Croix National Wild and Scenic River. During 2008, in a combined period of nine days, they paddled 55 miles of the Namekagon River and 75 miles of the St. Croix, sampling water parameters including dissolved oxygen, nitrate, phosphate, pH, alkalinity, temperature, current, turbidity, and sediment, as well as recording GPS locations, auditory samples, and photo samples of tributary sites. They compiled the data, organized it and shared it with the Wisconsin DNR, the United States Geological Survey, University of Wisconsin Extension, and National Park Service.
Just a few of their many other projects have been: boulder and log placements in Hay Creek; board walk restoration on the historic Windigo-Namekagon portage trail and trail maintenance along Smith Creek. Through efforts such as these, Hayward Boy Scout Troop 70, with more than 50 years of service, has become a cultural and ecological institution in the region.
Molly Shodeen, of Oakdale, MN, has gone above and beyond the calling of her challenging professional assignments, and has made a positive difference in protecting the St. Croix Valley.
Here are just some of the extraordinary contributions our award recipient has made:
Nancy Brown was the 2008 recipient of the Bob Burns Stewardship Award. Her nomination, supported by people in Wisconsin and Minnesota, is for her work in leading the preservation of “an historic environmental gem” near Somerset, Wisconsin. More specifically, Nancy spearheaded the creation of Martell’s Landing Education Center at the confluence of the Apple and St. Croix Rivers.
The Martell’s Landing property was purchased from Lester and Yvonne Martell who wished to have their historic 1850’s homestead farm maintained as a legacy for future generations. Our award winner, with the help of family and friends, raised the money to fulfill that dream, and to make the property available to the public in a strategic area adjacent to federal and state lands along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
What’s more she has led the development of educational programming at the site, programs to encourage students to identify the diverse landscape, explore the undeveloped river shoreline, and experience the historic values of Native Americans and early settlers in the area. Now, as the Executive Director of the Martell’s Landing Education Center, Nancy is leading the continuing preservation and promotion of the site bringing in groups for retreats, meetings, classes and field trips.
Martell’s Landing is a great addition to the network of such facilities in the St. Croix Valley, one that grew out of love for the lands and waters by the Martell family and grassroots commitment and timely action.
Wert Family Nature Preserve – Sheldon & Jacob Wert
Landowners Sheldon and Jacob Wert of Eden Prairie, MN, have chosen to establish a magnificent new public nature preserve on a beautiful wooded 448-acre parcel they own in the St. Croix River Valley north of St. Croix Falls, WI. As real estate developers they could easily imagine how it would make terrific home sites; instead, they decided to sell the area, valued at $5 million, to the West Wisconsin Land Trust for about 20 percent of its worth to preserve the thick woods and a prominent 600-foot bluff for public use and enjoyment. This property complements the scenic preservation goals of the nearby St. Croix national Scenic Riverway and, when the Land Trust loan has been repaid with fund from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund administered by the Wisconsin DNR, the property will be donated to the City of St. Croix Falls and the Town of St. Croix Falls.
BP Service Station, Osceola, WI – Tom Salewski
Local businessman Tom Salewski operates a BP brand service station at the gateway intersection of Wisconsin Highways 35 and 243 – a gateway to his community of Osceola, WI as well as to one of the few St. Croix River Valley highway crossings. He designed and built a vintage “cottage style” building that replaced a rather rundown lackluster structure. His goal was to add to the historic community character of Osceola and to complement the attractive scenic character of the nearby River Valley. He persisted in his efforts and successfully obtained an exception from the BP Corporation to allow a pump island without a canopy and with older-style lighting in keeping with the unique building code.
Tom had the support of the Village of Osceola with TIF funds to remove the old building and a small loan from the revolving fund for the new development. His commitments to the preservation of community character and enhancement of the public face of an important St. Croix River crossing route are worthy of recognition.
This is the second St. Croix Stewardship Award presented to a commercial business serving the public in the River Valley.
Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours Co.
The Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours Co. received the St. Croix River Association’s 2006 Bob Burns Memorial Stewardship Award. Four generations of the Muller family have operated the tour company which Carl Muller founded in 1906 to provide cruises on the river. In addition to the popular tours, the business now also includes canoe and kayak rentals.
For 100 years the Muller family has been dedicated to allowing thousands of visitors to appreciate and enjoy the wonders of the scenic St. Croix River Valley every year. In so doing they have built a constituency of citizens who care about preserving this priceless scenic, historic and ecological asset we call the St. Croix.
Amy Frischmon and Dan Raedeke, family members who now own and manage the business, have been very supportive of the River Association’s work. In accepting the award, Amy and Dan expressed the family’s appreciation of this recognition.
The St. Croix River Association (SCRA) gave its 2005 Bob Burns Memorial Stewardship Award to Bill Neuman, a resident of Franconia Township in Chisago County, MN.
Bill was recognized for his leadership and activism in a wide range of river-related activities such as: serving as President of the St. Croix Scenic Coalition (which is dedicated to preserving the outstanding scenic attributes of the St. Croix River Corridor), and acting as one of the chief architects of the Green Corridor Project in Chisago and Washington Counties. He was also recognized by the SCRA for his roles as:
Bill has been a resident of the St. Croix River area in Chisago County for twenty years.
C.W. “Buck” Malick of Hudson Receives St. Croix River Stewardship Award
The St. Croix River Association (SCRA) gave its 2004 Bob Burns Memorial Stewardship Award to C.W. “Buck” Malick of Hudson, Wisconsin. Like Bob Burns, Malick was also a SCRA director and an appointed member of the former Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission.
Malick was also recognized for his leadership and activism in a wide range of river-related activities:
In addition to his numerous volunteer activities, Malick serves as elected Chair of the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors and was Executive Director of the former Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission until its termination by the State of Wisconsin 2001.
Several years ago, Jim Shaver, of Marine on St. Croix, expressed concerns about effects of future land use and development on one of the prettiest and most important streams flowing into the St. Croix. In 1997 he suggested creating a conservation and educational organization, an association which could inspire grass roots stewardship of the stream’s fragile and historic watershed. Jim’s dream became a reality in March 1998 when the association became an officially recognized nonprofit, with our recipient as its first president, a position he held ‘til last January.
Jim’s leadership of the organization has inspired many notable accomplishments over the five years since its creation:
Helen White is an independent scholar, editor and publisher. She was born in Minneapolis, graduated from Hamline University in Saint Paul in 1939 with majors in History and English, and did graduate study in American History and American Literature from 1939 to 1942.
Helen married Dr. Henry Gilbert White, a resources economist, in 1941. They lived in Minnesota, New York, Colorado, Utah and Washington D.C., and abroad in Japan, the Philippines and France. She is the mother of three children, a daughter and two sons. She has been widowed since 1967.
Helen has had a continuously active and varied career over the years. From 1969-1984 she was the founder, editor and publisher of the Dalles Visitor, a yearly publication related to the human and natural history of the Dalles area of the St. Croix River. In 1976 it was awarded a Certificate of Commendation by the American Association for State and Local History. She completed the restoration of the Historic Taylors Falls Jail and opened it as a bed and breakfast guesthouse in 1981. She operated in until 1989. She was one of the founders of the Minnesota Historic Bed and Breakfast Association. In 1985, she was named by the Minnesota Humanities Commission, Minnesota’s “Independent Scholar of the Year.”
As one of many who supported her nomination said: “This entire area is a better place because of all of Helen’s efforts. She is a person of courage and integrity and has made untold contributions for the good of the St. Croix Valley and the need for its preservation.”
In 1985, Helen became the first woman president of the St. Croix River Association. In 1986, she supervised the publication of its 75 year history, the first edition of SAVING THE RIVER.
By 2001 this edition was out of print and had become a collectors item. The SCRA board decided to celebrate the SCRA’a 90th year with an updated edition of the book. Leading the project, Helen worked diligently in researching past minutes and records, and more recently discovered materials relevant to the River Association’s during the period 1928-1951. She added new illustrations.
The 2001 edition of SAVING THE RIVER will be a resource for all the citizens in the St. Croix Valley for years to come. Through its reading, it is believed one will have a greater appreciation of the St. Croix River, its valley and its natural and historic resources. It will be a source of instilling a sense of stewardship and pride in “saving for our children the uses and beauties of our river and valley.”
Verna Kragnes of Osceola, Wisconsin received the St. Croix River Association’s first annual St. Croix Watershed Stewardship Award. Verna earned her recognition by providing leadership that resulted in two significant land purchases in the year 2000: the Osceola Bluff property and the Tewksberry property just south of Osceola.
The Osceola Bluff soars above the Wisconsin side of the river immediately downriver from the Osceola bridge. The property was on the market and a candidate for development. Verna’s tireless, knowledgeable and tactful work was instrumental in the Osceola City Council’s decision to purchase the property thus protecting its unique national beauty.
The Tewksbury property stretches for nearly a quarter mile along the river bluffs in Farmington Township just south of Osceola. It came on the market at an appraised price of $315,000. Verna led the fundraising so that the property could be purchased by the Standing Cedars Community Land Conservancy and the Philadelphia Community Farm. The property is now protected by conservation easements with fifty acres open to the public for hiking, enjoyment of nature and educational activities.
Contributions to her community are nothing new for Verna. She and her husband Rick Hall run the Philadelphia Community Farm where they practice community supported agriculture, provide a home for people with disabilities and encourage an appreciation for farming and nature in urban youth. In 1994 they formed the Standing Cedars Conservancy when the 1170 acre Engelwood property came on the market. This unique property runs along the river in Wisconsin just north of Marine on St. Croix. Interested developers were waiting in the wings. Standing Cedars was successful in acquiring the property and now also holds conservation easements on an additional 437 acres in the area. Nearly all of the protected acreage is open to the public for hiking, enjoyment of nature, educational activities and hunting.
Dewey Albinson's Untitled - St. Croix River in Winter.
Permission to use Dewey Albinson's painting is provided by the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
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Photo by Cody Christenson, 1st place youth wildlife