Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dakota County Residents Pack Intro Class about Planting for Clean Water

Thursday, April 10, ninety-nine residents packed the Burnsville City Hall for an introductory workshop to learn about how they can help keep area lakes and streams clean with lovely plantings in their own yard. Dakota County Soil & Water Conservation District (DCSWCD) is hosting 31 workshops this spring reaching hundreds of residents.

So what does it mean to plant for clean water? In short, it involves capturing polluted stormwater with often deeply rooted native plants that can handle temporary flooding and excess nutrients.  In natural environments, rain generally soaks into the ground slowly. However, much of our landscape is now urban, with many impervious surfaces such as streets, roofs, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, and even compacted lawns, where the water cannot soak into the ground. Since runoff drains directly to area lakes, streams and wetlands, diverting dirty runoff helps protect area waters. Raingardens, or gardens planted in a depression specially designed to capture runoff, are especially popular.

The introductory workshop provided an overview of water quality challenges in Dakota County and provides beautiful and practical ways of reducing stormwater runoff. If residents are inspired to do something in their yards, they can sign up for design courses where they are walked through the process of designing their own planting. At the end of the two-part class, residents walk out with a planting plan, plant list, cost estimate and completed grant application.

Course evaluations are providing the SWCD with overwhelmingly positive feedback. Participants at the Inver Grove Heights Design course wrote, "Wish I knew about this class years ago--very helpful to understand how raingardens and native gardens help our environment with soil erosion and reducing water pollution," and "I always wanted a beautiful garden but couldn't decide where to put it. Choosing a raingarden solved this problem and is going to help the animals and the environment at the same time!" In addition, participants praise Dakota County Soil & Water staff repeatedly for breaking the process down into simple steps and providing quality one-on-one assistance.

Typically, about 40 projects are installed each year by homeowners with technical assistance provided by DCSWCD. Since 2007, 251 projects have been installed and 2,278 people have attended workshops. DCSWCD works in partnership with area watershed organizations, cities and the Blue Thumb program to provide the Blue Thumb workshops. The "Blue Thumb-Planting for Clean Water®" program is a regional collaborative program with over 60 public, private and non-profit partners aiming to make it easy for people to plan, purchase and plant to protect our cherished water bodies. For more information on grants, plant selection, nurseries, installers, how-to videos and more, visit www.bluethumb.org.


Dakota County Soil & Water Conservation District—Partners in Land and Water Conservation for 70 years.

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