Get a Little Wild in Your Yard

I noticed my neighbors doing this in their backyard. At first, I thought it was odd and might attract unsavory characters to the neighborhood and bring down property values. Now, I'm a card carrying member of the Rewild Club. It's best to explain.

I took a hard look at my yard and ask myself…What do I want from this space?

  • A peaceful shady retreat?
  • Home grown food?
  • Entertainment central?
  • Ruckus area for kids and pets?

What do I need to make that happen? A patio, a water feature, play area, shade trees, garden plot, privacy screening, a lawn area for recreation, disco ball and dance floor, an amphitheater for Shakespeare in the Park night?

I realized that my yard was mostly seldom-used lawn and none of the other fun stuff.

Amphitheater and disco balls aside, I started to pull together a plan. The biggest surprise was how much better my yard would be if I did less work. I opted to rewild unused space. Along the perimeter of my yard I stopped mowing, I stopped raking, I stopped fertilizing, I stopped weeding, and I stopped watering. In other words, I released by inner teenager. I let trees and shrubs that popped up keep growing, and planted a few for fall color, nesting, fruit and flowers. In a few years, instead of staring at a fence that needed maintenance, I had a living screen of trees and shrubs. Birds and butterflies came back to enjoy the flowers and fruits of my lack of labor, and they turned out not to be the unsavory characters I had imagined. The shade makes hot summer days in the yard enjoyable and cuts my lawn watering in half. There still plenty of lawn for kids and pets, but now the space is a haven for the family and a little wildlife.

Tips for the would-be rewilder.

  1. Just mow less.
  2. Baby steps. Pick a small area to try first. Consider it a journey of many years, not a mountain to climb on a single trek.
  3. Forget tidy. Wild areas can be messy. You can keep the edges formal if you want.
  4. Pick up ID books for birds, flowers, and trees so you can get to know your new neighbors. Books? Did he say books? I think he meant App.
  5. Avoid using chemicals where the wild things are.
  6. Think vertically if you have a small space. Tall trees, medium sized trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses can call have a place in a very small area.
  7. Add a water feature to ramp up the wildlife appeal.
  8. Plant diversity is good. Variety will make the space more interesting and resistant to stressors like disease and drought.
  9. Speed up the process with affordable bare root trees and shrubs from your local conservation district annual tree sale.
  10. Avoid invaders. Learn a few of the invasive plants in your area and try to keep them out of your wild space.
  11. Let your neighbors know why you would do such zaniness.
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Supervisor Spotlight: Mary Jo Truchon

Mary Jo Truchon and her family moved to Blaine over 45 years ago from Chicago. At that time, Blaine was on the outskirts of the Twin Cities and seemed to be the edge of civilization. Nature was always close and Mary Jo thrived in it. Moving to Blaine from the city of Chicago felt like moving someplace wild and deeply connected to the natural world. In fact, the Truchon's home was in a remnant prairie and surrounded by oak savannah. Living so close to the natural resources of the county further solidified her passion to protect them for future generations to enjoy.

Mary Jo's love of nature started early in her life. She recalls family trips to the Wabash River as well as to the sandy shores of Lake Michigan where the waters were always warm in the summer. She fell in love with water and instilled these same values in her own children and 15 grandchildren through trips to Lake Superior in Duluth, the Coon Rapids Dam, Lake Mille Lacs, the Rum River, and more. Mary Jo says that Minnesota was a fabulous place to raise her family. Even now that her children are grown, the family still gathers around water with Taylor's Falls being the destination of choice this past Easter as it is a family favorite for picnicking.

In addition to raising her family, Mary Jo pursued her interests in government, art, and nature by volunteering with several organizations. She was on the board of the League of Women Voters for many years and also spent 20 years volunteering with a group of environmental educators to conduct free outdoor programs for youth in county parks. The Heritage Lab reached thousands of kids each year with hands on programs about the natural history of Minnesota. This program was then taken over by the Anoka County Parks with funding from Connexus Energy. To this day, Mary Jo is incredibly proud of her role educating youth about the natural resources and history of our area and is excited to see those efforts continued today.

For approximately 20 years, Mary Jo has been an asset to the ACD Board of Supervisors. Today, she serves as the Board Chair helping to guide the work of ACD in Anoka County. In her free time, she enjoys painting and walking on the boardwalks through the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary.

Reach out to Mary Jo or any of the ACD Board Supervisors here: www.anokaswcd.org/about-us/board-of-supervisors
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Rescuing Rare Plants in Anoka County

Staff from Anoka Conservation District, Critical Connections Ecological Services, and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum will work with volunteers the last week of April to salvage up to 1,000 State Endangered Rubus stipulatus from a development site and transplant them into protected sites.

Rare plant rescue has been made possible with MN DNR's permit application for the Propagation of Endangered or Threatened Species, which was developed in 2019. Since the release of the permit application, approximately 7,500 State Threatened lance-leaved violets (viola lanceolata) and 150 State Threated swamp blackberry (rubus semisetosus) have been salvaged from three development sites and transplanted into protected sites where their populations are monitored.

To learn more about rare species in Minnesota, go the MN DNR's Rare Species Guide:https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/rsg/index.html

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Mississippi Community Park Riverbank Stabilization Project Update

The project design and bid packet to stabilize approximately 1,500 linear feet of severely eroding riverbank within Mississippi River Community Park in Anoka were recently finalized. Contractor bids are due in mid-April, and project construction is anticipated this summer during periods of low water to maximize riverbank access. Below is an overview of the planned stabilization process.

  • A section of the walking trail will be removed during construction but will be replaced following stabilization of the riverbank.
  • Mature tree and vegetation removal will be required for project access and grading.
  • The nearly vertical bank will be graded to a stable slope.
  • Hard armoring with rock at the bottom of the slope will provide protection against high flows and ice. The rock will be placed over a layer of filter fabric for protection of the underlying soil.
  • Live cuttings and plant plugs will be planted just above the riprap for additional stability, nearshore wildlife habitat, and a more natural appearance.
  • The slope above the riprap will be vegetated with a native seed mix, shrubs, and trees.
  • Additional features of the stabilization include strategic placement of boulders to provide recreational access points for fishing and viewing the river as well as small outcroppings to create a diversity of flows and enhance aquatic habitat.

Eroding riverbanks contribute to the Mississippi River's sediment and turbidity impairments through direct loading of sediment and nutrients that degrade overall water quality as well as aquatic and nearshore habitat. Stabilization of actively eroding riverbanks is one of the most cost-effective practices to improve water quality because 100% of the sediment reaches the waterway.

The project is funded by a Clean Water Fund grant, a Watershed Based Funding grant, and match from the City of Anoka. Watch for more updates from ACD and the City of Anoka as the project progresses.


May 11th 2021 Update:

A total of 12 bids were received and reviewed by staff from the City of Anoka, Hakanson Anderson, and Anoka Conservation District. The bids were competitive and many were within the available budget. The City of Anoka City Council approved the bids and awarded the project to the low bidder at the May 3rd meeting. A pre-construction meeting will be held with the selected contractor within the next month to review all project elements and ensure the project gets off to a smooth start.

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Siberian Peashrub treatment at Bunker Hills Regional Park

Siberian peashrub (Caragana arborescens) is a restricted noxious weed in Minnesota. It has a background similar to Common Buckthorn, commonly found in hedge groves, shelterbelts, and wildlife plantings. Siberian peashrub is not as common as buckthorn but is becoming more prevalent throughout the state. These plants have an extensive root system and the ability to self-reproduce to create new infestations. Last year, infestations in Bunker Hills regional park were surveyed and mapped by ACD staff. These maps were used during three days of targeted treatment by ACD this winter. After three days, ACD completed cut-stump treatment on 14 infestations which totaled approximately 3.5 acres. 

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2020 ACD Technical Assistance Summary

ACD staff provide technical assistance for a wide variety of projects each year. Many of the requests for assistance come directly from landowners interested in improving natural resources or addressing concerns on their properties. Technical assistance is also provided for projects in collaboration with county, city, and watershed entity partners. The table to the right summarizes 2020 technical assistance provided by ACD staff.

Assistance begins with a site consultation. Consultations typically include a conversation with the landowner, desktop review of the site using GIS mapping software and available data sets, and a site visit to discuss options. If the landowner is interested in pursuing a project, ACD can provide design and installation oversight services. Maintenance guidance is also provided for previously installed projects.

Additional information about active projects and those previously completed is available on ACD's project tracking map.

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Shortlist/index.html?appid=d1e76c3d808743c1b149bde24c990894

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Watercraft Inspector Web Data Tool

The MN Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) of the University of MN created an interactive website that displays all of the watercraft inspector data for any lake you may be interested in. This website shows infestation status as well as the risk of infestation for most lakes across the state. It also shows all incoming and outgoing boat traffic from any lake selected based on the survey responses received by watercraft inspectors.

The website can be found at https://www.aisexplorer.umn.edu/#!/

Select your county in the left hand pane, and click the lake you are interested in viewing on the map (Lake George in Anoka County shown). Once clicking the lake, you can view infestation status and a risk score based on boat traffic data. You can also choose to view all incoming or outgoing movements from this lake. This shows where boats were reported to be either immediately prior to or after launching at Lake George. These maps and their data can also be exported directly from the website using the export tools in the left pane. This website is a great tool to view the infestation status of lakes around you, the risk that those lakes face based on data collected, and to view the data collected by the many watercraft inspectors working hard around Minnesota each year to protect our waterways. 

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New Survey Gear for Conservation Projects

The Anoka Conservation District is excited to have new survey gear. A survey-grade GPS unit has been added to our existing robotic total station survey unit. This gear increases the speed and accuracy (sub-centimeter) of our designs and our as-built checks of projects during or after construction. It will be used for riverbank stabilizations, rain gardens, and many other kinds of projects.

The survey gear was purchased by the Metro Conservation Districts, a coalition of soil and water conservation districts in the metro. This gear is shared with the Isanti and Sherburne Soil and Water Conservation Districts. ACD staff have taken a lead role in setting up and learning the new gear, and will be training the other SWCDs.

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Staff Spotlight: Carrie Taylor

Carrie Taylor, ACD's Restoration Ecologist, enjoys all manner of outdoor adventures including skiing, gardening, camping, and canoeing. She always makes time to explore nature, go on hikes, and "hunt" for wildflowers with her family. She loves bringing her daughters out with her even though she sometimes has to remind them that "skiing… hiking… canoeing… it's what we do!"

Prior to living in Minnesota, Carrie lived in Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, Montana, and Sweden. Since moving to Minnesota 6 years ago, Carrie has made a point of exploring all the natural areas the state has to offer. One of Carrie's favorite places in Minnesota that she has explored thus far is the Superior Hiking Trail at Bean and Bear Lakes. She appreciated the topography, the wildness, and the beautiful multi-layer beaver dam complex that she and her family stumbled across.

Carrie is also active with the Master Gardener program and enjoys volunteering with many organizations especially coordinating landscape design and installation with new homeowners through Habitat for Humanity.

Outside of Carrie's work conducting natural resource monitoring, inventory, assessments, and planning, and coordinating ecological restoration projects for the District, she is involved in landscaping and adding native and edible plants at her daughters' schools and helping lead some of their Girl Scout activities.

To contact Carrie, reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (763) 434-2030 x19. 

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District Capacity Funding Impact

Each year since 2016, soil and water conservation districts across the state, including ACD, have receiving a special allocation from the Clean Water Fund of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to build statewide capacity to provide conservation related programs and services. Each district utilizes these funds differently to meet the needs of their constituents and natural resources. Following is a snapshot of how ACD relies on these funds.

District Capacity funds (DCF) have made the greatest difference in Anoka Conservation District (ACD) operations by serving as a highly adaptable funding source. We use DCF to tackle critical but small tasks that elevate our overall function and efficiency. Most individual projects and activities funded with DCF cost less than $5,000.

Education and Outreach: DCF has been used to create a natural resources Blog that is continually updated with timely content, a quarterly e-Newsletter that is distributed to key stakeholders and the public, and outreach materials including brochures, displays and animated videos; all of which are available at https://www.anokaswcd.org/educational.html.

Inventory: ACD completed riverbank and lakeshore condition photo inventories for our major rivers (Rum and Mississippi) and many lakes, totaling over 50 miles of shoreline. Photos are uploaded to Google maps where they are available by using the StreetView function for the public, and ACD staff when fielding calls from landowners.

Planning and Analysis: Streambank and lakeshore photos were analyzed to determine erosion location and severity, enabling ACD to identify and rank potential projects based on cost-effectiveness for water quality benefits. This was the foundation to secure many grants. Similar analysis of wetland restoration opportunities facilitates targeted outreach efforts.

Technical Capacity: Building staff expertise through training and technology upgrades, including design software and survey equipment.

Technical Assistance: In 2020, DCF was used to help complete 198 site consultations, 19 surveys and designs, and construction management for 20 projects for landowners. Technical assistance is a critical service to achieve conservation on private lands.

Cost Share: DCF is used to supplement other funding to help projects such as shoreline and riverbank stabilizations over the finish line.

Project Life Extension: Approximately 25 landowners annually are provided project management guidance to extend the benefits of their project beyond the contracted life. 

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Plant Native Trees and Shrubs for Pollinators

If you are looking for a low maintenance option to benefit native pollinators, consider planting native trees and shrubs. They provide overwintering habitat and food sources for our native bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, and beetles. Many trees and shrubs bloom in the spring and provide an early nectar and pollen source. Fun fact from Heather Holm: One, 70 foot tall, mature black cherry tree (photos below) has the equivalent number of flowers as a 3,500 square foot perennial garden.

ACD's Annual Tree sale has a wide variety of trees and shrubs to choose from! See the full catalog here: https://www.anokaswcd.org/tree-sale-order-forms/2012-10-26-17-32-43.html

See Heather Holm's Native Tree and Shrubs for Pollinators guide for more information: https://www.pollinatorsnativeplants.com/uploads/1/3/9/1/13913231/treesshrubsposter.pdf

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Wetland Restoration in Anoka County

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is seeking to restore previously drained or filled wetlands and adjacent uplands to develop wetland credits for the Local Government Road Wetland Replacement Program (LGRWRP). This program provides wetland mitigation for qualifying road construction, repair, and rehabilitation projects conducted by local road authorities such as cities, townships, and counties.

Opportunities are available for landowners and local government entities in throughout the state including Anoka County.

Restoration opportunities include:

  1. BWSR easement signup which operates the same as Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
  2. Credit development and sale to BWSR through a third party
  3. Credit development in partnership with BWSR

The difficult part of this program was that BWSR wanted projects that were relatively far along in the process since wetland banking starting from scratch is a 4 to 5 year endeavor for the first credits to be established. The funds they were using had a 3 year deadline for completion.

At first, we did not think we had any projects far enough along, but then I reached out to a landowner in Oak Grove who had a significant portion of his proposal completed so we are hoping that this is a good fit for the BWSR program. This project north of 221st Ave NW would restore over 60 acres of wetland that have been drained for decades for farming. It is in the headwaters of Lake George.

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ACD Stands Poised for a Decade of Natural Resource Stewardship

ACD is pleased to present our 2021-2030 Comprehensive Natural Resource Stewardship Plan to our implementation partners and stakeholders. The plan embraces the fact that all natural resources are interconnected and interdependent and presents stewardship goals, objectives and strategies in a manner that will enhance our ability to address issues holistically. The plan is structured around four foundational natural resources: surface water, groundwater, ecological resources, and soils. We also dedicate a portion of the plan to our human resources in a section called Community.

While the plan has been adopted in its current state, over the coming four months ACD intends to reengage with stakeholders who helped bring the plan together to solicit additional input for incorporation into an amendment mid-2021.

Special purpose units of government like watershed districts and soil and water conservation districts routinely face the challenge of communicating progress toward goals amid the complexity of natural resources stewardship. Often this messaging is to stakeholders with limited expertise on the subject. To address this challenge, as a central component of the plan, ACD has developed an Action Wheel with 24 Keystone Endeavors across the four foundational natural resources, community and district operations. Annual success in achieving these endeavors will be reported in an easy to understand manner beginning with our 2021 Annual Report.

The extent to which ACD's efforts improve the quality of life of Anoka County residents is another matter. This delves into matters of ecosystem services, economics, spirituality, recreation, mental health, and so on. How to gauge the value of floating on a clean lake on a hot afternoon? We have a plan for this too, which will come together in our 2021 Annual Report.

Because ACD does not have statutory funding authority, budgets and work plans are aspirational as opposed to prescriptive. To project future budgets, expense and revenue trends over the prior ten years were used. The following revenue and expense projects may appear aggressive at first glance. Considering that Anoka County has over 350,000 residents and that two-thirds of projected revenues come from product sales and state grants, the burden on the Anoka County taxpayer to support ACD's work, including county and local government contributions, would be well below $5 per person. 

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Rain Guardian Turret Installed at American Society of Civil Engineers Global Headquarters

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Global Headquarters parking lot was recently retrofit with a number of low impact development stormwater control measures to reduce runoff volumes and improve water quality. The demonstration project will provide visitors to the campus with an introduction to a variety of options for stormwater management.

One of the products installed was a FocalPoint high performance biofiltration system that also included a Rain Guardian Turret for pretreatment. Rain Guardians provide a stable inlet and effective pretreatment for bioretention systems by capturing sediment and debris in an easy to clean location. Other products installed included permeable pavers and porous concrete.

The campus has served as the ASCE Global Headquarters since 1994, is located just outside of Washington D.C., and hosts several thousand visitors each year.

Additional project information is available at https://www.ascefoundation.org/asce-sustainable-parking-lot-project.

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Staff Spotlight: Becky Wozney

Becky Wozney, ACD's Wetland Specialist, has always had a strong connection to nature. When she was a girl growing up in Pine County, she would regularly ride her horse, Annie, through her family's pastures for hours on end. She fell in love with nature and the outdoors while exploring her family's property with her dogs and today believes that outreach and education can really change how people, especially children, interact with our natural resources. "Anytime we can get kids outside and teach them to respect nature, it will have a large impact on them later in life," says Becky.

Now that Becky has her own daughters, she tries to instill in them the same love of the outdoors that she learned as a kid. She and her family all love to travel and have visited 30 states (including Alaska and Hawaii!) plus Costa Rica and Canada. They are planning a Europe-based trip in 2022. Becky and her family also greatly enjoy spending time on the lake in their boat or kayak, camping in Minnesota's state parks, and hiking with their dog, Millie.

Outside of Becky's work providing technical assistance and Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) regulatory assistance to county residents, she is involved in youth sports and volunteering on natural resource projects in her city.

To contact Becky, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (763) 434-2030 x14.

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