Bringing Adopt-a-Drain to Martin Lake

Martin Lake in Linwood Township has been classified as "impaired" since 2004, with an excess of phosphorus being a leading cause of its degradation. This particular water contaminant often comes from plant material and fertilizer, and it only takes a pound of phosphorus to create up to 500 pounds of algal growth in a lake. The subsequent two decades since 2004 have seen an array of water quality improvement projects implemented on Martin Lake's shores and in its waters. As a result, phosphorus levels have been inching closer and closer to Minnesota's water quality standard over the last few years, and a de-listing may be on the horizon if these trends persist.

Storm drains can be a significant source of leaves, grass clippings, and other pollutants to the lakes that they drain to. Luckily, Minnesota is home to the successful Adopt-a-Drain program which provides a way for people to select local drains to personally keep free of debris and protect local water sources. Up until this summer, the drains leading to Martin Lake had not been mapped and available for adoption on Adopt-a-Drain's website. 

As part of ACD's work to improve Martin Lake's water quality, we have remedied this and created a map and flyer to promote these drains to people who live in the neighborhoods along the lakeshore. Through sharing these resources with the lake association and local Facebook groups, 11 drains leading to the lake have now been adopted! Thanks to the people who have volunteered, less debris will be getting into the lake from the surrounding streets, which will help Martin Lake in its journey to getting de-listed in the future. We hope to see more people along the lake join the cause now that these drains are available for adoption!

If you're interested in supporting your local water bodies by adopting a drain, check out https://mn.adopt-a-drain.org/ to get started. 

A selection of drains along Martin Lake that are now adopted.
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Protecting Pollinators at the ACD Office

Plant species that are "native" to a local area (i.e., grow there naturally) provide necessary food and habitat for pollinators and enhance soil and water quality. Outdoor spaces that are in covered in turf provide very few benefits to pollinators or the environment, so frequent pockets of natural spaces are critical in developed areas. We recently converted part of our office property from an area that was annoying to mow into beneficial pollinator habitat! Here's how we did it:

In early summer, we used "sheet mulching" to kill off the grass and weeds. If you can plan to have a couple of months before planting, this is an easy method to prepare a site without using herbicides. The future garden space was fully covered in cardboard sourced from our local recycling facility and then covered with a couple inches of mulch. This effectively smothered existing weeds.

We selected 11 native wildflower species, 2 native shrub species, and 2 native grass species for the garden that will thrive with the amount of natural sun and water that the spot gets. Adding wildflowers is a no-brainer to provide nectar for pollinators, but adding grasses sometimes gets overlooked in pollinator gardens. Native grasses provide homes for insects to overwinter in and add beautiful texture to a space! There are many great places to order native plants from in Minnesota; we used Minnesota Native Landscapes and Glacial Ridge Growers.

Since our garden is next to a sidewalk, it was lined with river rock to create a cleaner look and contain the mulch. 

In early fall, the plants arrived and were planted. By this time, the cardboard underneath had broken down enough that it was easy to rip gaps in it to dig holes for the plants. Autumn planting gives plants an edge for developing strong roots in their new home and is a great option if you miss the spring planting window. The plants were spaced about 1.5 feet apart to leave them with room to grow into their full-sized forms. The already-present mulch will help hold in water and continue to suppress weeds.

It will be exciting to watch these new plants grow over the coming year to create a beautiful spot that will support some of our essential pollinator species in Anoka County.

You can also follow these steps to convert areas of your property that may not get much traffic or are hard to mow into a space that will benefit everyone! 

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Isanti 5th Grade Conservation Day

On a cool and cloudy May morning, ACD participated in Isanti Conservation Day, an annual event designed to teach students about natural resource stewardship. Approximately 475 fifth graders were given a chance to get outside for a morning to learn about the natural world around them, and how to protect it, by rotating through stations scattered throughout Becklin Homestead Park. ACD collected a myriad of live aquatic invertebrates from local streams to give the students a hands-on way to learn about the unseen creatures that live in their favorite water bodies.

Each group examined trays containing wriggling nymphs of mayflies, damselflies, and dragonflies, case-building caddis fly larvae, freshwater shrimp, snails, and more. They excitedly gathered around their tables to observe the activity in their trays and tallied how many kinds of invertebrates they were able to identify from a provided list. This led to discussions on what the diversity and types of creatures found in the water could tell them about river health. Looking at their lists, students learned that they could make inferences about water quality based on the pollution tolerance of the invertebrates that they found. Each session was wrapped up by sharing ideas on actions and practices that they could take to protect the health of their local rivers. The event was engaging for the fifth graders and provided them with new perspectives on how people can learn about water quality.  

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