Anoka-Ramsey Community College provides helping hands for rare plants and rare habitats

ACD staff have been collaborating with Professor Kristen Genet to create hands-on learning opportunities for an Anoka-Ramsey Community College Ecology class. The class learned about rare plants, rare habitats and the invasive species that threaten them, and provided service through their learning. The class got out to plant native grasses and wildflowers to create a dry prairie pollinator garden in a Coon Rapids park. They also conducted rare plant surveys to help guide rare plant rescue planting densities and removed buckthorn that was starting to grow into areas with rare plants. Thanks to Kristen Genet and students for all their contributions!  

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The Oxbows of the Rum River

The Rum River in Isanti County


When allowed to wander freely, rivers flowing throughout a gently sloped landscape form a snakelike meandering path. This occurs as the fastest moving waters erode banks along the outer bends, and slower moving waters deposit sediment along the inner bends. Over many years, these processes cause the meanders to curve more intensely, causing the river to eventually loop back onto itself and cut a straight path through the narrow slice of land that remains. Now disconnected from the river, the C-shaped meander scar is called an oxbow.

To watch these processes in action, check out this video: Why Do Rivers Curve?

A quick glance at aerial imagery reveals numerous oxbow wetlands alongside the Rum River. They are rich in plant and animal life, serving as a "nursery" for fish, invertebrates, and amphibians in their early life stages while providing habitat for countless migratory bird species. These oxbows also improve water quality and reduce flooding by capturing water and the contaminants it carries following large storm events.

To learn more about the importance of oxbow wetlands and their utility in water resource management, read the Nature Conservancy's article on the topic here: What is an Oxbow? 

Aerial photos of a Rum River meander in Ramsey captured in 1991, 2003, and 2021 (left-right). Notice the increasingly thin sliver of land at the base of the curve, which eventually transitions to a river cut-through.
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The Rules of Recreational Boating

Recreational boating has do's and don'ts and an overall etiquette accepted behavior on and around the water. Best boating practices are about safe behavior, as well as what's socially accepted. Here are the top 10 rules to respectful boating developed by the Minnesota DNR to help you navigate the boating world.

  1. Respect the ramp. Good boating etiquette starts before you enter the water - at the dock. Prepare your boat and equipment before getting into position to launch. Anything else is disrespectful to fellow boaters.
  2. Own your wake. The fastest way to make the wrong kinds of waves is to literally throw a big, obtrusive wave at another boat, swimmer, angler or shoreline owner. This is much more than being a nuisance or disrupting others' experience on the water. It's dangerous to those unable to tolerate a large wake. Stay at least 200 feet from the shoreline and other boaters.
  3. Keep the tunes in check. Sound is amplified over the water, so keep the music at a decent level. Not only is it a disturbance to others but the operator may not hear the spotter.
  4. Pack in. Pack out. Seems like common sense, right? Yet shorelines are still lined with trash being thrown overboard. Take care of the body of water you love and dispose of any trash you have. Do not throw it overboard!
  5. Slow your roll. Does the body of water you're on have a speed limit or slow-no-wake restriction? It's your responsibility to know it and respect it. You are responsible for any damage you cause to other people's property.
  6. Rules of the road. Become familiar with waterway markers and navigation rules, which dictate how you operate your vessel in order to prevent collision.
  7. Be prepared. If you are the captain, you need to be prepared with the safety rules for your craft and make your guests aware as well. Know state and local laws for the body of water you're on. Set a good example by always wearing a life jacket and have enough life jackets for each person onboard. Beyond that, make sure to have the appropriate fit.
  8. Fuel and go. At the fuel dock, get fuel, pay your bill and move out of the way. If you need to buy additional supplies, relocate your boat. Don't forget to run your blower before starting.
  9. Anchoring and mooring. Enter an anchorage or mooring area at a slow speed. Don't create a wake that will disrupt other anchored boats. The first boat sets the tone. Mimic how they tie off, how much line you use and how much distance you allow between you and other boats. The busier the boat, the more space you should give yourself.
  10. Be polite – give a wave. When passing another boat, give a little wave hello. Boating is all about having fun and being part of the boating community. Embrace it, enjoy it, and share it for generations to come.

Remember, these are guidelines and should not serve as a replacement for learning the rules, regulations and laws for your local body of water. Whether you're a novice or veteran boater, learn more by taking a boating safety course. 

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Rain Gardens in the City of Fridley

Six rain gardens are being installed at residential lots in the Rice Creek Terrace neighborhood in the City of Fridley. These rain gardens are being placed at high priority locations to intercept and treat stormwater before it enters Rice Creek. The locations were identified during a Lower Rice Creek Stormwater Retrofit Analysis conducted by ACD in partnership with the City and the Rice Creek Watershed District. The rain gardens are being funded by the RCWD's water quality cost share program and the City of Fridley. Landowners have all agreed to long-term maintenance of the gardens to ensure optimal and continuing stormwater treatment. 

A rain garden under construction in the Rice Creek Terrace neighborhood, City of Fridley

Cumulatively, the six rain gardens are estimated to infiltrate 455,000 gallons of water, as well as remove 605 pounds of sediment and two pounds of phosphorus loading to Rice Creek annually. All six rain gardens will be vegetated with native plants to maximize infiltration and provide the co-benefit of pollinator habitat. Additionally, one rain garden will be located immediately adjacent to a trail entrance into Locke County Park, providing an excellent public education opportunity.

Watch for additional updates as construction is finalized. To see other rain gardens already installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. 

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Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Trainings

If you are looking to develop your knowledge of the outdoors this summer, consider the Minnesota Outdoors Skills and Stewardship webinar series being offered by the Minnesota DNR. The webinars take place every Wednesday through the month of August and are less than an hour long. These training webinars are structured towards the general public and can be beneficial for someone who is brand new to a topic or for someone who is experienced but is looking for a refresher. Each weekly webinar covers a different topic. Topics range from "Forging on the North Shore" and "How to Harvest Wild Rice" to "New Deer Regulations" and "Smallmouth Bass River Fishing".

This training series is unique because attendees get the opportunity to learn from some of the top professionals in the state who are leading experts within their field. For people who are busy, this is a great way to learn new skills without having to commit a ton of time and resources. You can also access previously recorded webinars providing you hours of fantastic resources.

Sign up today and give one a try! Follow the link below to view the upcoming training schedule and get access to past webinars.

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishwildlife/outreach/index.html 

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Biomonitoring with Area High Schools

Each spring and fall, ACD staff teaches area high school students about collecting macroinvertebrates to track water quality in Anoka County streams. This lesson is educational and fun for students, while providing ACD with data to track water quality over time through the streams' biota. Biological organisms that can be used to track the health of the environment they live in are called biological indicators (or bioindicators for short).

Macroinvertebrates, the larval forms of many common insects, are a great biological indicator for stream health in particular. They also live in lakes and wetlands. Many people don't realize that common insects like dragonflies, mayflies, black flies, and many others spend the majority of their lives as larval forms in the water. These larvae have varying tolerance levels to pollution, meaning some need very clean water to survive, while others can survive in either clean or polluted water. By tracking the populations of these organisms over time, we can gauge changes in water quality by assessing population shifts and known tolerance levels. This provides a valuable supplemental dataset to water quality samples collected periodically. Because these organisms spend months to years in the water, they give a more comprehensive long term look at water quality than water samples collected at random times can alone. 

Anoka High School students sorting through Rum River samples for macroinvertebrates, May 2022

For the past 24 years, ACD has partnered with numerous schools and groups in Anoka County to collect macroinvertebrates. We currently partner with the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations, the St. Francis American Legion, and the Rice Creek Watershed District to fund this monitoring with classes from four schools. Anoka High School and St. Francis High School classes monitor the Rum River near their schools, Totino-Grace High School classes monitor Rice Creek in Fridley, and the Forest Lake Area Learning Center monitors Clearwater Creek in Centerville. We also plan to take a new class from Blaine High School out in the fall of 2022 to monitor Coon Creek in Coon Rapids.

Over time, this program has taught thousands of Anoka County students about stream water quality, biological indicators, and work in the environmental sciences, all while getting them out of the classroom and into a stream. 

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New Outreach Collaborative Builds Lasting Partnerships in Anoka County

Investment in water education is vital for the continued health of the environment and people. By building strong new partnerships, the Water Resource Outreach Collaborative (WROC) in Anoka County is doing just that.

The purpose of this shared outreach and engagement partnership is to inform community residents, businesses, staff, and decision-makers about issues affecting local waterbodies and groundwater resources. Through enhancement of existing outreach programming and collaborative development of new programming, WROC engages people in activities and individual behavior changes that will positively impact the health of our surface and groundwater.

Through collaboration, WROC partners are able to maximize the effectiveness of their water outreach. Partners benefit from regular resource sharing, consistent messaging, and reduced duplication of effort. Outreach efficiency is maximized because partners are able to pool their resources to develop professional materials with minimal financial stress on any one organization. Many water health outreach topics are common between partners, so having a centralized group to facilitate delivery of those topics has proven vital. Finally, through increased communication between partners, there is greater cross-coordination and promotion of events, thus extending the reach of individual partner programs.

Since January 2019, Anoka County's Water Resource Outreach Collaborative has created new resources including a Conservation Resource Library and a brochure, display, and animated video on groundwater. In addition, the Collaborative has had a presence at 40 community outreach events throughout the county and facilitated or collaborated with partners to host 22 workshops, presentations, and trainings. Notable activities from the past year include presenting to over 630 5th graders in 7 schools in the county, hosting the best-attended private well and septic system training in with 58 attendees compared to 8-12 attendees in previous years, and hosting two smart salting trainings for 85 road maintenance staff from several previously untrained municipalities including Oak Grove, Columbus, Nowthen, Linwood Township, St. Francis, and Ramsey.

In the future, the Anoka County Water Resource Outreach Collaborative will continue partnering to reach new and diverse audiences with messages of water health and conservation. The WROC partnership is an investment in the future of water education in our area. Prioritizing public education is critical to empowering everyone to act as water stewards and create a healthier world for future generations.

The Water Resource Outreach Collaborative (WROC) is a fledgling partnership of cities and watershed management organizations in Anoka County dedicated to working together for efficient and effective public education about water health in our area. It is currently funded with a Watershed Based Funding grant through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and is facilitated by the Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, Emily Johnson, who works out of the Anoka Conservation District office. Contact Emily at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Learn more here: Water Resource Outreach Collaborative

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