Each spring, the City of Bayport opens the outlet of Perro Pond, allowing water to flow through the Perro Creek Corridor. The water travels under Stagecoach Trail, past the State Prison, downhill through residential and downtown portions of Bayport, and then takes a sharp right on the east side of Hwy 95 before dumping into the St. Croix River. During the spring, summer and fall when Perro Creek is full of water, it is a landmark for the community and site of the annual Derby Days community festival. During the winter months when the stream bed sits dry, however, the corridor often fills with leaves, natural debris, and a healthy dose of “junk.” When the water comes back, it washes the gunk and the junk out of the stream bed and into the St. Croix River.
This year, the City of Bayport joined forces with the Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization to put an end to Perro Creek’s annual pollution parade. With assistance from Brownie Troop 54299, Girl Scout Troop 50515 and Boy Scout Troop 113, they orchestrated a two-day community clean-up on April 10th and 11th and cleared nearly the entire stream corridor. Their efforts will help to keep the culverts clear in Bayport and the water clean in the St. Croix River.
In 2008, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency listed Lake St. Croix as impaired for eutrophication. Eutrophication may sound like an exotic African disease, but it is actually a term used to describe lakes and slow-moving rivers that have too many nutrients. In a eutrophic lake, algae, weeds and other aquatic plants grow and grow until the water turns green. In extreme cases, the plants consume all of the available oxygen in the water, leaving none for the fish, which eventually die. Algal blooms make the water smelly, keep people from enjoying fishing, swimming and boating, and in some cases, can even create toxic conditions that are unsafe for children and pets. Research conducted by the Freshwater Society has suggested that one bag of leaves, grass clippings and yard waste can contain nearly one pound of phosphorus, which in turn can feed up to 500 pounds of algae. April’s clean-up in Bayport netted several dozen bags of debris, enough to produce thousands of pounds of algae in the St. Croix River.
The Perro Creek cleanup wasn’t just about clean water, however. The scout troops that volunteered for the event enjoyed spending time outside, even in spite of the cold weather that week. Folks in the community met new neighbors and old friends found time to talk. Everyone got a good workout during those two days, and some people even found treasure buried in the creek bed.
The clean-up in Bayport is a prelude to a much more extensive effort that will take place this fall when the Girl Scouts of America will celebrate their 100 year anniversary by conducting hundreds of similar cleanups in communities throughout the Minnesota and St. Croix River Valleys. On October 13, thousands of Girl Scouts and their families will rake leaves and litter out of streets that connect to rivers, lakes and streams, protecting our Minnesota waterways from the harm of excess nutrients. The buried treasure might be optional, but the benefit to our water is guaranteed.