Chasing the Spring

Coming back from a frozen run.
Coming back from a frozen run.

The temperature hovered 1° above zero, though the wind made it feel much colder. As we ran, my dog Molly kept pausing and looking back as if there were someone else behind us. Who, I don’t know, as we did not see one single person outside of their homes or cars in our entire six-mile loop. I suppose she figured that the only reasonable explanation for why we would be outside running on such a miserable day would be if someone or something were chasing us. Then again, perhaps she was right, and the Abominable Snowman or possibly Old Man Winter himself was following us the whole way.

This is the time of year in which I am most likely to doubt that Minnesota will ever be warm again. Yet, we are now tantalizingly close to March 20, the official first day of spring. Before we know it (please let me be right), the snows will begin to melt, the bitter wind will lose its sting, and the trees and plants, long dormant, will come to life again.

Though the thermometer might not show it, one sure sign of spring is the Master Gardeners’ spring landscape workshop, scheduled for this coming weekend, March 7, at the Oakdale Discovery Center. The “Beyond Beautiful” workshop is a free event, open to the public, with opportunities for people to talk one-on-one with Master Gardeners about their own gardening projects, as well as to enjoy presentations on Conserving Monarch Butterflies, Landscaping for Birds and Bees, and Lawn Care and Pruning Tips.

The next weekend, March 14, St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Woodbury will hold an Environmental Fair, another welcome sign of spring. Dozens of local organizations and community groups will be featured at the event, with information and family friendly activities about raingardens and planting for clean water, composting, solar and wind energy, rain barrels, and more.

Meanwhile, local watershed management organizations are planning for another round of clean water projects in 2015. The Brown’s Creek Watershed District was recently awarded a $200,000 Clean Water Grant from the Board of Water and Soil Resources to retrofit the gravel parking lot at Brown’s Creek Park in Stillwater to reduce sediment pollution and cool runoff water flowing into the trout stream.  Also in Stillwater, the Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization received a $142,000 Clean Water grant to install up to 16 small-scale practices in areas that drain directly to the St. Croix River in order prevent 8lb of phosphorus and 2 tons of sediment from washing into the river.

In northern  Washington County, the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District will receive $108,431 for projects to improve Goose Lake, and $98,200 to reduce stormwater runoff in the City of Marine. In addition, the Ramsey – Washington Metro Watershed District was recently awarded a $150,000 Clean Water grant from the Board of Water and Soil Resources to work with faith-based communities in the local area on projects such as parking lot retrofits and raingardens that help to reduce runoff pollution.

This spring, local watershed organizations will continue to offer mini grants to homeowners to help defray the costs of raingardens, shoreline plantings, and other similar projects that help to protect rivers, lakes and streams. The Washington Conservation District will also continue to offer free site visits for homeowners and property owners and to help design many of these clean water planting projects.

To get a jump start on planning for spring and summer projects at your own home, check out the Master Gardener Spring Workshop (Saturday, March 7, 8am-noon at the Oakdale Discovery Center, 4444 Hadley Ave. N.) or the St. Ambrose Environmental Fair (Saturday, March 14, 1-6pm at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 4125 Woodbury Dr.).

To learn more about cost-share grants for raingardens and shoreline plantings contact the Washington Conservation District at 651-330-8220 x.35.

Until then, keep your eyes fixed ahead, and your feet moving swiftly, away from the winter towards spring.