He’s standing in an open field, late November, and the sun is glowing through the goldenrod and bluestem. Sun kissing son. There are times like this when the natural world is so beautiful, I want to open my eyes just a little bit wider and etch the memory into my heart.
When the Brown’s Creek Watershed District was established 20 years ago, it set forth with a relatively simple directive to protect against flooding within a 30 square mile area that encompasses portions of seven communities – Stillwater, Grant, Stillwater Twp, May Twp. Hugo, Oak Park Heights and Lake Elmo. Since then, development has boomed in the Stillwater area, creating challenges for watershed management, as well as new opportunities to protect critical habitat and restore degraded waters.
In the past ten years, the watershed district has helped the Minnesota DNR to transform a 140-year old rail line into the multi-use Brown’s Creek recreational trail, capitalizing on the opportunity to repair stream erosion and address runoff pollution in the process. The district has worked with countless private land owners, including the Oak Glen Golf Course, Stillwater Country Club, Countryside Repair and dozens of local homeowners, to install raingardens, streamside buffers and other practices that create habitat and protect lakes and streams. They have partnered with City of Stillwater to install below-ground practices in Brown’s Creek Park and along McKusick Ave. to cool runoff flowing to Brown’s Creek, and also purchased for preservation a small piece of land off of 110th St. in Grant, near the upper reaches of the stream.
Evidence shows that these efforts are working. Water monitoring studies indicate widespread water quality improvement in lakes around the watershed district, and biologists have found that brown trout are again able to survive and reproduce in Brown’s Creek. Two of the lakes – Long Lake and Jackson WMA in Stillwater – have improved from grades of F+ to C.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, the Brown’s Creek Watershed District will hold a celebration of water, nature and community at Brown’s Creek Park in Stillwater, 10am-1pm. During the free, family-friendly event, community members are invited to enjoy a variety of activities, including live music, face painting, arts and crafts, and games with prizes. Wildlife experts will also introduce people to live fish and insects, raptors, and reptiles that live in the area. As an extra bonus, there will be free ice cream.
Brown’s Creek Park is a central hub for people using the Brown’s Creek Trail. It offers a large park with a playground and picnic gazebos, as well as mowed foot-trails leading into nearby prairie, woods and wetlands. Heading east along the paved trail from Brown’s Creek Park to downtown Stillwater, walkers and cyclists pass through a deep, wooded gorge where they can see an old stone arch bridge from the original Military Road, numerous wildflowers, and whitewater churning in the stream below.
Both the park and the trail offer ample opportunities for people to open their eyes just a little bit wider to drink in the beauty of Minnesota in fall. Sun kissing son. Water flowing, fresh and clean.