Long Lake “Water Critters” program offers intergenerational learning and an introduction to The Lakes at Stillwater

Wednesday, July 10, 6-7pm

On the outdoor terrace of The Lodge, there is a large fire ring, a dozen oversized deck chairs, and a tranquil view of the wooded lake below. Standing on that terrace, you might think you were at a resort in northern Minnesota, or perhaps a hunting lodge in Montana. In reality, The Lodge is part of The Lakes at Stillwater, a new senior housing campus on the north side of Long Lake, just east of Rutherford Elementary. Community members, including children and families, will have an opportunity to see the new facility and learn about aquatic life in Long Lake during a special Water Critters program, co-hosted by The Lodge and Brown’s Creek Watershed District on July 10.

During the water critters event, children and adults can get up-close with insects, tadpoles and aquatic invertebrates that live in Long Lake.

Much about Long Lake has changed in the past fifty years. An aerial photo from 1953 shows the lake mostly surrounded by farmland, with patches of woods on the northwest and northeast shores. When the first homes were built along the lake in the 1970’s, the new residents found an abundance of wildlife at their doorsteps. According to Lee Miller, a long-time advocate for Long Lake, “It served as a major stop-over for hundreds of waterfowl in the spring and again in the fall…River otters, eagles, and various other critters fed on the fish. Deer, turkeys, and coyotes frequented the many woods on both sides of the lake.”

1953 aerial
An aerial photo from 1953, shows Long Lake in Stillwater surrounded by farmland with only a few patches of trees on the northwest and northeast sides. (Photo from Browns Creek Watershed District)

Over the next several decades, the watershed surrounding Long Lake continued to develop and the lake’s habitat and water quality gradually diminished. Stormwater flowed in from nearby neighborhoods and commercial developments, carrying with it large amounts of silt and nutrients. By 2002, it was added to the state’s list of impaired waters by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Happily, the health of Long Lake has been gradually improving in recent years, thanks to a series of water-quality improvement efforts led by the Brown’s Creek Watershed District. Since 2006, the watershed district has upgraded stormwater ponds along roadways and in commercial areas draining to Long Lake, worked with homeowners and large property owners to install dozens of raingardens, and leveraged state funds to restore native shoreline habitat along the eastern shore of Long Lake on city-owned property.

In 2018, Long Lake scored a grade of “B” and it continues to show an improving trend for water clarity, average chlorophyll-α, and average total phosphorus.

raingarden 2
Brown’s Creek Watershed District has worked with homeowners and large property owners near Long Lake to install dozens of raingardens to reduce stormwater pollution to the lake.

During the July 10 “Water Critters” program, watershed educators will invite community members to get up-close and hands-on with some of the smallest wildlife that lives in Long Lake. Participants will get their hands wet interacting with tadpoles, aquatic invertebrates, and other critters from Long Lake and will learn what these tiny creatures can teach us about water quality. The program will be held outdoors on the terrace of The Lodge in The Lakes at Stillwater and is open to the public. Lemonade and s’mores will also be served.

Once it is fully operational, The Lodge will include 139 independent, assisted living, memory care and care suites. In addition, 100 senior living homes and apartments will be built at The Lakes during the second phase of construction. Next week’s Water Critter’s program is an example of the type of intergenerational programming The Lodge plans to host on a regular basis.

Water Critters of Long Lake: Wednesday, July 10, 6-7pm at The Lodge in The Lakes at Stillwater (107 Bridgewater Way). Enter at the front door to access the outdoor terrace. In the event of rain, the program will be held indoors. Free, no registration required.

Father and son explore Long Lake in Stillwater
Grandfather and grandson explore Long Lake in Stillwater