While barreling down the single-track trail at Valley View Park in Oak Park Heights, you’re sure to notice a few things. The first is a sprawling wetland complex, known as Perro Pond, which is filled with the songs of frogs and migratory birds from March until November. The second will be the wooded streams, filled with emerald green watercress, that flow out of deeply-carved hillsides and into the pond. The third, with hope, will be the gnarled tree root that has just leapt out of the trail into the path of your mountain bike tire. If not, the fourth may be the texture of the soil and moss on the forest floor, which are delightfully easier to see when lying on the ground.
Valley View Park is a hidden gem tucked between Phil and Tara’s Hideaway, the two Minnesota Correctional Facilities, and the Bayport Fire Department. It has 3-miles of single-track mountain bike trails, a paved walking path, and two playground areas. It is also the headwaters of Perro Creek, a tiny stream that runs downhill through Bayport until it eventually reaches the St. Croix River, two miles away from the park.
In recent years, local partners including City of Bayport, the Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization (MSCWMO), and even area Girl Scouts have worked to reduce erosion and improve water quality in Perro Creek through a series of projects including raingardens and native buffer plantings.
Perro Creek has existed in an altered state of being since 1856, when settlers first made changes to straighten and shorten the stream so that more land would be available for homes and businesses. In addition to this channelization, streamside landowners gradually removed the natural buffer of trees, shrubs and taller plants to make room for driveways, decks, and lawns. The biggest change of all happens during the winter, when the city closes the outlet from Perro Pond to the creek to prevent flooding in town. During these months, water from the pond flows directly to the St. Croix River through a series of storm sewer pipes and Perro Creek entirely ceases to exist.
In 2017, MSCWMO secured a $63,000 Clean Water grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to address erosion and reduce runoff pollution in Perro Creek. Working in partnership with the city and private landowners, the WMO helped to build three curb-cut raingardens and plant 100 feet of native streambank buffer in Perro Park (located just off of Hwy 95 in downtown Bayport). Local Girl Scouts have helped to plant and maintain the buffer as part of their work towards Silver Awards. In total, restoration efforts will reduce phosphorus flowing into Perro Creek by 7.2lb per year.
The curb cut raingardens capture polluted runoff from streets in town so that it can soak into the ground and be filtered by the plants and soil. Deep-rooted native plants in the streambank buffer help to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. The plants, which include swamp milkweed, sky blue aster, blue false indigo, wild strawberry, false sunflower, blue flag iris, and more, also provide habitat for birds and pollinator species.
In addition, the city and MSCWMO are working to educate community residents about the value of native buffers and not mowing up to the edge of the creek, as well as not dumping leaves and yard waste into the stream. Bayport residents can also help to protect Perro Creek and the St. Croix River by signing up to adopt a storm drain in their neighborhood at www.Adopt-a-Drain.org.
To access Valley View Park, there is a parking lot off of Osgood Ave., just north of the prison, or you can park near Phil and Tara’s and use trails that connect to Cover Park.