Marine community works to revitalize village center and protect the St. Croix River

On Saturday, May 1, more than two dozen volunteers gathered at the gazebo in Marine on St. Croix with gloves and trowels in hand. The group spent two hours planting 1,500 native plants along a wetland to create a natural buffer that will help to hold the soil in place and guard against erosion. Because the species planted are native to the region, they will also provide critical habitat along the St. Croix flyway for pollinators and migratory birds. In addition to planting, volunteers also removed invasive garlic mustard growing along the banks of the channel flowing through Mill Park to the St. Croix River.

Volunteers pull garlic mustard in Marine on St. Croix

The planting event was part of a large, multi-stage Village Center Revitalization project led by the City of Marine on St. Croix and the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District (CMSCWD). One goal of the project is to restore streets and improve the quaint downtown. By incorporating stormwater management and stabilizing nearby gullies and ravines, the project will also keep an estimated 30 pounds per year of phosphorus out of the St. Croix River, which will help to reduce algal growth downriver.

“Working together has given us a lot more opportunities,” says Mike Isensee, CMSCWD Administrator.

Mill Stream waterfall behind the Marine Town Hall and General Store

The village of Marine on St. Croix sprang up in 1839 near the Marine Mill, which was the first commercial saw mill on the St. Croix River. The Mill Stream originates further inland in what is now William O’Brien State Park and flows through town, across Hwy 95, and right through the Brookside Bar and Grill, before cascading down a small waterfall and onward to the St. Croix River. You can see the mill ruins from the Marine Mill Historic Site, which is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society, or follow a path from ‘Nita Mae’s Scoop down to the river and waterfall.

Unfortunately, the downtown area and Hwy 95 were all constructed before modern stormwater management practices were standard.  “Over 100 years, poor land practices had resulted in a few highly eroding ravines and gullies,” explains Isensee. “Then, the drainage system for the highway was converted to curb and gutter with storm sewer in the early 1990s, and all of the runoff within the highway corridor was concentrated to this single discharge point into Mill Stream, a designated trout stream.” As a result, warm, nutrient-rich stormwater was channeled, untreated, to the Mill Stream and St. Croix River.

Volunteers plant a wetland buffer in Marine on St. Croix

Now, there are new raingardens and biofiltration basins to capture and treat stormwater runoff from the highway and village center. The watershed district is also working to stabilize and establish natural buffers around the wetland and within gullies and ravines that flow through town. Staff from the Washington Conservation District have helped to design the planting plans and are working with volunteers and Conservation Corps members to plant native plants, shrubs and trees in several locations during the summer.

The Marine Village Revitalization project has benefitted from a $224,000 U.S. EPA 319 grant and a $97,600 Minnesota Clean Water grant, awarded to Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District.

The next planting events are scheduled for June 5 (in the ravine), July 31 (Parker and Maple St. raingardens), and Aug. 21 (Maple St. channel). There will also be a weeding event on Sept. 11. All volunteer events are scheduled for 9-11am and will meet at the gazebo in downtown Marine.

Learn more and sign-up to volunteer at