On Thursday, Sept. 19 from 5:30-7pm, the South Washington Watershed District (SWWD), the Washington Conservation District (WCD), and the City of Woodbury will host an ice cream social and raingarden tour to celebrate local efforts to improve and protect Colby Lake. In August, contractors finished installing the last of 26 new curbside raingardens in neighborhoods west of Colby Lake. The raingardens help water to soak into the ground, where it is filtered and cleaned by the soil and plant roots, and also provide habitat for birds and pollinating insects. Next Thursday night, folks from the SWWD, WCD and City will be dishing out ice cream at Pioneer Park and handing out maps with information for people to visit the new gardens, which are all within walking or biking distance of the park.
When I first started working in Washington County seven years ago, raingardens were still a somewhat revolutionary concept. Until then, the best weapon communities had against stormwater pollution were centralized stormwater holding ponds, which help to prevent flooding but are less effective at keeping nutrients and other pollutants out of our rivers and lakes. In addition, stormwater ponds require large areas of land, making them impractical for already built neighborhoods. In contrast, raingardens and other small-scale practices mimic nature with many small pockets where rainwater can gather and soak into the ground.
In 2005, the Washington Conservation District began offering small grants to encourage homeowners to build raingardens in their yards and soon after, the three local watershed districts in Woodbury (Ramsey-Washington Metro, South Washington and Valley Branch) created cost-share grant programs as well. Since then, nearly 100 raingardens have been built in Woodbury, not including the new gardens near Colby Lake. Some of the more visible projects include large raingardens in the parking lot at the Bielenberg Sports Center, a landscape renovation at Trinity Presbyterian that includes raingardens, a porous paver patio and an underground cistern to collect and reuse rainwater, and raingardens at Woodbury Community Church as well.
In addition to the Colby Lake neighborhood raingarden project, the City, the Watershed District, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have been working hard to improve Colby Lake. Other projects include a lakeshore stabilization and habitat project using native plants, street and storm sewer retrofits completed by the city, and modifications to the existing stormwater ponds. Altogether, the Watershed District estimates that these efforts will achieve the goal for pollution reduction needed to restore Colby Lake to good health, though further work is needed upstream near Wilmes Lake as well.
The newest raingardens near Colby Lake are a testament to the commitment to clean water shared by local residents, city staff and officials, and the SWWD and WCD. Come out to Pioneer Park (2670 Wimbledon Drive, Woodbury) on Thursday, Sept. 19, 5:30-7pm to meet some of the folks who’ve been working hard to clean up our lakes and help us celebrate the improvement in water quality we’ve seen as a result. Grab a map for a self-guided tour of the gardens or tag along with a group to walk and talk about nearby projects.
For more information visit www.mnwcd.org/events.