The Bob Burns Stewardship Award was presented at the St. Croix River Association annual dinner, May 11, at Camp St. Croix in Hudson, WI. This is the 12th year that this award has been presented to a group or individual who have demonstrated good stewardship of the natural resources of the St. Croix River and/or its tributaries. This year three awards were given to deserving recipients; Matt Berg, Anastasia Dion Shartin and the City of River Falls.
Matt Berg has taught biology in the Grantsburg, WI High School for the past 12 years. Part of Mr. Berg’s instruction includes freshwater mussels where students are introduced to the mussels in the classroom, with the students having the opportunity to perform real world research projects in the summer. In 2003, under Mr. Berg’s guidance, the students did their first mussel survey in the Wood River. Their diving gear consisted of snorkels and inexpensive diving masks. In 2004, with the encouragement of a few state and federal resource personnel, Mr. Berg bid a mussel project on the Wolf River in eastern, WI to relocate an endangered mussel species from an area that a developer planned to put pilings. As a result of winning the Wolf River mussel relocation project, Mr. Berg and his students successfully found, identified and relocated the endangered mussels. They were also able to purchase scuba diving gear.
Each following year, Mr. Berg secured funding and project contracts for his students to use their diving and research skills. In addition to working on projects of new or continued mussel research and invasive species removal, students also did bat monitoring on a number of rivers in Polk and Burnett (WI) counties. During dragon fly research, students discovered the Umber Shadow Dragon Fly unknown to be previously documented in WI. Students also worked on projects for the U of M, Friends of the St. Croix Headwaters, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Macalester College and various lakes’ associations. Students worked on notable projects such as a mussel identification and density study on nine St. Croix River tributaries (i.e. Eau Claire, Totogatic, Yellow, Clam, Wood, Apple, Willow and Kinnickinic), in WI, Eurasian milfoil removal from the Totogatic, on the St. Croix below the Minong dam flowage and on the St. Croix above and below the Gordon dam.
In Mr. Berg’s words, “Most of these kids are not going to go on to be biologists. They are going to go on to be citizens doing any number of things. But I hope that this experience is giving them environmental awareness they would not have gotten another way. And that makes it meaningful and fun.” Mr. Berg’s enthusiasm for biology and learning are contagious as shown by these students’ interest and work in the watershed for the past 12 years.
Anastasia Dion Shartin
Anastasia Dion Shartin has been the Visual Arts Director of The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin, since 2000. Ms. Shartin’s passion for this region and her belief that art can be a catalyst for social change has led her to organize innumerable events, exhibitions, workshops, classes, and interdisciplinary partnership programs to engage people of all ages in conversations about our relationship to the environment and to encourage action to improve its health.
Since 2006, Ms. Shartin has facilitated, the sustainable living group known as What We Need is Here. This network of non-profit art, local food, and other organizations is united to spark local action toward sustainable living in the St. Croix Valley. As the group’s co-founder, she has been responsible for many meetings, public events, a fine monthly e-newsletter, art exhibitions, and an original event of launching handmade paper boats made using natural aquatic vegetation.
Just Add Water art and science workshops for children have been offered as part of The Phipps Summer Art Camp, which Ms. Shartin coordinates. During these week-long classes, students meet with naturalists and artists. The students then use this knowledge to create art in a broad range of media both to take home and for display at The Phipps, as well as at other public venues.
In 2011, Ms. Shartin obtained grants for a collaboration of artists, scientists, and others for The Artful Rain Garden project. Nine grants were later made for artful rain gardens to be constructed in 2012 by local schools and individuals. Plans are underway for extension of this pilot program as far out as 2014.
The Bench Project is an ongoing community art project throughout the lower St. Croix Valley of western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota that engages local community groups in designing, locating, and creating benches, each a unique work of art. Since 2006, through this partnership program with the St. Croix Valley Foundation (SCVF), seven benches have been created, each involving multiple local partners and utilizing community assets.
No one associated with The Phipps has done watershed stewardship work like this previously. It clearly extends the scope of her position and exemplifies Ms. Shartin’s deeply held belief in the power of art to change the lives of individuals and communities.
City of River Falls
Located only 25 miles southeast of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, River Falls is experiencing development pressures from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan area that has the potential to degrade the physical and biological characteristics of the Kinnickinnic River and its tributaries. The City of River Falls leadership and dedication in protecting the Kinnickinnic River are an outstanding example of excellence in the public sector.
The City Council adopted a stormwater management ordinance on April 9, 2002, which set forth stormwater management and erosion control standards applying to all land development activities. It requires infiltration of additional runoff generated by a 1.5 inch rainfall. Furthermore, before being accepted by the City, infiltration performance must be tested and shown to be twice that required by the ordinance. This safety factor is required to account for anticipated degradation in performance over time.
In 2004, the City wanted to demonstrate the functionality and appearance of rainwater gardens so the City partnered with the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust (KRLT) on a rainwater garden demonstration project. The City purchased all plantings for this project and furnished necessary equipment. The goal of the project is to have a local example to show citizens a practical and aesthetic way to help the water quality of the Kinnickinnic River.
In 2005, the City began installing signs around stormwater management areas in order to prevent detrimental encroachments into the facility by neighbors and to educate people of the facilities function. These signs were installed in conjunction with bluebird houses in order to promote wildlife and make the added signs more appealing.
The City of River Falls, in cooperation with River Falls Municipal Utilities, initiated a rain barrel rebate program providing 50% cash back, up to $30, for any rain barrel purchase. Rain barrels fabricated by St. Croix County Land and Water Conservation Department were sold at City Hall and at Kinnifest for $30 as part of this cooperative effort. The City sold 50 rain barrels and granted 28 rebates during the programs first year. The second year was much more successful; the city sold 105 barrels and granted 45 rebates.
The Bob Burns Stewardship Award was named for Bob Burns, a dedicated volunteer working to protect the St. Croix. Mr. Burns was an enthusiastic member, and past chair, of the St. Croix River Association; served on the Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission for nine years; was instrumental in ensuring adequate federal funding for implementation of the first long-range management plan for the Lower St. Croix, and led the establishment of land use plans for subdivisions in the valley. He passed away in June of 1997.
Recipients of recent years are Cynthia Landers, Deer Lake Conservancy, Bill Neuman, Tom Salewski, Sheldon and Jacob Wert, Nancy Brown, Molly Shodeen, Dr. Bill Schmelzer, Hayward Boy Scout Troop 70 and the all-girl Venture Crew 70 with Bertha Hall receiving the Wise Elder River Steward Award.