Garden cleans water environmentSolon Springs’ youth got their hands dirty Thursday to improve the water quality of Upper St. Croix Lake. They turned over soil with trowels and inserted dozens of native plants, creating the first public rain garden in Solon Springs behind the Joan Salmen Memorial Library.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Solon Springs’ youth got their hands dirty Thursday to improve the water quality of Upper St. Croix Lake. They turned over soil with trowels and inserted dozens of native plants, creating the first public rain garden in Solon Springs behind the Joan Salmen Memorial Library.
“I think it’s going to be really cool,” said Sara Constantine, 15. “I like it because it feels like we’re kind of making a difference.”
The bowl-like garden is meant to control storm water runoff aimed at Park Creek. Water will run into the lowered site, soaking slowly into the soil instead of rushing downhill and eroding topsoil. As the water rests, oils, chlorides and other toxins in it will settle instead of polluting Park Creek, which feeds into the lake.
“Erosion control and water mitigation is a huge problem in Solon Springs,” said Joanne Zosel, a science teacher at Solon Springs School. “If we take a baby step toward trying to rectify the situation perhaps we can achieve something greater.”
For the last decade, Zosel’s ninth grade students have been monitoring the water quality of both creek and lake, as well as picking up garbage.
“We all went to test the creek last year,” Sara said. “We looked at bugs, and we tested the water levels a couple times.”
They took a canoe trip on the lake, as well. For some students, like Austin Haskins, it was their first time in a canoe.
“The good news is I get to go canoeing again soon,” he said.
While creek water quality is good, the students said, the lake is more polluted from road runoff and the loss of trees and plants.
Zosel collected dollars and know-how from many different sources to build the new garden, beginning with a Murphy Oil Class Acts grant and money from the Douglas County Land and Water Conservation. The town of Solon Springs lent manpower, the village provided the site. The sun-loving wetland plants come from Leaning Pine Native Plant Co. in South Range.
“Most are gasses, sedges and such,” said Leaning Pine owner Paul Hlina, some of which can survive being submerged for up to a week. Plants along the outer rim – like the butterfly weed – prefer drier conditions.
“We are putting in a large amount of wild flowers,” Hlina said. Their subtle wetland beauty may plant the idea of a rain garden in the minds of visitors.
“It’s exciting,” said Stephanie Krivinchuk, an employee of The Garden House in Solon Springs. “We don’t have a lot of gardens in town. Hopefully this shows how capable we are of doing this.”
Scott Peterson with the Friends of the St. Croix Headwaters said this is just phase one of a larger project.
Ostern said the county plans to make more changes to the site this summer.
“We have the funding set aside,” she said, through the conservation and forestry departments. The berm along the parking lot on the opposite side of the path will be raised to direct storm water runoff to the rain garden. The asphalt path itself will be dug up and replaced with a pervious material that allows rain to percolate through. There are also plans to shore up the ATV trail that crosses the path with native plants and put in a stretch of pervious surface.
It all started with the rain garden.
“Getting kids out here doing this is a good thing,” Krivinchuk said. Zosel said she hopes that by involving the youth, their families will also take more interest in rain gardens and water quality.
The students will be in charge of weeding the site during the summer, putting in stakes in the winter and watering the garden in dry weather.
The hours spent on the rain garden can also apply toward the 80 hours on unpaid community service the Solon Springs students need to graduate.
“This is one way I can help provide some of those hours,” Zosel said. “To get them out, get their hands dirty, let them realize what an opportunity they have here, how beautiful it is, how they can help.”
Other project partners include the Upper St. Croix Lake Association, Friends of the St. Croix Headwaters, Solon Springs School, Solon Springs Mercantile, The Garden House, Douglas County Forestry Department and Douglas County Environmental Reserve Fund.