Annual Watershed Steward Awards

Watershed Steward Awards

Capitol Region Watershed District’s (CRWD’s) Watershed Steward Awards is an annual event that honors individuals and organizations that exemplify watershed stewardship through activities or projects that demonstrate a commitment to help protect, manage and improve our lakes and the Mississippi River.

 

Award Categories:

• Watershed Citizen Award: Given to an individual who has demonstrated a personal commitment to citizen engagement, project initiation or exceptional leadership that supports CRWD’s mission.
• Watershed Partner Award: Given to an organization that has demonstrated through its policies,practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by consistently implementing innovative stormwater management solutions.
• Watershed Outreach Program Award: Given to an organization that has demonstrated through its policies, practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by connecting residents to clean water practices through education art and other means.
• Young Watershed Steward Award: Given to a young person or group of young people who have undertaken projects that exemplify a commitment to CRWD’s mission.
• Watershed Project Award: Given to an organization, group or individual for a project that demonstrates an innovative and effective solution for protecting, managing and improving water resources of CRWD.
• Lifetime Stewardship Award: Given to an individual who has, during his or her lifetime, played a significant leadership role in the stewardship of CRWD’s water resources.

 

2021 Watershed Steward Award Winners

On January 26, 2022 a virtual awards ceremony was hosted to honor the 2021 winners. Watch the recording of the 2021 Recognition and Awards Ceremony on vimeo.com

2021 Watershed Citizen Award: Scott Alsleben

The Watershed Citizen Award is given to an individual who has demonstrated a personal commitment to citizen engagement, project initiation or exceptional leadership that supports CRWD’s mission. For over 9 years, Scott Alsleben has been bringing Great River School students in grades 7-10 to natural areas throughout CRWD including Reservoir Woods, Como Lake, Como woodlands, Crosby Farm and the Mississippi River.  Together, they have explored, hosted regular clean-ups and even toured rain gardens to give students a hands-on experience that connects them to the region and the natural world.  He weaves these lessons back into his classes which include urban farming and forestry.

The real life connection to water and caring for the environment for students is making a lifelong impression and building the next generation of watershed stewards.

2021 Watershed Project Award: Springboard for the Arts

The Watershed Outreach Program Award is given to an organization that has demonstrated through its policies, practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by connecting residents to clean water practices through education art and other means. Springboard for the Arts collaborated with the community to reimagine a former used car dealership on University Avenue into a creative community hub they fondly refer to as Springbox. Springbox includes office space, a resource center, an indoor-outdoor community space, and plaza with beautiful eye-catching artistic elements everywhere.

The storm water management features on site are no different. A prominent cistern sits just outside the building’s front doors and collects rainwater from a portion of the roof for irrigation and allows it to slowly soak into the lawn. A rain garden also collects water from a nearby parking lot, preventing runoff from carrying pollution from city streets to storm drains and eventually, the Mississippi River.

Water droplets draw attention to the interior pipes carrying rainwater from the roof to the cistern as does a bright blue roof drain. Artist designed interpretive signage adds cultural significance to the environmental benefit of the project and helps connect visitors to water in new ways, such as through the sacred water walking ceremony.

Springboard’s partners for this project include Flannery Construction, 4rm+ULA Architects, and Ua Si Creative.

2021 Watershed Partner Award: Christine Baeumler

The Watershed Partner Award is given to an organization that has demonstrated through its policies, practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by consistently implementing innovative stormwater management solutions. For over a decade, Christine Baeumler has served as CRWD’s Watershed Artist in Residence, putting CRWD at the forefront of watershed organizations that have institutionalized the role of art and artists into the fabric of its mission. She brought to CRWD the notion that art, in its many forms, can play an integral role in bringing water back into the conscience of our community and help make our work, much of which is invisible, visible. She also envisioned that art could translate CRWD’s scientific work into accessible, interactive, and beautiful pieces or experiences for greater community understanding. She impressed upon staff that art could be the necessary bridge between the technological and social sciences for communicating residents’ role in watershed protection and the best practices and behaviors for improving water quality.

Christine developed CRWD’s Watershed Art Plan – a framework of how to use art to engage the wider community and of which programs and projects serve as ideal opportunities for integration of art. To our knowledge, CRWD is the first watershed organization to have a Watershed Art Plan.

From there, Christine identified art opportunities with staff for innovative, highly visible clean water project, which resulted in artistic railings for the Green Line, stormwater planters and cistern etching on the plaza of CHS Field. She also guided staff in conducting a design competition for an interactive, portable watershed exhibit display for community events.

Christine’s greatest impact can be seen and experienced at CRWD’s office. She curated the artistic pieces found throughout the interior and exterior of the office. Finally, the purpose, principles and process behind all of the work conducted over the past ten years is encapsulated in a Watershed Artist in Field Guide recently prepared by Christine.

2021 Lifetime Stewardship Award: Seitu Jones

The Lifetime Stewardship Award is given to an individual who has played a significant and lasting leadership role in the stewardship of CRWD’s water resources. Seitu Jones is a renowned artist both locally and nationally.  He is known for his passion for water, the environment, his community, and justice.

During Seitu’s tenure as a CRWD Board Manager from 2005-2020, he would challenge the Board to rethink their approach to clean water by encouraging CRWD to integrate art and artists into artists into project development and program design. Seitu’s involvement led the District to strengthen our commitment to communities that we have not been reaching. His thoughtful questioning and encouragement led us to adopt the first art, and diversity, equity, and inclusion plans for Watershed District in the state of Minnesota.

The love for water and the community is evident across Seitu’s work with CRWD and beyond, making him a perfect recipient of the Lifetime Stewardship Award.

2020 Watershed Steward Award Winners

On February 25, 2021 a virtual awards ceremony was hosted to honor the 2020 winners. Watch the recording of the awards ceremony on vimeo.com

2020 Watershed Citizen Award:
Christina Kunz

A woman stands with her foot on a shovel in a trench of a yard with ferns and hostas.
Christina Kunz helping install a French drain to divert stormwater runoff and allow it to soak into the ground.

The Watershed Citizen Award is given to an individual who has demonstrated a personal commitment to citizen engagement, project initiation or exceptional leadership that supports CRWD’s mission. Christina Kunz has been an outstanding partner, advocate and volunteer to CRWD. She completed the Minnesota Water Stewards training program in 2017. She has demonstrated her love of teaching and sharing knowledge by using her own rain gardens at home to initiate conversations with countless neighbors and friends about how landscape design can improve the environment by capturing and filtering water and providing habitat as well as addressing concerns about flooding or property damage.

“As Minnesota Water Stewards, we’re on the front lines of changing the city landscape by working on rain gardens, French drains, rain barrels, pollinator gardens, sidewalk salt reduction, and lawn sprinkler reduction, thanks to training from the Freshwater Society and Capitol Region Watershed District. But the real fun is collaborating with homeowners, fellow Water Stewards, the folks at CRWD, related organizations like Wild Ones, and other watershed districts around the Metro. This volunteer opportunity is the perfect melding of my love for gardening, my undergrad biology degree, my fondness for group projects, and my commitment to the environment.” – Christina Kunz, CRWD Resident & Minnesota Water Steward

 

2020 Watershed Outreach Program Award:
Saint Paul Parks and Recreation’s BIPOC Parks Ambassadors Program

A group of people surrounding a picnic table bins look at a tablet. Shallow plastic bins of pond water are on the table.
BIPOC Parks Ambassadors learn about “NerdyScience-Y” water data during an outing in summer 2020. Photo by Asha Shoffner.

The Watershed Outreach Program Award is given to an organization that has demonstrated through its policies, practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by connecting residents to clean water practices through education art and other means. Saint Paul Parks and Recreation’s BIPOC Parks Ambassadors program connects Black, Indigenous and People of Color to water and the natural world within the watershed district, in ways that are meaningful, accessible, sustainable and empowering. The BIPOC Parks Ambassadors Program provides experiences that focus on educating and empowering people to become stewards of the water and land, both though the Outings, Story Strolls, and other in-person or passive programming. The initiative was started in 2020 in response to the need for experiences in nature that are for and led by BIPOC members of the community. They organized several workshops and outings in response to the challenges that COVID-19 presented for all outreach programs.

In 2020, most participants in the BIPOC Parks Ambassadors Program had not yet visited the park space within the watershed district that the outing was held at. As a result of the programming, nearly all participants felt more empowered to protect and improve water quality and their natural environment, and all of them felt that the outing they participated in was beneficial to their well-being.

“In order to be a steward of the environment, you have to have a connection to it. And in order to have connection to it, you have to know you are safe when you are there. Our BIPOC Parks Ambassadors program allowed us to connect Black, Indigenous and People of Color to water and the environment in ways that were meaningful, accessible, sustainable and empowering. With funding from CRWD, we were able to pay BIPOC people to lead water and nature based outings, which was part of what ensured that participants felt safe. 100% of our participants reported feeling more connected to water, and 99% were more likely to improve and protect water. We appreciate the support of CRWD in our work to create more water stewards.” – Asha Shoffner, Environmental and Outdoor Education Program Coordinator, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation

 

2020 Watershed Partner Award:
City of Lauderdale

Aerial view of excavators and a bulldozer working at Seminary Pond.
Construction at Seminary Pond in October 2020.

The Watershed Partner Award is given to an organization that has demonstrated through its policies, practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by consistently implementing innovative stormwater management solutions. The City of Lauderdale, Minnesota plays an oversized role in stormwater management in the District compared to its geographic extent. Of the nearly 26,000 acres in the watershed district, only 39 acres or 0.2% is located in the City. Within City boundaries is Seminary Pond, a regional stormwater pond built in the mid-1990s to collect and convey runoff from 128-acre subwatershed. This drainage area not only includes Lauderdale but also large portions of Falcon Heights and University of Minnesota and smaller portions of Ramsey County and Saint Paul.

In 2016, the City and CRWD began investigating ways to improve the pond’s stormwater management functions, which includes reducing pollution to the Mississippi River and minimizing flooding to a downstream apartment complex. Given that Seminary Pond serves multiple jurisdictions and is located on private property, the project required significant amount of coordination, communication and negotiation with various public and private partners. From the get-go, City staff worked side-by-side with CRWD staff in championing proposed improvements to Seminary Pond and attended every meeting, which numbered well over a couple dozen over a five-year period, and they provided important historical and current information about the pond. The City’s close involvement made all the difference in “selling” the project to our government partners and the private property owners and making the project a reality. It led to securing the financial support for construction as well as long-term maintenance of the pond from Falcon Heights, Ramsey County, and University of Minnesota and construction access rights from five different private property owners. CRWD is extremely grateful for the City’s leadership and partnership on the project. In particular from City staff, Heather Butkowski, City Administrator and Dave Hinrichs, Public Works Coordinator, whose involvement was so critical to realizing the project’s water quality, ecological and community resiliency benefits.

“Without CRWD’s persistence, the Seminary Pond project would not have gotten off the ground. CRWD wrangled partners and financial resources to complete a project that removes 2.26 tons of sediment and 10.3 pounds of phosphorus from the Mississippi River annually. CRWD’s leadership encouraged all of the partners (Lauderdale, Falcon Heights, Ramsey County, and the University of Minnesota) to think beyond our borders to make meaningful progress towards cleaner lakes and streams.” – Heather Butkowski, City Administrator, City of Lauderdale

2019 Watershed Steward Award Winners

2019 Lifetime Steward Award: Shirley Reider, former CRWD Board Manager
The Lifetime Stewardship Award is given to an individual or group who has played a significant and lasting leadership role in the stewardship of CRWD’s water resources.  Shirley Reider has demonstrated a commitment to and passion for clean water by contributing 17 years of service to CRWD as a devoted member of the Board of Managers.  Shirley started on the Citizen Advisory Committee in 2002, only four years after the District’s establishment and before staff was hired.  She also served the state-wide watershed community by being an active member of the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts (MAWD). In addition to this, Shirley has contributed to community and environmental affairs through her work in leadership roles on the Hamline-Midway District Council for many years. Shirley is passionate about clean water for all residents.  Her energy, devotion and commitment make her a perfect recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

2019 Watershed Project Award: Allianz Field
The Watershed Project Award is given to an organization, group or individual for a project that demonstrates an innovative and effective solution to protecting, managing and improving water resources of the District. Minnesota United FC worked closely with CRWD and the City of Saint Paul to make a bold commitment to sustainability and green infrastructure at Allianz Field that will recycle millions of gallons of rainwater every year and support the long-term health of the surrounding community and environment.  The 35-acre Snelling-Midway Development site is a great example of how innovative stormwater approaches can be realized through strong leadership and willing partners in the public and private sector.

This first of its kind comprehensive stormwater system serves as a model for future large-scale developments and is a win for the health of the Mississippi River and greater community.

2019 Young Watershed Steward Award: Henry Welliver
The Young Watershed Steward Award is given to a young person or group of young people who have undertaken projects that exemplify a commitment to CRWD’s mission. Henry Welliver coordinated the planting of CRWD’s large northwest rain garden for his Eagle Scout project in the summer of 2019.  He recruited 28 people, including scouts and other volunteers, to help plant the garden with materials provided by the District.  The rain garden that Henry and his team of volunteers planted collects more than 2,000-gallons of rainwater each year and removes nutrients and dirt that would have otherwise washed into nearby storm drains and the Mississippi River.

This project is an excellent example of the kind of leadership and stewardship we hope to see all residents getting involved in.  Great work, Henry!

2019 Watershed Outreach Program Award: Parkview Center School’s Clean Water Project
The Watershed Outreach Program Award is given to an organization that has demonstrated through its policies, practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by connecting residents to clean water practices through education, art or other means. Teacher Jenny Eckman and her colleague Mary Sweeney at Parkview Center School in Roseville have been working to strengthen the water curriculum and hands-on learning experiences for all K-5 students through the Parkview Water Project. It begins with a pond study for kindergarteners and first graders, special in-school water lessons led by educators from the Science Museum in grades 2 and 3, a field day to Lake McCarrons in grade 4 and finally a day on the Mississippi River in voyager canoes with Wilderness Inquiry for grade 5. The Parkview Water Project lessons and experiences serve nearly 500 students each year.

The hands-on learning and access to real world connections between Parkview students and water has been priceless.

2019 Watershed Partner Award: Ramsey County Soil and Water Conservation Division
The Watershed Partner Award is given to an individual or organization that has demonstrated through its policies, practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by exceeding the requirements of District rules or through the implementation of innovative watershed management solutions. The Ramsey County Soil and Water Conservation District (RCSWCD) has provided technical assistance and design services for CRWD’s Stewardship Grant program since 2013. The services they provide are critical to the success of the program.  Their staff provide exemplary service at every level including site visits, conceptual planning and design, and construction oversight.  RCSWCD has also greatly contributed to the success of the District’s monitoring program by conducting annual lake aquatic vegetation monitoring. In 2018-2019, they collected below-ice data throughout the winter season and led the first curly-leaf pondweed sampling on Como Lake.

2019 Watershed Citizen Award: Erin Spry
The Watershed Citizen Award is given to an individual who has demonstrated a personal commitment to citizen engagement, project initiation or exceptional leadership that supports CRWD’s mission. As a new resident in Saint Paul’s District 10, Erin Spry volunteered to coordinate three Como Lake clean-ups in partnership with the Como Community Council. She created flyers and posters to help promote the clean-ups, gathered supplies, worked closely with the boat rental company to make boats available and coordinated with CRWD staff to provide information about lake health for participants at each event. Erin’s enthusiasm and excellent organizational skills resulted in 60 residents removing nearly 200 pounds of trash from Como Lake. Participants learned more about the issues facing the lake as well as CRWD’s plans to make improvements in the future.