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.
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.
Environmental Leadership in Construction Award: Given to an individual or organization who has demonstrated excellence and a commitment to CRWD’s mission by implementing exemplary stormwater protection measures throughout the duration of a project.
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.
2022 Watershed Steward Award Winners
On January 25, 2023, we gathered to honor the 2022 winners and recognize the Board, Community Advisory Committee, and Staff.
2022 Watershed Citizen Award: Mike Ireland
The Watershed Citizen Award is given to an individual who demonstrates a personal commitment to citizen engagement, project initiation or exceptional leadership that supports CRWD’s mission.
Mike is a devoted community member and organizer who has taken the lead on so many outstanding community-led initiatives to protect Como Lake. He joined the Como Active Citizen Network’s leadership team nearly 7 years ago to help coordinate the annual Como Curb Cleanup. He recently helped transition oversight of the program to the District 10 Como Community Council to ensure its longevity. Mike has also been organizing the Como Lake Cleanup in and around the lake for 5 years through his leadership role with the District 10 Environment Committee. Combined, these efforts have engaged 1,160 people in removing 1,260 pounds of trash in and around the lake, and in clearing 192,000 feet of curb line of leaves and other debris to protect Como Lake.
Mike’s philosophy and commitment to his community and Como Lake was perfectly captured in his cameo on CRWD’s recent Como Lake video— “ There is a remarkable power in seeing a bunch of volunteers band together to clean up the lake—to sweep leaves from the streets, to do these small things—on its own may seem insignificant, but when we as a community band together, we make all the difference in the world”.
2022 Watershed Partner Award: Matt Morreim
The Watershed Partner Award is given to an individual or organization that demonstrates through its policies, practices or projects a commitment to CRWD’s mission by consistently implementing innovative stormwater management solutions.
With the City of Saint Paul Public Works, Matt Morreim organized “smart salting” workshops in collaboration with CRWD. The workshops train SPPW staff to reduce the amount of de-icing salt used during winter months. When the salt used for de-icing reaches our waterways it is very difficult to clean up and can harm fish and other aquatic life. In addition to coordinating workshops, Matt also created a course at the state fairgrounds to help his crew practice some of these skills. Matt co-teaches smart salting classes around the region and shares his expertise at the American Public Works Association’s national conference each year.
2022 Watershed Outreach Program Award: Minnesota Horticultural Society’s MN SEED Program
The Watershed Outreach Program Award is given to an organization that demonstrates a commitment to CRWD’s mission through its policies, practices or projects by connecting residents to clean water practices through education, art, and other means.
The Minnesota Horticultural Society launched its MN SEED Program in the spring of 2020 with the goal of educating and engaging the public in native seed saving. The program collaborates with community partners to host educational events about collecting, processing, and propagating native seeds.
CRWD began collaborating with the Minnesota Horticultural Society in 2021 with a focus on providing resources for residents with rain gardens. Their staff did an amazing job of adapting the program with Covid-19 in mind by hosting virtual workshops, and pop-up events outdoors and through Little Free Libraries. That year alone, they distributed 1900 packets of 60 varieties of seeds!
Our work with the MN SEED Program continued in 2022 with several seed collection events at sites around the District like Willow Reserve, Frogtown Farm, and Pierce Butler Meadows. We greatly value this partnership and are excited to engage more with the gardening community to protect our waters.
2022 Young Watershed Steward Award: MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge Interns
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.
The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge interns are a stellar group of young people who have done a variety of work at CRWD sites over the past year. Their work has helped protect and improve our water resources and through this partnership, CRWD staff have been able to share what it means to be a water resource professional.
The intern team conducted restoration activities at Willow Reserve in Saint Paul’s North End multiple times this spring and summer. This included trash pick-up, hauling and laying of mulch on the trails to help designate appropriate walking paths, and they even conducted two bumble bee surveys to help determine the quality of habitat in the Reserve. It was so fantastic when we were able to identify the endangered Rusty Patch Bumble Bee at our first survey which speaks to the quality and importance of the habitat these young people are helping care for.
In Spring, intern leaders joined staff for a day of train-the-trainer at Como Lake where they learned about water quality monitoring and watershed health and then shared that information with other interns throughout the summer. These outstanding young people are also helping partners like the Hamline Midway Coalition build gravel beds and plant trees throughout the neighborhood to replace trees lost to Emerald Ash Borer. We look forward to continuing this partnership in the future and can’t wait to see what these young people tackle next.
2022 Watershed Project Award: Highland Bridge
The Watershed Project Award is 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.
Work began over a decade ago to create a vision for the site of the former Ford Assembly Plant on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in the Highland Park neighborhood of Saint Paul.
Many organizations and dozens of individuals have contributed to the planning and implementation of Highland Bridge. The final project exceeds expectations in every sense of the word. It is transformational for both the community and Highland neighborhood but also for the approach of water management in Minnesota and Nationally.
The water system at Highland Bridge converts a previously highly impervious landscape to restore a previously buried water resource. The stormwater management systems on site are equipped to capture and clean 64 million gallons of runoff each year that would have otherwise flowed to the Mississippi River without treatment. Water is the centerpiece of this beautiful new community and residents are already enjoying it.
This project also demonstrated the incredible power of partnership and collaboration in bringing a project to fruition. Current and former staff of the City of Saint Paul and Ryan Companies brought commitment, creativity and tenacity to make this once-in-a-generation project as exceptional as possible. Everyone approached this project with the “how can we do this” attitude and genuine commitment to innovation. And the result is a tremendous project for the community, water resources, and water quality.
2022 Environmental Leadership in Construction Award: Jim Dupay
The Environmental Leadership in Construction Award is given to an individual or organization that demonstrates excellence and a commitment to CRWD’s mission by implementing exemplary stormwater protection measures throughout the duration of a project.
The Watershed District implements rules for construction to ensure that, when it rains, the water leaving a site is not carrying sediment and pollutants. Systems are also installed that will capture and treat large volumes of stormwater each year. Our staff work closely with construction site managers to ensure inspections are completed, and any issues addressed.
Jim Dupay of Rochon Corporation exemplifies the type of collaboration we hope to see at all construction sites. In working with Jim at a school redevelopment site in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood in 2021, he was always professional, positive, communicative, and had great stories to share.
Jim embraced the water quality goals of inspections, clearly noting items needing attention and working with his crew to address issues quickly and prevent pollution from leaving the site – even on a busy Friday afternoon! He proactively reviewed plans and ensured the proper installation of the site’s filtration system which will remove sediment and trash from parking lot runoff for years to come. Jim’s positive attitude and dedication to his work will continue to benefit water quality.
Lifetime Stewardship Award: Patricia Cavanaugh
The Lifetime Stewardship Award is given to an individual who has, during their lifetime, played a significant leadership role in the stewardship of CRWD’s water resources.
This award is bittersweet because we lost Patricia (Pat) Cavanaugh unexpectedly in 2022, but her legacy lives on in our work and the world in so many ways.
Pat was a part of several firsts for us at CRWD. She sat on our first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee, which was instrumental in the development of our first DEI Plan. That plan has helped guide CRWD on its journey to improving our promotion, hiring and interview process to be more inclusive. It’s shifted our thinking about barriers and emphasized the importance of building long-lasting relationships. And most importantly, we’re sharing lessons learned with our colleagues to help others make strides forward too.
Pat led CRWD’s first Oral History study where she interviewed 24 key stakeholders to hear their stories about the creation of the District firsthand. Her research became the foundation for CRWD’s first history report that showcases the District’s early beginnings and landmark projects. Visit the Our History page to read the report.
As a longtime member of CRWD’s Community Advisory Committee Pat always brought a sense of curiosity and passion for our work. For that and all her outstanding work, we are so grateful. We appreciate Pat’s contributions and miss her presence.
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:
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
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
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