Minnesota Water Stewards 2021 Capstone Projects

Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD), in partnership with Freshwater, offers a Minnesota Water Steward certification for District residents who are committed to keeping our lakes and rivers clean. The Minnesota Water Stewards certification is a volunteer program designed to equip community members with the knowledge and skills needed to improve water health at the grassroots level.

Stewards are certified by participating in a broad training curriculum designed by experts in the fields of hydrology, stormwater management and groundwater health, water policy, community-based social marketing, and installation of clean water practices. At the end of the certification process, all Stewards complete a capstone project that improves the health of a local waterbody while involving and educating their community. Stewards then become a point of knowledge and influence in their communities.

Applications are now open for the class of 2022 Minnesota Water Stewards. Links to information sessions and how to join are at the bottom of the page.


Learn more about the Minnesota Water Stewards Program

2021 Capstone Projects

Each class of Minnesota Water Stewards works to complete capstone projects – a water quality project and an education and outreach project. CRWD’s 2021 class comprised of five stewards. All stewards this year selected capstone projects on public property in the City of Saint Paul’s parks to serve their communities while improving water quality.

Willow Reserve Restoration with Student Interns

Minnesota Water Stewards Christopher Dunham and Eric Hanson worked together on a restoration and youth engagement project at Willow Reserve in Saint Paul. The 23-acre site includes 16-acres of wetlands that reduce flooding and provide excellent habitat for birds, frogs, and other wildlife. Since 2015, CRWD has been working in partnership with the City of Saint Paul to improve the overall health and water quality of Willow Reserve. This includes removing invasive plants and trees and replacing them with native species to improve wildlife habitat, plant diversity and offer water quality benefits.

During two sessions in the spring and summer of 2021, Christopher and Eric worked alongside CRWD staff to engage local high school students in restoration, unwanted invasive plant species removal, and trash clean up.  Using curriculum from Freshwater and leveraging resources from federal agency partners, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to provide the students with a better understanding of what happens to water in their community and the factors that can both positively and negatively impact our water resources. The students were interns of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, with many of them attending schools nearby Willow Reserve. The students were eager to learn about the environment, enjoyed being outside and trying new things, and were introduced to activities that could be potential career pathways in water quality protection and environmental science.

Rain Garden Restoration and Sustainability in Frogtown

Minnesota Water Steward Caully Heng’s capstone project was restoring rain gardens at Frogtown Park and Farm with Frogtown Green and a group of farm stewards. Frogtown Park and Farm is a 12.7-acre site with an organic urban farm and a surrounding park in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul. Established in 2015, the unique park and farm has several rain gardens.

Rain gardens in the park capture and clean runoff, and add pollinator habitat that is critical to the success of the farm’s vegetable beds. A large rain garden (garden one) in the center of the park had issues with weeds, including crown vetch, Canada thistle and knapweed. Caully and a group of volunteers cleared the unwanted plants. After weeding they added native plants, paper, and mulch to the garden and watered it regularly while the plants established. CRWD and its partners identified another rain garden (garden two) to restore. Caully and the volunteer group worked to dig a culvert to connect gardens one and two. They amended the soil in garden two with compost, and native plants were transplanted from donations and other rain gardens at the park.

Caully’s outreach capstone included interviewing students in Frogtown Green’s Lily Pad Community Garden (Dale and Lafond) and encouraging Frogtown neighborhood residents to engage in volunteering and take sustainable actions like raking leaves, recycling, composting and conserving energy.

Linwood Recreation Center Rain Garden Maintenance

Minnesota Water Stewards Mary Lilly and Katherine Tane worked together for their capstone projects at Linwood Recreation Center in Saint Paul. The rain gardens, originally established in 1996, are at the entrance of the rec center along Saint Claire Avenue and are highly visible to visitors and street traffic. The gardens needed care to improve drainage and remove an overgrowth of weeds. Katherine and Mary partnered with the Summit Hill Association, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation and CRWD staff to establish an immediate plan for the rain garden and create plans for maintenance going forward. Katherine and Mary organized volunteer outreach events for fall garden maintenance to remove weeds, add mulch and additional native plants.

Now that their capstone projects are completed the new water stewards will join their fellow CRWD stewards in volunteering at community events with the District, assisting with rain garden maintenance and continuing their commitment to protecting our lakes and the Mississippi River.



Join the 2022 Class of Minnesota Water Stewards

Applications are now open for the class of 2022 Minnesota Water Stewards. Interested applicants need to attend a virtual information session before applying.  Applicant interviews are planned for December 2021.

Contact Jessica Bromelkamp, Communications and Engagement Division Manager, with questions at jbromelkamp@capitolregionwd.org or 651-644-8888 Ext. 107.

Upcoming information sessions include:

Tuesday, October 26, 2021, 12:00 pm
Tuesday, November 9, 2021, 5:00 pm
Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 12:00 pm

Register for an information session