As I began thinking about a summary of our year at Metro Blooms, I started thinking about what excites me the most about my job. At Metro Blooms, we couple field work with a big focus on education and community engagement. This past year we were able to work on projects with some really amazing people in great communities. Seeing those community members pull together to make a positive impact on our environment, now that’s energizing. Those are the events I leave thinking “wow, I LOVE my job.” And we feed off of that. Metro Blooms continued to grow in 2015 and we’ll carry this momentum into 2016.
This year marked our greatest yet for getting projects in the ground. Overall, we installed 8,395 square feet of raingardens, 494 square feet of native plantings, and 2,514 square feetof permeable pavement. Want to hear something exciting? We’re already planning to top this in 2016. I want to tell you more about all we accomplished this past year, but in the spirit of community, I’d like to do it with a little help from YOUR words.
This year we hosted 11 “Clean Water, Healthy Habitat” workshops with a larger focus on pollinators and the habitat that raingardens create. Over 350 citizens attended a workshop, and of those that attended, 33% are already working on their raingarden and 42% plan to begin work soon! They’ve also made other behavioral changes, including re-directing downspouts to a planted area and reducing their use of de-icing salt. To sum up what we teach folks about at our workshops:
“A Metro Blooms raingarden workshop that I attended made me much more aware of the important issues around storm water runoff in our urban environment and the negative impacts that the runoff has on our lakes. It has taught me a lot about all the things that each of us can do to lighten our footprint on the earth.”
“The workshop was excellent. My husband didn’t want to go, but he loved it. I had to drag him out at the end or we would have been there all night.”
We continue to delve into the world of commercial stormwater management. This year, we wrapped up projects along East 38th Street and Lyndale Ave and began working in the West Bank area as well as along Central Avenue. One of our most exciting projects has been at the Black Forest Inn, where we’re working with the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center and Earth Wizards to install a sculptural conveyance system which will ‘convey’ (bet you couldn’t guess that) runoff to an underground infiltration system, rather than flooding their great patio. Business owners are exciting to work with, and they get us jazzed too. Here’s an example from a couple of business owners along Central Avenue:
“OK, as some of you know, I’m a big picture guy, and sometimes my details are a little imperfect, but I know a good idea when I see one…[Metro Blooms] has got some great streets money for rainwater stuff that’s burning a hole in their pocket. So, we could have a permeable paved parking lot for rainwater collection and storage…pretty neat eh? For us it would just be nice if all the water from the parking lot didn’t run into the corner where our garage and building meet.”
“I saw firsthand the amount of water that comes off all our buildings during that last big storm. It’s impressive how it all works. We want to make the right choices now with all our neighbors.”
Our original community-based installation program, Neighborhood of Raingardens, continued to grow in 2015. We worked with 2 old friends, Columbia Park and Sheridan Neighborhoods, to build on previous neighborhood projects. We also partnered up with 3 new neighborhoods, Kenwood Isles, Standish Ericsson, and Prospect Park. All in all these projects leveraged $41,000 in local government and neighborhood match to install 55 raingardens. In Prospect Park, we even got to partner with Surly Gives a Damn and their hardworking volunteers to get all of the raingardens planted. Since 2009, this program has led to the installation of 487 raingardens throughout 20 neighborhoods. Wowza. The quotes below give you an idea of the reach of these projects; it’s not just the participants!
“Picked up, planted and it rained today! Thank you so much for everything. I’ve placed the “I’m a Rain Garden” sign in the garden and have already received inquiries from immediate neighbors about the purpose of a Rain Garden.”
“After learning of their terrific work in neighborhoods such as Powderhorn Park, I was thrilled when my neighborhood association in Bryn Mawr decided to partner with Metro Blooms. With their help, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church built a large raingarden in a very visible part of the neighborhood that handles a great deal of runoff that would otherwise go into Bassett Creek. It continues to prompt discussions with neighbors about how to build and maintain raingardens. A number of neighbors attended Metro Blooms’ workshops and decided to build their own raingardens.”
Our maintenance program expanded this past year to include projects with the City of Champlin and CommonBond. We continue to work with the Minneapolis Public Schools to maintain their stormwater management practices and were also able to partner with the Pohlad Foundation to spruce up Bethune Community School in North Minneapolis. The work at Bethune was especially rewarding as one passerby stopped to comment:
“Thank you all for what you’re doing here. My first job was at this park picking up trash. It all makes the neighborhood look better and makes people happy to live here.”
Much of my focus this year was on our expanding Blooming Alleys program. In partnership with the City of Minneapolis, we applied for and received a Clean Water Fund grant to install 15 Blooming Alleys around Lake Nokomis by 2018. Three alleys were completed this year and we’ve already got blocks lined up for next year. We also worked with Friends of Diamond Lake, the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and Master Water Stewards to get Blooming Alleys going around Diamond Lake and adjacent to Minnehaha Creek. With these 3 projects alone, we’ll be working with about 250 homeowners to implement 25 Blooming Alleys along a 4-mile stretch of Minnehaha Creek. That means hundreds of permeable pavement projects, raingardens, and native plantings beautifying our alleyways, providing habitat, and protecting clean water. All together, these projects will capture and infiltrate over 4 million gallons of runoff annually and remove 10-12 lbs of Phosphorus from our waterways each year. And did I mention the sense of community these projects bring about? The benefits are many:
Quote regarding the permeable pavement shown above: “We are very pleased with the look and the function of the pavers. Shortly after the installation we received quite a downpour. I went out to see how the pavers worked and to my amazement ALL the water was being drained off. I thought with the heavy rainfall that some water would run right over the pavers into the alley. Nope! It all drained into the pavers.”
“The alley looks so good and I’ve been showing it off to everyone I see – especially my neighbor’s gardens and the corner pavers cause they look so grand. I love the pavers.”
“It’s really had a community effect, Blooming Alleys has brought the neighborhood together so that’s been really positive. Our neighbors who also participated invited us over for a bonfire in the alley last night!”
“It’s all the buzz. We definitely notice more people in the alleyway; people are walking through here instead of on the street.”
Volunteers played an integral role in our Blooming Alleys, maintenance, and garden evaluation and recognition programs. The dedicated volunteers of the evaluation program visited 1,005 gardens throughout Minneapolis this year, and 9 received top honors in their category. You can check those out on our new website! (by Brave New Media and our new SEO & Communications staff Saif, isn’t it pretty?). Garden recognition is where Metro Blooms began and we continue to see the value today.
“I have been a Metro Blooms evaluator for five years. It is a joy to meet people when you are evaluating their gardens. A recurring theme is that they or one of their neighbors started a boulevard garden and then someone else on their block does, and then someone else. You hear over and over how it has improved their sense of community on their block. This is a common comment in the nicest of neighborhoods to some that are on the fringe.”
“These individual efforts really add up to preserving our water quality. Everyone can make a difference.”
Quick question: how do you get 80 kids and countless community members not only excited about raingardens but interacting with and learning from them so they’re an integrated part of their life? You work with an amazing team of sculptors, poets, community organizers, and designers and check out the video below for a really cool project we worked on at Kenwood Elementary School this year.
You’ve been hearing us talk about Blue Thumb for years, but in 2015 Metro Blooms officially became the licensed operator of the Blue Thumb program. Blue Thumb partners – thank you for staying with us and for your support during this exciting time. We had a cool new spot at the State Fair outside the eco experience this year and the partners have great plans for developing a Pledge to Plant campaign and expanding the program across the region. To assist with the program, we expanded our staff and hired Dawn Pape to lead partner engagement. Our new GreenCorps member, John Bly, is also doing exciting work with this program.
Dawn really says it best: “the best thing about Blue Thumb is the partnership! Where else can you find so many committed, intelligent driven and caring people from public and private sectors coming together to plant for clean water?”
As a wrap up, I want to give a shout out to some of our partners, without whom these projects would not be possible. Conservation Corps of Minnesota, your crews are da bomb, even when we don’t give them free food. J.L. Theis and Borgert Products, thank you for all of your knowledge and your awesome work. Glacial Ridge Growers and Landscape Alternatives, your plants are beautiful, we’ll be back next year. Kern Landscaping, we love your mulch and are so happy you give us a place to get rid of soil. Hennepin County, City of Minneapolis, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, West Metro Water Alliance, McKnight Foundation, we can’t thank you enough for your financial support and the great staff we get to work with. All neighborhood associations and community organizations everywhere – you do great work and we love working with you too. Individual donors and volunteers, we don’t give you enough credit, but you’re the support that keeps us going.
And finally, some inspiration to wrap up the year:
“This organization could change all bodies of water in the metro with the right tools.” Those tools include YOU and we look forward to your continued support in 2016.