We are working with community members to reshape and replant boulevards in several North Minneapolis neighborhoods where ash trees have been or are being removed. The ash tree removal is part of a program to manage the emerald ash borer infestation (more information here and here). We are engaging with residents (including renters!) to take part in this low-cost, community-focused program to turn their boulevard into a bioswale that helps prevent water pollution, provides habitat for pollinators, delivers water to the newly-planted replacement trees, and beautifies their block.
Many boulevards are raised, hard-packed ground filled with turf grass and weeds. Unfortunately, rather than collecting rain water and letting it soak into the ground, most boulevards instead deflect rain water and direct it onto sidewalks and streets, where it eventually flows into a storm sewer. Storm sewers drain directly into our lakes and rivers, bringing pollution and trash along with the rain water.
An average boulevard bioswale will capture 5,500 gallons of runoff every year.
A Common Stressor
Boulevards can be hard on trees; lack of water is a common stressor. A bioswale can help.
A bioswale planted with blooming ground cover can feed over 50 species of bees!
To turn boulevards into bioswales, we work with local contractors and youth groups employing residents from North Minneapolis to dig out the boulevards slightly, turning them into shallow depressions that actually soak in rain water, which is cleaned naturally as it filters through the soil. We plant these bioswales with plants that attract pollinators, such as Dutch white clover, native grasses, strawberries, or a bee lawn mix developed by the University of Minnesota, and that are hardy and low-maintenance. In the future, each boulevard will be replanted with a different, sustainable species of tree that benefits from the bioswale’s ability to take in runoff from the sidewalk, delivering water to its developing roots.
A BOULEVARD BECOMES A BIOSWALE
This is an equity-focused partnership with the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB). Many of these communities have experienced high levels of environmental injustice. This program provides opportunities in local environmental stewardship and neighborhood beautification and works with local residents to build their capacity to respond to environmental shocks and stressors.
Engaging the community is a key element of Boulevard Bioswales. We work closely with resident volunteers in the role of “boulevard captains” who help us engage their neighbors. Residents who take part must agree to maintain their bioswale, making sure to water and weed the boulevard as they do their own yard. We provide guidance on helping the young plants thrive and keeping up the bioswale.
Who is Eligible For a Boulevard Bioswale?
In 2019, we worked with specific neighborhoods in North Minneapolis. We hope to work with the City of Minneapolis to expand the program in 2020. While we do not know if or where specific areas will be focused on, our other criteria for inclusion in the program include:
Your boulevard has an existing ash tree or has had an ash tree removed in the last year or two. In some cases, boulevards with no existing trees, and which have never had an ash tree, can qualify.
You are willing to agree to care for your boulevard bioswale after it is installed, and to sign a maintenance agreement with us. This includes watering and weeding your boulevard, similar to the maintenance you give your yard. We will offer guidance on how to do this.
To see what the maintenance agreement looks like, click here.
You filled out the form! What’s next?
We will get back to you. Our 2019 enrollment period has ended but we hope to continue and even expand the program in 2020. We will note your interest and will be in touch if we are able to bring the program to your neighborhood. If so, we will set up a time for one of our designers to visit your boulevard and discuss it with you. This will include talking about plant choices, establishment and future care. If you have any questions about partipication or the project, please email Yordanose at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for sample plant palettes.
The program is based on our 2016-2017 pilot work in Minneapolis’ Harrison neighborhood, called Blooming Boulevards. Installed in 2017, the 10,825 sq. ft. of bioswales in Harrison boulevards help to improve water quality, create pollinator habitat and make green spaces in the neighborhood more attractive.