Art, education and clean water: 2017 Action Grant awards announced

We’re excited to kick off the 2017 construction season with an interesting array of Action Grant projects! The projects this season will help finalize an environmental learning space at a public school, capture pollution before it reaches the Mississippi River, and help science-minded people think more artfully about habitat.

Action Grants are the largest of our Stewardship Fund Grants (up to $50,000 per project). They’re designed to help fund projects that are significant in scope and cost, and that have been thoroughly planned.

Like our other Stewardship Fund grants, Action Grants are versatile, able to fund a variety of projects. MWMO staff and our Citizen Advisory Committee enjoy the wide range of projects we get to see through our Stewardship Fund Grants, and we look forward seeing these come to fruition.

Here’s a look at our newly funded Action Grant projects for 2017:

Extrapolation Factory at the Walker Art Center

"Salamander Oasis" by The Extrapolation Factory.
“Salamander Oasis”: A detail of a model developed by The Extrapolation Factory. (via Flickr)

“How can we communicate with the earthworm? Or how do we build better landing pads for a particular kind of insect or ducks?” These are questions that the artist/design duo, Elliott Montgomery and Chris Woebken of Extrapolation Factory, will attempt to answer in their project, Transition Habitats, for the reopening of the the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on June 3-10.

Building on prototypes of transition habitats from a project at the Walker Art Center in December, the duo will realize some possible new habitats that the species native to the watershed area can adapt to.

“If we think of habitats serving multiple purposes,” says Montgomery, “— sometimes to serve an ecosystem or a natural system, and then at the same time, to serve a human need — that allows us to think of habitats as being these hybrid spaces or symbiotic spaces.

“We’re identifying species in Minneapolis that are local,” says Woebken. “We are also particularly interested in these indicator species where we see behavioral change that reveal shifts in the environment, and from that we can learn what might happen in the next 10 years from now.”

This workshop will explore the species in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in a way that gives voice to them, and also allows you to communicate with them. Don’t miss the grand opening of the renovated Sculpture Garden where you can participate in imagining the future of transition habitats by adding to a design.

Marcy Open Elementary School – Path to Peace

The Terry Labyrinth at Marcy Open Elementary School.
The Terry Labyrinth and the adjacent Path to Peace will be upgraded with stormwater best management practices and interpretive signage.

Designed as a place for peaceful reflection, Marcy Open Elementary School’s Path to Peace/Terry Labyrinth will be upgraded with stormwater-friendly landscape features that will also help educate the students. Planted swales and permeable pavements will manage runoff on the site, while new interpretive signs will help educate students and visitors about the relationship between land use and water quality.

“Clean water is a central component of peace,” said neighborhood parent alumna Catherine Conzet. “Working with MWMO is a natural extension of the Marcy Path to Peace-Terry Labyrinth to promote peace studies and best-practice water principles in a series of outdoor classrooms.”

Hennepin County Master Gardeners have committed to help maintain the landscaping once the project is completed.

Riverwood Apartments Parking Lot Remediation

Parking lot behind Riverwood Apartments.
Runoff from this parking lot behind Riverwood Apartments drains directly into the Mississippi River backwaters. An MWMO Action Grant will fund a rain garden to capture the runoff and remove pollutants.

This parking lot behind the Riverwood Apartments complex in Fridley takes the brunt of the stormwater runoff from nearby city streets. Much of it currently drains into the backwaters of the Mississippi River, via the adjacent Islands of Peace County Park.

The Action Grant will fund construction of a new rain garden and underdrain that will remove pollutants and debris from parking lot runoff before it reaches the river. The property owners are repaving the parking lot, while the City of Fridley is installing catch basins to help manage runoff from the street.

“As property owners on the Mississippi, we feel it is our duty to try and help control what goes into the river off of our property as well as help protect this resource,” said Bryan Jones, co-owner of NorthStar Properties of Minnesota, which owns the apartment complex. “We are excited to create a rain garden full of native plants that will provide additional environment for pollinators.”

The project site happens to be directly adjacent the restored Stevenson Ravine.

Special thanks to Jacqueline Stahlmann, public programs manager for the Walker Art Center, for contributing to this blog post.

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