The next generation is learning how to take care of the earth. 

Students from Island Lake Elementary School in Shoreview planted native grasses and flowers in Vadnais - Snail Lakes Regional Park May 20.

The students are just some of the 90 across the northeast metro who will assist the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District with a wetland restoration project through June, said Sage Passi, watershed education specialist. The native plants will grow in an area where invasive buckthorn previously grew.

The buckthorn was cut down over four months this winter with the assistance of a grant, said Simba Blood, natural resources technician. The students are planting prairie grasses and flowers on the upper part of the wetland east of Snail Lake. Many are pollinator friendly. Native wetland plants will be planted further down the embankment in the future.

The restoration will be a two-year project, Passi said. It will restore 60 acres of forest and 4 acres of wetland buffer. The invasive species came in due to flooding that destroyed native plants. The restoration will benefit wildlife, including waterfowl, birds and turtles.

The plants will also anchor the wetland’s bank with their roots, said Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteer Chris Strong, who was instructing the students. She hopes that the area can be preserved for her grandchildren. She used to love to play among the lightning bugs when she was a child, but says she hasn’t seen one in years.

“I’ve been concerned about the loss of habitat, the loss of wildlife, the loss of insects we’ve seen,” she said.

The watershed district has worked with students for 20 years. They engage young people in park projects for educational purposes and offer assistance to those with school projects. This year, the district helped fund a rain garden at Lionsgate Academy in Shoreview. Ramsey County also received a Clean Water Fund grant for the project, noted Ann White Eagle of the Ramsey County Soil and Water Conservation Division. The charter school was built on a commercial site on Cardigan Road and staff wanted to remove asphalt to create green space.

Students prepared seeds last fall and completed planting in May with the assistance of Passi and Ramsey County master gardener volunteers, said science teacher Patrick Kosher at a conservation forum hosted by Ramsey County Parks and Recreation May 17. Students enjoyed the experiential learning, he noted. The garden was designed by Michael Schumann of Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District. For more information on community stewardship grants, visit rwmwd.org/get-involved/stewardship-grants/.

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