Looking for inspiration? Project ideas? Read about our past grant recipients to find out what Community Blue is doing in the neighborhood.

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White Bear Water Symposium - Actor/Educator Presentation 

June 5th, 2017
White Bear Lake Area High School
Amount Awarded: $700

Community Blue also includes creative, educational opportunities! For the 2017 Water Symposium, the White Bear Lake Area School partnered with Community Blue to bring in CLIMB Theater for a presentation on water quality and water stewardship. As actor/educators, CLIMB theater was a great fit for the Water Symposium. This first annual water symposium was an effort to bring student's work from the class room out to the public eye. Local schools focusing on water had a variety of ways students could contribute, from short videos to watershed presentations, and water-efficient, automated food growing technology called PolyBots. After students presented their works and following a keynote speaker, the CLIMB presentation reigned in the themes and action plans from the day with laughs and inspiration. In addition to the presentation, the grant included partial assistance in food and event promotion. Do you have a captive audience in your community? Contact VLAWMO to inquire about creative, entertaining, and educational project ideas -- a "blue" community is a team effort! 

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Vadnais Heights Elementary School - "The Bear's Backyard" Raingarden

Size: 1,000 sq ft
Volume Reduction: 18,929 cu ft/yr
Total Phosphorus Reduction: .35 lbs/yr
Sediment Reduction: 198.79 lbs/yr
Amount Awarded: $15,000

For the past several years Vadnais Heights Elementary School has been making great strides in becoming a role model for the importance of environmental education. Lambert Creek runs through the property making wetland and watershed education a high priority.  Their vision was to have students and parents work alongside each other, learning about the importance of wetland preservation, and the different plant and animal communities that make up our local habitats. A goal of the "Bear's Backyard" was to provide hands on activities for all Vadnais students and increase the rigor of the current science curriculum while supporting the Minnesota State Science standards in Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth and Space Science. It also provides a widely used public space in which the entire community can learn about the impacts to our water systems and environment. This opportunity would provided students with valuable knowledge that they can take out into our community and into adulthood, and it created tremendous pride in their school and community.
The grant included a full day of outdoor education. Over 375 K-5th grade students participated in multiple learning and activity stations that included all students having the opportunity to plant a flower or native grass in the raingarden. It also included a tailored professional development training for teachers and staff to learn about VLAWMO, the work we do and the importance of their project. It provided them tools and information to continue educating students leading up to and after the raingarden was installed.

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Vadnais Heights Rotary - Raingarden

Size: 1,200 sq ft
Volume Reduction: 25,593 cu ft/yr
Total Phosphorus Reduction: .35 lbs/yr
Sediment Reduction: 207.83 lbs/yr
Amount Awarded: $16,500

In the summer of 2013, the Vadnais Heights Rotary Club received a Community Blue grant to plant a raingarden at Vadnais Heights City Hall. The raingarden is filled with beautiful Minnesota native plants and grasses. The colorful flowers and habitat provide a welcoming space for the community to enjoy from the adjoining walking path and shopping area. Many members of the Rotary Club volunteered their time to help plant the raingarden and have committed to weeding and taking care of the plants for the next 10 years so that the garden will flourish. The rotary also highlighted the raingarden and the importance of reducing stormwater pollution as part of a community outreach video.  The raingarden captures 96% of the stormwater from the parking lot area and allows the water, which picks up pollutants from the parking lot, to seep back into the ground naturally rather than runoff into our nearby lakes and streams.

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Rice Lake - Purple Loosestrife Control

June 2016-Jan 2019
Rice Lake Project Committee 
Amount Awarded: $10,000

Rice Lake is home to a purple loosestrife population that has been on the rise for about a decade. Purple loosestrife is an invasive wetland plant species native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The plant can be very effective at crowding out natives and even robust wetland species like cattails. The result on Rice Lake has been an explosion of growth that has reached every corner of the Lake. Purple loosestrife typically blooms in August and September, producing a vast sea of light purple/pink that can dominate the landscape. Residents around Rice Lake had noticed the increasing invasive  population in the last few years and decided something must be done to help restore wetland biodiversity.

The grant provided consultant assistance for two beetle catch and release days a year for three years. The beetles were collected from other wetlands within VLAWMO and transported and released onto Rice Lake. The Consultant, Fortin Consulting, lead the catch and release effort as well as yearly monitoring. The Project goal was not complete purple loosestrife removal, but the establishment of a beetle population that will reduce and control the invasive species.

Click here for photo documentation from the project. 

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Clean Storm Drains: A Community Clean-up Effort

October 19th, 2018 - June 13th, 2019
John Mitchell Neighborhood Preserve
Amount Awarded: $663

Representing the John Mitchel Neighborhood Preserve, Master Water Steward Ceci Shapland conducted a neighborhood stormdrain clean-up event complete with outreach and lunch. Ceci began with presenting the idea at neighborhood association meetings, and wrote an article in the neighborhood newsletter. There she introduced the importance of cleaning out stormdrains, in that reducing the debris in stormdrains benefits a nearby water body. In the case of Ceci's neighborhood, the stormdrains led to a nearby wetland that then outleted into East Vadnais Lake. Ceci worked with VLAWMO and a third party company to order custom stormdrain markers, and had them approved by the City and neighborhood association for placing onto the stormdrains. Come Spring, 2019, she and a group of committed neighbors placed the stormdrain markers (pictured) and cleaned out the neighborhood drains. The day was topped off with a community lunch to celebrate their success. At the lunch gathering, Ceci utilized VLAWMO education materials for display and continued conversation about local water resources. The overall project harnessed 22 supporting volunteers, and totaled $1,725 in in-kind volunteer contributions. 21 stormdrains were labeled, and 4 of these were adopted by neighbors for regular, ongoing cleaning. We're thankful for Ceci, Ed, and the neighbors for their community effort in protecting the water quality of Vadnais Lake!

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Connect-the-Drops: Water Stewardship and Youth Leadership

April, 2018 - November, 2019
Local Congregation Partnership
Amount Awarded: $5,625

Heidi Ferris, director of Growing Green Hearts, designed and implemented this Community Blue project in partnership with Frassati Catholic Academy, Peace Community of Faith, and Christ the Servant Lutheran. The program started with a training day for host site leaders, utilizing the Growing Green Hearts Connect the Drops curriculum. This training covered the basics of watershed stewardship, outlined youth leadership opportunities, and planned each host site's focuses over the course of the year-long project. In February, 2019, Heidi, host sites, and VLAWMO staff facilitated a project kick-off event at the Vadnais Heights Community Commons. This event included live music, poetry workshops, a live painting demonstration, ice cream, and watershed education opportunities. From Spring to the Fall, each host site conducted its own youth leadership event to promote watershed education and stewardship in their respective communities. Many activities ensued, including adopt-a-drain, playing the watershed game, adopting raingardens, renting VLAWMO education tools for community events, hosting water walks, and referencing local water in the weekly liturgy. In sum, the entire project recruited 30 volunteers, and achieved $6,075 in in-kind volunteer hour contributions. 12 stormdrains were adopted, 2 raingadrens were adopted, one additional raingarden was maintained, 3 trees were planted, and over 2,500 people were exposed to the initiative. Thanks to Heidi's leadership and faith-based focus, project partners were able to harness knowledge and action for local water resources in a way that fit their needs and values. Each host site brought a bounty of enthusiasm and creativity, and a stronger network was formed between the communities and VLAWMO. 

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Native Planting Signage at the Community Commons

July, 2019
Renovation & Education in City Landscaping
Amount Awarded: $400

In early 2019 the City of Vadnais Heights became aware that reed canary grass was being used as a decorative landscaping grass at the Vadnais Heights Community Commons. Partnering with VLAWMO, the City supported a switch in the Commons landscaping, and took initiative to use it as a teaching moment. Reed canary grass in an invasive species, introduced by European settlers in the early century for cattle grazing. While it did its purpose for cattle, it also found new homes in wetlands across the Midwest. This is problematic because reed canary grass forms thick stands that clog natural water conveyance systems and encourage the build-up of sediments. But with the new planting design featuring native plants, the City has now turned the space into a demonstration for how to discourage the spread of reed canary grass. We're thankful for the leadership of the City of Vadnais Heights, their effort helps improve our wetlands and the valuable services they offer.


Community Blue started as a program under the Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment. This original program has expired, but due to its success it was turned into a budget line within VLAWMO's annual education and outreach budget. Check out the History of Community Blue.