Looking for inspiration and project ideas? Read about our past grant recipients for a look at how local leaders and volunteers have supported water resources in their community. 

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"The Bear's Backyard" Raingarden

Educational raingarden at Vadnais Heights Elementary
Amount Awarded: $15,000

The Vadnais Heights Elementary School used Community Blue to support a new raingadren for the "Bear's Backyard." Focused on outdoor learning, the Bear's Backyard offers forested and wetland trails to support life science, physical science, and earth and space science curriculum. The school property is also adjacent to Lambert Creek, making the schoolyard a valuable location for a raingarden that reduces stormwater runoff and pollutants into the creek. 

Students and parent volunteers worked together on planting the garden as they learned about the importance of wetland preservation and the different plant and animal communities that make up the Bear's Backyard. In addition to classroom activities such as calculating stormwater runoff, students have continued a hands-on tradition of basic raingarden maintenance and occasional replanting when needed. Primary maintenance is completed by parent volunteers and the White Bear Lake School District grounds staff. 

The grant included a full day of outdoor education supporting the cost of materials, construction, and professional development training for teachers and staff.

Click here for the raingarden project page. 

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Vadnais Heights Rotary Raingarden

Raingadren installation with education signage
Amount Awarded: $16,500

The Vadnais Heights Rotary Club received a Community Blue grant to plant a raingarden at Vadnais Heights City Hall. The raingarden is filled with Minnesota native plants and grasses. Several members of the Rotary Club volunteered their time to help plant the raingarden and committed to weeding and taking care of the plants for the following 10 years so that the garden will flourish. The grant included educational signage as part of the project and the rotary developed an educational video highlighting the raingarden and the importance of reducing stormwater pollution. The raingarden captures stormwater from the adjacent parking lot, filtering possible pollutants that get picked up by the stormwater and infiltrates the stormwtaer runoff into the ground. An overflow device is installed for exceptionally large rain events, which outlets to a nearby wetland and then drains to East Vadnais Lake. 

Click here for the raingarden project page.

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White Bear Water Symposium

June 5th, 2017
Actor/educator presentation at White Bear Lake Area High School
Amount Awarded: $700

The White Bear Lake Area School District partnered with Community Blue to bring in CLIMB Theater for the District's 2017 Water Symposium. The symposium was an effort to bring student work from the classroom out to the public eye. Local schools created a variety of water-related projects such as short educational videos, watershed presentations, and a water efficient, automated food growing technology called PolyBots. After students presented their work, the CLIMB Theater presentation provided a fun and engaging learning experience for all ages. In addition to the presentation, the grant included assistance for event promotion and partial assistance in food costs. 

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Rice Lake Purple Loosestrife Control

June 2016-January 2019
Biological invasive species control with the Rice Lake Neighborhood Association 
Amount Awarded: $10,000

Rice Lake is a large wetland complex that is part of the Lambert Creek (County Ditch 14) drainage system. It is also home to a tract of purple loosestrife. Purple loosestrife is an invasive wetland plant native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The plant can be very effective at crowding out natives and even robust wetland species like cattails. As an aggressive wetland plant it can accelerate the process of wetlands filling in with plant debris and decomposing matter, which can reduce the wetland's ability to store and convey water. The Rice Lake Neighborhood Association noticed the increasing purple loosestrife density and reached out to Community Blue for support to help restore wetland diversity and encourage open, standing water. 

The grant provided consultant assistance from Fortin Consulting for two beetle catch and release days per year for three years. The beetles were collected from other wetlands within VLAWMO and transported and released onto Rice Lake. 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. 

Hometown Habitat Screening

March 2020
Movie night with the North Oaks Natural Resources Commission 
Amount Awarded: $545

The North Oaks Natural Resources Commission used Community Blue to purchase screening rights for "Hometown Habitat," a documentary about native plants and water-friendly landscaping. Guests at the screening event received free seed packets and a local Scout troop helped coordinate the set-up and take-down. 

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Neighborhood Stormdrain Cleaning and Labeling 

October 19th, 2018 - June 13th, 2019
Adopt-a-Drain efforts with the John Mitchell Neighborhood Preserve
Amount Awarded: $663

Representing the John Mitchel Neighborhood Preserve, Minnesota 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 for nearby waterbodies. Ceci used Community Blue to order educational stormdrain markers with a message of "No Dumping - Drains to Lake," and had them approved by the City and neighborhood association. The main event was a spring volunteer effort to tidy-up stormdrains and place the markers, followed by a community lunch to celebrate. At the lunch gathering, Ceci utilized VLAWMO education materials for continued conversation about local water resources. 

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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 faith-based organizations Frassati Catholic Academy, Peace Community of Faith, and Christ the Servant Lutheran. The program started with a training day for host site leaders. This training covered the basics of watershed stewardship, outlined youth leadership opportunities, and planned each host site's focus over the course of the year-long project. A kick-off event was held in February, 2019 and included live music, poetry workshops, a live painting demonstration, ice cream, games, and watershed education stations. From Spring to the Fall, each host site conducted its own youth leadership event in their communities. Examples included 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 project recruited 30 volunteers, adopted 12 stormdrains two raingadrens, planted three trees, and reached over 2,500 people across the various communities.

Check out A Song To Sweep To from Frassati Academy.

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Native Planting Signage at the Community Commons

July 2019
Demonstration project with educational signage
Amount Awarded: $400

In early 2019 the City of Vadnais Heights became aware that the Vadnais Heights Community Commons had reed canary grass being used as a decorative landscaping grass. The City supported a switch in landscaping strategies 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 served its purpose for cattle, it also found new homes in wetlands across the Midwest. This is problematic for wetlands because reed canary grass forms thick stands that clog natural water conveyance systems and encourage the build-up of sediments. The City has now switched the area to a native planting that serves as a demonstration site. Community Blue was used for educational signage. 

Click here for the native planting project page.

Junior Watershed Explorer Workbook

August 2020
Education resource for schools and families
Amount Awarded: $960

In the midst of the 2020 pandemic, Minnesota Water Stewards Ceci and Ed Shapland saw a need to support parents who were suddenly juggling the stresses of working and schooling from home. With a need to provide activities that allow for social distancing, Ceci, Ed, and the Minnesota Water Stewards team brainstormed a workbook that encouraged outdoor exploration while also including education activities in math and science. The Community Blue grant supported professional printing, graphic design, and custom t-shirts for students to receive when they complete the workbook.

Learn more about the workbook and download a copy here

Rainbarrels and Water Conservation 

May 2020
Rainbarrel training with water conservation education 
Amount Awarded: $2,000

Minnesota Water Steward Katherine Doll Kanne set out to make rainbarrels easy, approachable, and exciting to use. Working with local residents, Katherine documented the journey of installing a rainbarrel while adding some extra drainage features to the overflow. The Community Blue grant supported materials for the rainbarrel demonstration install, and participants that registered and attended the training received a free rainbarrel.

View the webinar recording and up your rainbarrel skills here

North Oaks Bioswale Renovation

August 2021
Bioswale renovation with community support
Amount Awarded: $2,000

Minnesota Water Steward Sierra Weirens worked with VLAWMO and the North Oaks Home Owner's Association (NOHOA) to renovate a bioswale in a North Oaks park. The swale had previously experienced poor drainage and was burdened with excess sediment. VLAWMO and NOHOA staff assisted in excavating and re-grading the swale while also introducing two sump features at the swale inlets - places for sediment to land and conveniently be cleaned out instead of settling into the swale basin. The Community Blue grant supported plants and mulch while the majority of the construction was completed by North Oaks resident volunteers. Learn more at the North Oaks/NOHOA Bioswale project page

Upstream: Collecting and Connecting Stories About Our Water

Summer 2021
Curated tea ceremonies about water with guest speakers
Amount Awarded: $7,566.80

In the winter of 2020 the White Bear Center for the Arts (WBCA) had an idea to bring water into their world of art and storytelling. While the effort was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was able to pick up where it left off in the summer of 2021. Artist Anna Metcalfe and the WBCA designed a series of curated tea ceremonies to gather water stories and celebrate shared connections to water. The series of tea ceremonies took place in local parks throughout the VLAWMO watershed, and each recipient received a hand made mug created by Anna Metcalfe. Each mug was printed with a water story from a previous tea ceremony, creating a metaphorical "stream" of stories from person to person.

Check out the final video created by Upstream plus presentations from guest speaker Sharon Day here. Visit the Upstream main page for more on Anna Metcalfe's work and updates. 

Saint Mary's of the Lake Raingarden Renovation 

August 2022
Raingarden renovation 
Amount Awarded: $1,000

Local Boy Scout Alex Nelson used Community Blue to support a raingarden renovation that fulfilled the requirements for his Eagle Scout Badge. Alex took to studying raingardens, native plants, and the existing garden design and prepared a renovation concept that would simplify the raingarden while improving its aesthetics. The Community Blue grant supported new plants and mulch, while Alex recruited fellow Scouts for help and worked with Saint Mary's staff for guidance and support. 

Good Neighbor Guide 

September 2022
Community resource for water-friendly home and yard care
Amount Awarded: $1,827.19

Minnesota Water Stewards Ceci and Ed Shapland set out to clarify many of the water mysteries that multi-family dwellers and homeowners come across everyday. Conducting research and learning from other watersheds such as the MWMO, Ceci and Ed designed a layout that covered topics from irrigation to yard waste to road salt. The guide also features a seasonal calendar for checklists on what to pay attention to throughout the year. Multiple consult meetings took place with fellow VLAWMO volunteers from the Watershed Action Volunteers (WAV) group.  The Community Blue grant supported graphic design as well as a first round of professional printing to distribute the guide at public fairs and City Halls. 

Download a copy of the guide at the Water Stewardship at Home page.