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

1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (35).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (11).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (44).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (23).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (34).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (41).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (47).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (48).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (38).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (1).JPG1 Community Blue VHES Raingarden 2014 (45).JPG

"The Bear's Backyard" Raingarden

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.

what a wonderful group of rotary volunteers!Beforeconstructionvolunteers plantingvolunteers plantingnewly plantednewly plantedfirst rainfall

Vadnais Heights Rotary Raingarden

Stormwater 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.

2017-06-03 11.23.50.jpg2017-06-03 11.35.52.jpg

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! 

2017-05-22 13.59.13.jpg2017-05-22 13.58.40.jpg2017-05-22 13.57.04.jpg2017-05-22 13.55.26.jpg

Rice Lake - Purple Loosestrife Control

June 2016-January 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. 

Appendix 2, Obj. 3-Clean Up Day f - cropped.jpgAppendix 2, Obj. 3-Clean Up Day g.JPGAppendix 2, Obj. 3-Clean Up Day e.jpgAppendix 2, Obj. 3-Clean Up Day d.JPGAppendix 2, Obj .3-Clean Up Day c.JPGAppendix 2, obj. 3-Clean Up Day b.JPG

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!

P1070858.JPGP1070851.JPGpeace chippewa rg maint.jpgIMG-1117.JPGLeader training 9-29-18 (rightsideup).jpg67848579_2340698699300794_6804091901902323712_n.jpgP1060750.JPG67848579_2340698699300794_6804091901902323712_n.jpgP1060880.JPGP1060857.JPGP1060865.JPGP1060849.JPG8-Parade.jpg23-Parade.jpg

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. Check out the Song To Sweep To by Frassati Academy students and staff. 

VH native planting commons.jpgplanting (19).jpg
Jr Watershed explorer hero characters.jpgJr Watershed explorer title graphic.jpg
Rainbarrel_webinar_8-13-20_First_Frame.pngrainbarrel blog.JPGrainbarrel blog 5.JPGrainbarrel cost share
NOHOA bioswale renovationeast oaks bioswale sept 1 2021 (13).jpgBioswale_project sketch (1).jpg
upstream.pngUpstream 9-18-21 last tea (8).jpgUpstream 9-18-21 last tea (6).jpgupstream tea sucker lake.jpgUpstream 9-18-21 last tea (4).jpg
St Marys renovation 2022 mulch (3).jpgSt Marys Renovation 2022 (1).jpgst marys renovation 2022 work crew (1).jpgPre renovation June 22 (1).jpg

Good Neighbor Guide Cover.jpg

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.

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 many stresses of work and school being brought into the home. With a need to provide activities that allow for social distancing, Ceci, Ed, and the MN Water Stewards team brainstormed a workbook that encouraged outdoor exploration while also including some education basics 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. Previously the swale had 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

Alex Nelson approached VLAWMO in 2021 in search of a project that could fulfill the requirements for his Eagle Scout Badge. After reviewing several possibilities, he took to renovating an existing raingarden that was in need of a refresher. Alex took to studying raingardens, 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 connected with the Saint Mary's staff for guidance and support. 

Good Neighbor Guide 

September 2022
Community resource for taking care of water quality from home 
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 yardwaste 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.


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.