Neighborhood Spotlight: Pat Crowley

The Crowleys' home is adjacent to a small piece of property owned by the City of White Bear Lake. This little slice of land contains an important wetland that drains to Birch Lake, and it's been a site for multiple projects including a sand-iron filter installation in 2020 and an ongoing woodland restoration. As the Crowleys watched the project unfold from their backyard, ideas started to develop. Upon learning about  VLAWMO's cost share programs, Pat started to contemplate how his property could contribute to wetland and soil health while also meeting some needs of his own. VLAWMO thanks Pat and the Crowley family for their interest and excitement to learn and join the effort to protect Birch Lake!

Wetland Buffer Specs:

Installation: 2021

Description: 2,600 ft2 native wetland buffer

Native plants included: Cardinal flower, yellow cone flower, Pennsylvania sedge, joe-pye weed, boneset, blue flag iris, wild ginger, red-osier dogwood, harebells, and others.

Plant Chat with Pat:

What motivated you to install this native buffer strip?

Our home is adjacent to Birch Lake and our back yard connects to a wetland on City property, which is a collection area for storm water from rain or snow. That water flows into Birch Lake. VLAWMO approached us with updates and notices as they were planning a “sand-iron filter” on the City property, which was to improve the water quality going into Birch Lake. They needed our approval to build on a portion of our property, and as that was worked out we learned about the possibility of a cost share program for a native plant buffer between the wetland and our yard. We said "yes" to the water filter construction and applied for a native plant buffer. These decisions were based on the presentation of the professionals at VLAWMO and our desire to support the clean water initiatives.

What do you enjoy most about the buffer?

The decision to proceed with the buffer was to create a barrier in our yard from some of the invasive grasses and weeds in the wetland. The barrier included mounding soil and planting 800 native plants. We arranged our own project with the same contractor that was working on the sand-iron filter maintenance, so it was convenient for the crews to do both when they came to visit. We have been pleased with the support to maintain the project while the new plantings are getting established.

How have the plantings changed your interaction with your yard?

We have a very natural area in the back yard with many different birds, pollinators and animals coming to the area, including sandhill cranes for the first time in 2022. This is the first year after the planting and we can see the diversity of the plants and the additional color it brings to the environment.

What’s the most challenging part of the project?

For my wife and I, the only challenge was the expected disruption of the construction for the sand-iron filter and the noise associated with it. The project was very well organized, and the construction crew was professional and finished on time.

What has surprised you along the way?

Honestly, there were no surprises as the communication with VLAWMO kept us up to date on what was happening next.

What would you do differently if you created another native planting? Any advice to offer others who may want to explore this style of landscaping?

If we were to do another area of native landscaping, I would discuss with my neighbors to see if they would like to consider expanding the area of native plants. My advice to those who may be interested in exploring native plants is to do your research, talk to specialty contractors who exclusively work in this area, and consult with your watershed organization to find out what support may be available from the watershed district or a similar city or county program.

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