Nearly $200,000 grant will help keep ‘nature’ in Springbrook Nature Center

Work will help restore, maintain natural habitats 

Fires and a lack of invasive plants are part of what is healthy for and natural to prairies and woodlands and their ecosystems.

City parks, on the other hand, rarely see fires and often have invasive species spreading through the land, oftentimes only controlled through volunteers’ efforts.

A multi-year grant from the Minnesota State Legislature in 2012 totaling $198,500 will help support what city staff calls “habitat improvement” at Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, a city-owned park.

Buckthorn and honeysuckle would be removed from the forest areas – totaling approximately 66 acres – and prescribed burns would be held on the prairies – totaling about 10.5 acres. (Image courtesy of the city of Fridley)

Buckthorn and honeysuckle would be removed from the forest areas – totaling approximately 66 acres – and prescribed burns would be held on the prairies – totaling about 10.5 acres. (Image courtesy of the city of Fridley)

The grant will fund the creation of a resource management plan for the nature center, including the improvement of 66 acres of oak woodland, savanna and prairie through managing invasive plant species and conducting controlled burns in specific areas.

The grant amount includes $11,000 in matching funds, which will come from equal contributions from the city’s Springbrook Nature Center reserve (savings) funds and the Springbrook Nature Center Foundation.

Great River Greening is the nonprofit partner the city worked with to apply for this grant, and the group will receive grant funds from the state and oversee the work of the project. The nonprofit will do all the consulting and planning work and hire subcontractors to do specific portions of habitat restoration, according to a city staff memo.

City staff had unsuccessfully applied for the grant in two other years and learned later that to have a better chance at receiving the funds, they needed to apply with a nonprofit group, such as Great River Greening, which was regularly applying for these grants.

The forest and prairie habitat at the park has degraded in recent years due to invasive species – specifically buckthorn and exotic honeysuckle – and a lack of resources to manage them, Siah St. Clair, Springbrook Nature Center director, told the Fridley City Council during a presentation at the Dec. 10 council meeting.

Volunteers and students have helped with buckthorn removal in the past, but with a lack of resources, it wouldn’t be possible to accomplish all this work with only volunteers, he said.

“With a grant like this we can accomplish a tremendous amount that would leave Springbrook in a good position for a very long time,” St. Clair said.

He added that he didn’t expect parts of the park to need to close for work to proceed, but if controlled burns affected trails, closure signs would be posted. He estimated the interruption wouldn’t last more than a few hours of a day.

The target date for completion of all work in this project is June 30, 2015. After the end of this grant, Springbrook could apply for another grant to support other ecosystem management in the park.

 

Contact Sarah Peterson at sarah.peterson@ecm-inc.com

 
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