Students clean up Spring Lake

The Blake School’s environmental club removes buckthorn and tests the water and soil

Spring Lake long has been a weedy reservoir for litter, salty snow and runoff. Ducks occasionally can be spotted skimming the water’s surface, but there’s little other life and no fish.

Students at the nearby Blake School are determined to do something about it.

Last year, they formed the Spring Lake Restoration Committee to clean up the area and to address its long-term sustainability needs. Working with the Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association (LHNA) and the Minneapolis Park Board (MPB), students are working to eradicate the invasive buckthorn that’s overtaken the park and restore native plant species to the area.

MPB contributed $11,000 to the project, and Jan. 10 students received another $1,000 from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO). The environmental club will use the funds to purchase trees and water and soil-quality test kits.

Already, students, school officials and community volunteers have picked up litter, weeded and planted trees around one-third of the lakeshore. Younger students will be brought on to the project this spring for training so they can take over the project next year.

“I think it’s fabulous that students are willing to do this and be trained about how important volunteering is,” said Minneapolis Park Board spokeswoman Mary Lerman. “Invasive species are a real critical issue for the survival of parks, woods, and wetlands in Minnesota and all over the country. We need to rethink some of the most common things we’ve done our whole lives.”

The plan

The lake is in such bad shape because it lies at the base of a hill and is skirted by Highway 394, resulting in a great deal of polluted runoff. The lake also is a dumping ground for snow by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, resulting in high salt concentrations in the area.

Students plan to take an in-depth look at the lake’s history, as well as to take soil and water samples to eradicate invasive species that have settled in the water and surrounding woodland. They also will plant native species to revive the woodland and wetland areas.

With the help of Rob Reul, who acts as liaison between the club and LHNA, the group regularly will survey their progress.

Parkland is “one of the best things we’ve got going in the city, and I don’t think we do enough to take care of it,” Reul said. “We have a tremendous asset.”

Eleventh-graders Kate Gordon and Kate Chute are proud of the group’s work and look forward to restoring the area.

“We’re doing everything for ourselves.” “I think it’s fun, and I know that in the future we’ll have experience dealing with committees,” Gordon said.

Said Chute: “I like going outside and am really looking forward to when we can actually go out. But what we enjoy doing most is going out there and doing something that we can see.”

In their grant request to the MWMO, students anticipated that the project will “create a nicer area for families to visit, as well as a healthy natural environment for plants and animals. Hopefully, the people living nearby will be able to reap the benefits of this project and will be able to use Spring Lake as a park and a beautiful place to visit. We hope this project will continue, as the lake and woods will need constant attention.”

To educate others, the kids also will create a pamphlet that explains the significance of removing invasive plants and preventing re-infestation.

The project also will have a Web site sponsored by LHNA and Visi, a Minneapolis-based online company.