Green Digest: Master Watershed Stewards recruiting second class

Plus: Upcoming mayoral forums and county environmental grants

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is recruiting its second-ever class of Master Watershed Stewards this fall.

Modeled on Master Gardener programs, Master Watershed Stewards aims to train citizen volunteers to help friends and neighbors protect local waters. Up to 30 district residents will have the opportunity to go through the training and be certified with the 2014 class.

The program is a partnership between the watershed district and the non-profit Freshwater Society with funding from a state Clean Water Fund grant. The training focuses on what Freshwater Society calls “the single greatest threat to Minnesota’s waters”: non-point source pollution, or the runoff from yards, streets and sidewalks that carries pollution into lakes and waterways.

When the program launched last year, recruitment focused on residents of the Minneapolis neighborhoods closest to Minnehaha Creek and the Chain of Lakes. The watershed district reports on its website the first group of volunteers has been working this fall on installing “rain gardens, rain barrels and water-permeable walkways” in South and Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods

Master Watershed Stewards must complete 50 hours of coursework and projects aimed at improving their understanding of urban water issues. To maintain their certification, the stewards agree to 50 hours of volunteer service in the first year and 25 hours in each year following.

Those interested in applying should plan to attend one of the upcoming information sessions: 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. at the district office, 15320 Minnetonka Boulevard, Minnetonka, on Oct. 22, Nov. 5, Dec. 3 or Dec. 17; or 7:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. at Pearl Park Recreation Center, 414 Diamond Lake Road, on Oct. 29 or Nov. 19.

Read more about the program or fill out an online application at masterwaterstewards.org

Mayoral forums go green

The lively race to replace Mayor R.T. Rybak has produced a seemingly endless number of mayoral forums this fall, including two mid-October events focused on topics frequently covered in this column.

Candidates are invited to discuss transit, bicycling and the future of Minneapolis’ transportation system in an Oct. 15 forum moderated by Paula Pentel, coordinator of the University of Minnesota Urban Studies Program. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the Cowles Auditorium at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 301 19th Ave. S.

A week later, voters will get a chance to hear candidate’s thoughts on urban agriculture in a discussion moderated by the League of Women Voters.  The forum is 7 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th St.

Sponsors include local community gardening nonprofit Gardening Matters, Giving Tree Gardens, the Twin Cities Agricultural Land Trust and the Hmong American Farmers Association. For more information on that forum, go to gardeningmatters.org/mayoral-forum-urban-agriculture.

Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, Streets.mn, Interdisciplinary Transportation Student Organization, Minnesota Urban Studies Student Association, UrbanMSP and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability teamed up to sponsor the transportation forum. More details are posted at streets.mn.

County offers recycling and environmental grants

A Nov. 1 deadline is approaching for three different Hennepin County environmental grant programs.

The county is seeking detailed proposals for grants of up to $50,000 that can be used to fund large or innovative programs to improve recycling at businesses, nonprofits and institutions. Winners are chosen through a competitive selection process and must provide a 25-percent match for project costs exceeding $10,000.

The county offers the competitive grants twice a year in the spring and fall. The grant funds can go toward new recycling or composting containers, waste hauling contracts, building improvements that allow for recycling collection or other projects or improvements.

Smaller, non-competitive grants of up to $10,000 are available throughout the year and require no match, but at least 60 percent of those grants must be used to purchase recycling or composting containers.

The county’s Green Partners environmental education program also has a Nov. 1 deadline for schools, churches and other non-profit groups to apply for grants. Grants of up to $15,000 are available for selected programs aimed at reducing waste, improving recycling, conserving energy and protecting clean water.

Grants through the county’s Natural Resource Incentives for Critical Habitat program have gone toward rain garden installations, stream bank erosion stabilization and other projects intended to restoring habitat and improve water quality. The county will pay up to 75 percent of total project costs through the cost-share grant.

More information on all three grant programs can be found online at hennepin.us.