Wanted: innovative environmentalists

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is seeking environmentalist leaders to make lasting change.

MCWD is accepting proposals for grants of up to $15,000 to support community organizations, schools, businesses and nonprofits in developing new ways to promote the importance of keeping lakes, streams and wetlands healthy.

The projects usually target businesses, property owners and even elected officials, said Darren Lochner, MCWD’s education manager. Simple strategies to reduce salt, sediment and garbage runoff are common in the projects curriculum.

“Some of our projects are at the basic level of building knowledge awareness and then there are some that are focused on changing behavior,” Lochner said. “The projects really span.”

The grants come from the Cynthia Krieg Watershed Stewardship Fund, established in 2000 in memory of Cynthia Krieg, who dedicated herself to community service and natural resource protection.

With $125,000 available annually, more than a dozen grants were awarded last year.

“We’re excited to provide this opportunity — this funding — to local organizations and government, and ultimately to support really fun, innovative ideas, so that they can do education that we wouldn’t normally be able to do as staff,” Lochner said.

Friends of the Mississippi River, a 2015 grant recipient, funded workshops. Young people left the classroom to visit habitat restoration sites, while homeowners learned more about DIY conservation and preservation strategies.

“One of the workshops was even at a brewery,” Adam Flett, the organization’s stewardship coordinator, said. “We talked about rain gardens, rain barrels, practicing proper lawn maintenance, picking up pet waste and keeping storm drains clean.”

Have your own idea? Projects must take place within the district’s boundaries and advance community involvement in natural resource conservation and protection.

“The education programs are very neighborhood based so that we can build awareness at the local level,” Lochner said. “We’re not talking about the broader Mississippi, we’re talking about — for example — how the Longfellow neighborhood can protect the Minnehaha Creek so that residents feel a sense of place.”

Pre-proposals are due by Sept. 14 in order to receive feedback before the final Oct. 7 deadline.

More information and pre-proposal applications are available online at minnehahacreek.org/cynthia-krieg.