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Maplewood Seasons Winter, 2020

Three-Legged Environmental Step Stool

By Shann Finwall, Environmental Planner

I often think of the City’s Environmental program as a three-legged step stool, where each leg is represented by Environmental Policy, Environmental Education, and Natural Resources Management. These three elements together, in my mind, create a balanced approach to achieving the City’s environmental and sustainability goals. If any leg is less important or missing the step stool will be unstable. However, if all three legs are present the result will be a balanced, comprehensive approach, to sustainable development.

Maplewood has embraced environmental stewardship as a core community value, and has been implementing programs and policies that advance local sustainability for many years.

The Maplewood Nature Center was one of the first city-operated Nature Centers, opening its doors in 1978. The City has over 300 acres of neighborhood preserve land thanks to the Open Space bonding referendum passed by residents in 1993. In 1996 Maplewood was one of the first cities in Minnesota to begin installing rain gardens as part of street projects to better manage stormwater. To help guide environmental policy, the Environmental and Natural Resources Commission was formed in 2004. Solid waste is better managed through the City’s organized trash hauling system that began in 2012. In 2013, the City adopted a Living Streets Policy, intended to maximize neighborhood, environmental, and aesthetic benefits when rebuilding roadways. And the list goes on and on, to include the Step 5 award the City has received over the last five years for making improvements to our sustainability metrics in the GreenStep Cities program.

The three-legged environmental step stool analogy can be used to explain Maplewood’s success in these areas. Learn how all legs of the step stool work together to achieve that goal by continuing to scroll down the page.

Environmental Policy

The first leg of the step stool is Environmental Policy, which provides a road map for governing the relationship between humans and the natural environment in a mutually beneficial way. These policies provide critical checks and balances on planning and decision making in areas such as waste management, air and water pollution, biodiversity protection, ecosystem management, and the protection of our natural resources.

The City’s overarching policy document on land use and the environment is the Comprehensive Plan. The plan is updated every ten years which provides an opportunity to review and calibrate the community’s strategic planning direction. The current 2040 Comprehensive Plan is comprised of several interrelated elements addressing the natural environment and resiliency. From this guiding document emerges ordinances and policies that help the City move the needle forward on its environmental initiatives. Here are a few environmental policies the City has or will be addressing in the near future:

  • Climate Action and Adaptation Plan with strategies for dealing with the effects of climate change.
  • Solid Waste Ordinance amendments that provide safe and high quality trash and recycling collection services that maximize the recovery of recyclable materials and minimize trash disposal in the most cost-effective manner possible.
  • Natural Resources Management Plan to restore and preserve the highest quality areas, create a tree plan to best manage boulevard/park/and woodlot trees, and updates to the sustainable turf plan.
  • Mississippi River Critical Corridor Area to preserve and enhance the natural, aesthetic, economic, recreational, cultural, and historical values of the Mississippi River corridor in Maplewood’s south leg and protect its environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Urban Agriculture ordinance and policy updates that remove barriers and promote local food access.

The City of Maplewood values long-range, strategic environmental planning and policy to ensure the community of today evolves to meet the needs of tomorrow.

Environmental Education

The second leg of the step stool is Environmental Education. Decisions about our lifestyle and how it may affect the environment are critical to helping preserve clean water, a diversity of habitat for wildlife, and adapting for climate change. Learning about ecology and having a spiritual connection with the outdoors provides a foundation for a solid conservation ethic. As conservationist Aldo Leopold said “To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” If we don’t know the difference between an oak tree and buckthorn, how can we help the birds and caterpillars that depend on and have evolved with oaks, for instance? If we know how to identify milkweed, and recognize it as the plant that monarch caterpillars depend on, then we can plant it or choose not to remove it, and help save the monarchs.

Places such as nature centers, state parks, national parks, and yes, reliable internet sources (always double check your internet websites for credible authors) provide professionals educated in wildlife ecology, biology, botany or a related field who conduct many types of educational programs; and who promote the benefits of getting outdoors, walking, hiking, observing, and engaging with nature.

At the Maplewood Nature Center we offer a range of programs from learning about climate and weather, to star gazing, birding, photography, and more. Most programs have an outdoor component to get us outside, in the fresh air and sunshine!

Natural Resources Management

The third leg of the step stool is Natural Resources Management, because sometimes nature needs a helping hand! Management activities include native plant community restoration, rain garden installation and care, and sustaining a diverse tree canopy across the City.

The grasslands, wetlands, woodlands, and forests of Neighborhood Preserves and parks are the focus of native plant community restoration in Maplewood. Since urban natural areas are not undisturbed and pristine, management is necessary to promote native species and keep invasive species at bay.

Limiting the spread of invasive species

The rain garden program manages stormwater and provides a way for rain water to infiltrate naturally. Today Maplewood has over 700 home rain gardens and over 80 rain gardens on city land! Rain gardens are planted with a diversity of plants that add beauty to our neighborhoods and benefit pollinators.

Providing natural areas for pollinators

Throughout the City, work is being done to provide a diverse and healthy tree canopy. Emerald ash borer, oak wilt, and other threats to Maplewood’s urban forest require detection and management. Just as important as managing pests is planting new trees. The city has a 1:1 replacement strategy for trees in public spaces and hosts a tree sale for residents each spring to achieve planting goals.

Natural areas abound in Maplewood on City and County public lands, as well as on private lands. Managing natural resources in a sustainable way will help protect and enhance Maplewood’s quality of life for current and future generations by suggesting strategies to protect, connect, restore, and manage ecosystems, plant communities, and species.

Tips for Your Home and Yard

Strategies to create a more efficient and comfortable home and environmentally-friendly yard.

Save Energy and Money

Through cold winters and hot summers, a typical Midwestern home devotes more than 55 percent of its energy to heating and cooling. Ranging from simple to technical explanations, the Center for Energy and Environment’s Home Energy Hub will give you insights on big improvements that will help you drastically reduce your energy consumption.

Winter Tree and Shrub Pruning

Miss gardening yet? Late winter is a good time to prune many trees and shrubs. Did you know:

  • removing old stems and watersprouts can increase plant health, flower, and fruit production?
  • you should never remove more than 1/3 of the plant’s stems or branches, unless the shrub is very old and or overgrown?
  • keeping your pruning tools sharp, disinfecting the blades, where to cut on the stem, and even the way you hold your pruners are important?

Join Emily Dunlap, Natural Resources Coordinator, for an informative hands on program on Pruning Shrubs In Your Rain Garden or Yard on Saturday, March 7, 10:00-11:30 a.m., $5, at the Maplewood Nature Center.

Recycling Food Scraps in Four Easy Steps

  1. Pick up a free starter kit at City Hall or a Ramsey County yard waste site (while supplies last).
  2. Visit RamseyRecycles.FoodScraps and find out what items are accepted.
  3. Place food scraps recycling items into a compostable bag inside your bin.
  4. Bring compostable bag to the Maplewood drop-off site (next to the Maplewood Community Center at 2100 White Bear Avenue).
Maplewood 24/7 Food Scraps Recycling Site - 2100 White Bear Ave

Out and About: Lights, Camera, Snowshoe!

Winter Luminary Workshop

Maplewood Nature Camera Club!

A new volunteer-run group sponsored by the Friends of Maplewood Nature. Dedicated to nature photography in Maplewood with a focus on the Maplewood Nature Center and Neighborhood Preserves, the club hosts a series of monthly programs that are free and open to the public. No preregistration is required. Free. If you have questions, please e-mail the Maplewood Nature Camera Club

Just for Fun

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City of Maplewood
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