Volunteer profile: Vicki Joy Bonk

June 26, 2017

Vicki BonkCity: Minneapolis

Community Involvement:

Beginning in 1995, I have been an active environmental leader in the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA). My main focus, though, has been the Nokomis Naturescape (NN), a 4-acre native plant restoration.It began as a Neighborhood Revitalization Program partnership with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. I forwarded the idea of a butterfly habitat garden at Lake Nokomis and then acted as NENA's project shepherd throughout a lengthy community process that led to the installation of the NN in 1998. Since that time, I have been the demonstration garden's volunteer and educational outreach coordinator. Among the created and led outreach initiatives is the Grow Monarch Habitat workshops, now in its 11th year; the Minneapolis Monarch Festival, a successful partnership of NENA and MPRB now celebrating its 9th year; implementing a Monarch Corridor; and a partnership with Wild Ones Twin Cities to grow NN's knowledgeable gardener base and increase our outreach efforts.

Why do you volunteer in the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District?

I have been fortunate to live within the MCWD for most of my life. From catching crawfish in Minnehaha Creek as a child, family picnics at Minnehaha Falls, and summer swims in most of the lakes throughout the district from childhood to present - MCWD waters run in my veins. As a youth, I enjoyed a wetland at the end of our block in St. Louis Park - it was a biodiverse adventureland to me.

In the 1970's, the wetland was demolished, filled and left as a dry, turf space devoid of much life. That loss triggered a later interest in native plant restoration and a desire to be part of the solution of a disappearing natural world with all the services it provides. In 1994, I moved to the Nokomis East Minneapolis neighborhood and saw the need for more natural habitat at  Lake Nokomis.  A funding opportunity arose and I got involved.

My volunteer work at Lake Nokomis has been a vital part of my life ever since. Little did I know, over twenty years later, the commitment to habitat restoration would become a passionate pursuit, offer multiple educational opportunities from the organizations I work for, introduce me to new friends with shared interests and turn my own home front into a Monarch Waystation. One good thing can lead to another.

Why do you think someone should volunteer their time?

The earth needs more people offering care. When you volunteer, often you are following a path of heart. Volunteering provides a way of being an active participant in making a world you'd like to live in and pass on to future generations Volunteering can give you an opportunity to stretch your own limits and speak for and act on what you hold vital. I view native plant habitats as happening places full of life and helping to bring this experience to others is personally fulfilling. This stewardship keeps me somewhat sane, because I see that positive change happens when individual strides come together to make a difference. Volunteering is an act of hope.

What is your favorite memory or experience in the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District?

For the past eight years, it has been the Minneapolis Monarch Festival, held on the second Saturday in September, at the Nokomis Naturescape. This unique bilingual event celebrates the Minnesota - Mexico connection of the astounding monarch butterfly migration. With NN's Grow Monarch Habitat project we chose the monarch to be our ambassador for native plant gardens. This project fostered the festival. Every festival has been beyond fulfilling in its capacity to draw a diverse crowd of thousands to enjoy a day at Lake Nokomis, immersed in nature, music, art and the company of others. Plus, the festival has many opportunities for people to become involved with monarch and habitat conservation at home and in their community. 

Learn more about volunteering with MCWD.