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Past Watershed Heroes

2017 Watershed Heroes

Japs-Olson Company
Partnership Award
For its commitment to partnership in achieving an environmentally friendly expansion of its business that was the culmination of several years of work with the District. Japs-Olson Company worked in partnership with the District to treat stormwater from the expansion and the surrounding area, and donated nearly four acres of land for restoration and improved public access to the Minnehaha Creek Preserve and the Minnehaha Creek Greenway. The project involved a complex series of agreements with the Cities of Hopkins and St. Louis Park and resulted in a project that improves water quality, ecological integrity and community connectivity, and is projected to create 150 jobs.
Lennar Corporation
Innovation Award
For its hard work and creative spirit in its pursuit of a 99-unit residential development in Victoria. By working in coordination with the City of Victoria and the District, the project will restore 12 acres and permanently protect 23.5 acres of public water wetland, which is beyond Lennar's regulatory obligation. Its willingness to invest in natural resources locally enabled the restoration of a priority wetland that's in the Six Mile Subwatershed, which is a priority area for improvement projects.
Park Nicollet
Excellence Award
For its leadership and vision in improving Minnehaha Creek, which sparked the creation of the Minnehaha Creek Greenway – a series of improvements that restores the natural curves to the creek, improves wildlife habitat, creates new access to green space and connects communities. Park Nicollet's commitment to balancing excellent service to the community and supporting ecological integrity in the landscape continued with the construction of a flood wall in 2017 that resulted in a six-acre wetland restoration.
Dr. Peter Sorensen
Sound Science Award
For his commitment to researching common carp's impact on our water resources and developing an integrated protocol to sustainably control common carp in a system. Dr. Sorensen's ground-breaking research has improved the understanding of the role carp has played in damaging ecosystems and has provided a path forward to effective management strategies.
Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA
Service Award
For their collective achievement in engaging a broad network of congregations in the watershed to increase awareness of water quality issues and spark stewardship of the natural resources in their communities. Over the past two years, congregations have hosted stewardship events, adopted sustainable property maintenance practices, educated their congregants about clean water and pursued sustainable measures to mitigate polluted stormwater runoff.

The Blake School 4th Grade Class

Young Naturalist Award
For their creativity and enthusiasm in learning about the importance of our water resources and how to protect them from stormwater runoff. Through a combination of classroom and field learning experiences, the students demonstrated their new-found knowledge through the creation of 3-D models of the Minnehaha Creek Greenway to visualize and demonstrate runoff, cleanups along the creek and nearby storm drains, and tours of the watershed. Their efforts serve as a role model for experiential learning that connects people to our water resources.

Peggy Knapp

Cynthia Krieg Lifetime Stewardship Award

For her dedication to protecting water resources, which has had a lasting impact on lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands across the region and the state. Hired as the Freshwater Society's Director of Programs 2010, Knapp has designed and implemented a multitude of civic engagement programs including the Master Water Stewards Program which was founded in the MCWD in 2013 and is being expanded statewide.

Known for her dynamic communications style and work on multiple platforms including television, Knapp has inspired and educated countless citizens to protect Minnesota's water resources. She is a natural leader and collaborator who knows how to bring people together to solve problems and get things done.

Knapp retired from the Freshwater Society in June 2017.

2015 Watershed Heroes

Presbyterian Homes – Promenade of WayzataExcellence in DevelopmentPresbyterian Homes redeveloped a 14-acre site near Lake Minnetonka's Wayzata Bay into a mixed-use residential community, and included a variety of innovative stormwater management features to minimize its impact on Lake Minnetonka. Those features include underground filtration and infiltration systems and green roofs. Heated streets and sidewalks mean that no salt is used to melt ice, saving 32 tons-per-year of salt, much of which would make its way into the lake. 
City of MinnetristaInnovation in Government AwardThe City of Minnetrista showed leadership and creativity in helping the MCWD and a private landowner on a development plan that achieves multiple goals. The City and MCWD worked with the Mader Family Trust on the Trust's plans to sell a plot of land for re-development, which includes a large wetland complex on the site. The project protects and restores 42 acres of wetland and upland, increases the city's tax base, and maximizes the family's return on the sale. The project also would create the first "wetland bank" within the MCWD.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, City of Shorewood, Christmas Lake Homeowners AssociationOutstanding Partner AwardThese groups played key roles in the response to the August 2014 discovery of zebra mussels in Christmas Lake. Working together with the MCWD, the organizations acted swiftly to coordinate a multi-pronged treatment plan that utilized all known tools in the battle against zebra mussels. The collaborative response exemplifies the significant impact of working together toward a common goal. 
Master Water Stewards Program of the Freshwater SocietyCitizen Engagement AwardThe Master Water Stewards Program is an innovative and successful experiment operated by the Freshwater Society in partnership with the MCWD and with a grant from the state's Clean Water Fund. Modeled after the Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs, the Master Water Stewards Program brought together interested residents to learn about clean water, build their own projects, and educate their neighbors on what they can do to help provide and protect clean water. During its three-year pilot phase, the program trained 80 Master Water Stewards from across the watershed.   
Florian and Linda Mae Kerber and Dr. Glen NelsonOutstanding Contribution AwardBoth recipients showed commitment to protecting lakes in MCWD's upper watershed by using their land to protect clean water. The Kerbers conserved 10.2 acres of their farmland in Laketown Township, significantly reducing the amount of sediment and phosphorus entering Pierson Lake. Dr. Glen Nelson is restoring 5.6 acres of uplands and wetlands on his and his neighbor's property in Orono near Lake Minnetonka. The project will provide excellent habitat for plants and wildlife and treat polluted stormwater runoff before it enters the lake.

John Barten

Lifetime Stewardship AwardJohn Barten recently retired from Three Rivers Park District (TRPD) after a long career of protecting clean water within the regional park system. Hired as TRPD's first Water Quality Manager in 1989, Barten developed and implemented a water quality management plan to protect the Park District's surface and ground waters while increasing public awareness about water quality. He also took leadership roles on regional efforts to combat the spread of aquatic invasive species and the passage of a state law in 2002 restricting use of phosphorus fertilizer on residential lawns. Minnesota was the first state in the nation to pass such legislation and it became a model for other states to follow.


2014 Watershed Heroes

Tiny DinerExcellence in DevelopmentTiny Diner, a restaurant in south Minneapolis, demonstrates a commitment to protecting water quality and general environmental stewardship. The sustainability-minded business employs a number of features to manage stormwater, including cisterns and dry creek beds to catch, slow and store water on site.  It also has a robust environmental curriculum that includes water quality programming.
Hennepin CountyInnovation in Government AwardHennepin County has been an effective partner and protector of natural environments in a variety of ways. The county's Emergency Services program provided key emergency assistance to the District and its communities during this spring's flooding. The county also worked closely with the District and residents on the reconstruction of Bushaway Road, preventing adverse impacts to Lake Minnetonka's water quality. In addition, the county's Community Works program pioneered a planning style that prizes natural resources and partnership, which the MCWD is using as a model for its own work.
Three Rivers Park DistrictOutstanding Partner AwardFor its partnership on the 2013 Big Island shoreline restoration, assistance on efforts to provide public access to conservation land in Minnetrista via the Dakota Rail Trail and its vision in helping prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
Aaron Leschisin, Evan Lebakken, and Phil AndreYouth Naturalist AwardThe District is honoring three Eagle Scouts who took strong initiative to complete separate clean water projects in the District in 2013. These projects resulted in the installation of 15 blue bird and 10 wood duck houses at the MCWD's Six Mile Marsh Prairie Restoration site in Minnetrista, the planting of two raingardens and a shade tree at Concord Elementary School in Edina and the construction of a new canoe launch at Utley Park in Edina.
Peter RechelbacherCitizen Engagement AwardMedina resident Peter Rechelbacher is a tireless steward of clean water. As president of the Mooney Lake Association for the past six years, he has advocated for the protection of Mooney Lake from the impacts of stormwater runoff and other water quality threats. He personally helped fund the hand removal of curlyleaf pondweed and donated water quality monitoring equipment. The data that was collected help prompt the City of Plymouth to clean out a nearby stormwater retention pond. Rechelbacher is also the City of Medina's representative on the MCWD's Citizens Advisory Committee, a post he's held since 2012, and currently serves as vice chair.  
Minnetonka Rotary Club, St. Louis Park Sunrise Rotary ClubOutstanding Contribution AwardThe District is honoring the Minnetonka and St. Louis Park Sunrise Rotary Clubs for their partnership on the restoration of Minnehaha Creek in St. Louis Park. Upon learning about the project, the clubs successfully applied for grant funds to leverage the clubs' contribution for the purchase and installation of approximately four benches along the creek.  They also organized an annual cleanup along the creek that was first conducted in 2013.

Eugene Hickok and Mike Panzer

Lifetime Stewardship AwardBoth Eugene Hickok and Mike Panzer have contributed enormous vision and engineering knowledge to the District. Hickok, the MCWD's first engineer, was instrumental in the formation of the organization in 1967 and played an integral role in ending the sanitary sewage discharges in Lake Minnetonka. Panzer, who started as the District's engineer in 1976 as a member of Hickok & Associates, is retiring this year after nearly four decades of advising the District on its clean water work.

2013 Watershed Heroes

Carver County and Minneapolis Park and Recreation BoardInnovation in Government AwardCarver County and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) have been front and center in the fight against aquatic invasive species (AIS). They have been active partners with the MCWD over the past two years to develop effective programs to prevent the spread of zebra mussels and other AIS, including participation in the task force that informed the creation of the District's AIS management program. Responding to residents' concerns and the growing threat aquatic invasive species pose to the water resources, Carver County was among the first local units of government to work with the District to provide inspectors at public boat accesses. When faced with limited resources, the MPRB took bold action to make sure that every boat launched on the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes was inspected beforehand. It also participated with the MCWD on development of the "Save Our Summers" AIS public outreach campaign. Individually and collectively, Carver County and the MPRB have been important allies in AIS prevention efforts in the District.
City of St. Louis ParkOutstanding Partner AwardThe City of St. Louis Park has been working with the MCWD on the restoration of Minnehaha Creek, the latest phase of which was completed in early 2013. The project not only improves water quality, but provides access to 27 acres of previously inaccessible green space, wildlife habitat and enhanced recreational opportunities. The spirit of partnership the city has shown in the restoration and the work with local businesses and residents to make it happen was integral to the project's success. The city is currently working with the MCWD on the development of trails along the stretch of restored creek that will improve public access to the resource for recreational enjoyment and educational opportunities. The trails also will provide important links from the boardwalk at Methodist Hospital through the restoration in St. Louis Park to the Louisiana Avenue transit station.   
Students of El Colegio high schoolYouth Naturalist AwardThe students of El Colegio high school in Minneapolis, which was created in 2000 to boost Latino graduation rates, learned a great deal about the impact of stormwater runoff on water quality during the design and construction of an outdoor recreation space behind their school. To avoid contributing additional runoff to a storm sewer system that was already at capacity, the project used innovative techniques to keep all rainfall on site. The students, primarily from inner city neighborhoods, gained an appreciation for clean water and how capturing rain where it falls can protect important resources like Minnehaha Creek.  They created a video about the project and designed curriculum that will teach future students about water quality for years to come. 
Ken GothbergCitizen Engagement AwardKen Gothberg is the ultimate advocate for improving water quality. As a leader of the Citizens of Minnehaha Creek Corridor (CMCC), he has put in countless hours advocating for improving access to the creek and keeping it clean.  Gothberg has a long history of civic involvement, including service on the City of St. Louis Park's Planning and Charter Commissions.  Upon retirement from his career as a chemical engineer, he has dedicated his time to representing the CMCC on the MCWD's AIS Task Force, the Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters and assisting clean water activities at other organizations including the Freshwater Society and the Alliance for Sustainability.  Gothberg embodies the spirit of citizen engagement, which he works hard to pass onto others.
Elizabeth WeirOutstanding Contribution AwardElizabeth Weir has been dedicated to preserving and protecting the environment for over 30 years. As a founding member of the Mooney Lake Association, she has been a strong advocate for preventing stormwater runoff and AIS and protecting water through best management practices including raingardens, stormwater ponds and wetland preservation. In her role as Mayor of Medina and past leadership roles with the Medina City Planning Commission and City Council, Weir has been consistent in her concern about the impact of human activity on local water bodies. 

Lee Keeley

Lifetime Stewardship AwardLee Keeley is someone who doesn't just talk the talk -- she walks the walk for water quality. Lee, a former member of the MCWD Board of Managers, is one of the founding members of the Gleason Lake Improvement Association, which is now in its 31st year. It was the first lake association in the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and Keeley remains deeply involved in its activities to this day. As a result of her dedication, most of the Gleason Lake shoreline remains in its natural state and any boat that enters the lake is free of AIS.  She continues her fight to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species as a member of the District's Citizens Advisory Committee, the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations and the Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters. Keeley's passion and deep commitment to providing and protecting clean water are second to none.

2012 Watershed Heroes

Woodland Cove, LLC & The Bancorp Group, Inc.
Excellence in Development Award For their work in planning the Woodland Cove housing development on the shores of Lake Minnetonka's Halsted Bay in Minnetrista. Through a participatory planning process, they arrived at a design that significantly reduces runoff volume, sediment and phosphorus into the bay, which is impaired for nutrients. Their work demonstrates a significant commitment to reducing the project's impact on the natural resources.
City of ShorewoodInnovation in Government Award A long-standing leader in water quality issues, the City of Shorewood became the first city in the United States to pass an ordinance regulating the use of phosphorus fertilizer in 1999. More recently, it has taken an active role in preventing the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) by working with MCWD and the Christmas Lake Homeowners Association to increase protections at Christmas Lake. In 2012 it became the first city in the state to pass an ordinance requiring boaters to have an inspection before launching a boat on Christmas Lake.  Shorewood's proactive approach is a model for other communities to follow.
City of HopkinsOutstanding Partner AwardFor its dedication and partnership in working with the MCWD on plans to restore Minnehaha Creek at Blake Road. The effort will improve water quality, expand a park that was formerly a magnet for crime and help the City redevelop an industrial site. In addition to cleaning up the water, the project will provide public access to the creek, add green space to the neighborhood and boost the city's tax base with new development and enhanced property values.
Youth of Mooney Lake Storm Drain ProjectYouth Naturalist AwardAfter recruiting six of his classmates for a water cleanup project in June 2012 and inspired by a recent meeting of the Mooney Lake Association, Evan (a 4th-grader at Blake Elementary School) organized a storm drain stenciling and cleaning effort in his neighborhood. The boys swept up 100 pounds of debris from 17 storm drains that empty directly into Mooney Lake, which is impaired due to excess nutrients. They also glued permanent stickers to the storm drains that say "No Dumping, Drains to Lake."
Lake Minnetonka Association Bay CaptainsCitizen Engagement AwardFor putting in countless hours advocating for their bay. The 15 Bay Captains that represent Carman, Gideon, Grays, Phelps and St. Albans Bays have shown tremendous commitment to enhancing the quality of life for residents and users of the resource. They developed and implemented a milfoil management financing program that raised nearly 60% of the $1 million in project funding. They've also educated residents about the benefits of native plants and created a website for native plant identification.
Dr. Peter SorensenOutstanding Contribution AwardThis renowned carp researcher at the University of Minnesota has spent years studying the behavior of common carp, an invasive species that has disrupted the ecosystem of lakes across the country. In 2012, he was instrumental in securing state funding for a new AIS Institute at the U of M. The Institute's initial work will focus on increasing our understanding of zebra mussels, Asian and common carp and Eurasian watermilfoil.

Herbert J. Suerth, Jr.

Lifetime Stewardship AwardHerbert J. Suerth, Jr. is a longtime advocate for water quality issues and a passionate fighter against AIS. He represented the City of Woodland on the board of the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District for 17 years before retiring in December of 2011. He also served as chair of the LMCD's AIS Task Force.

2011 Watershed Heroes

Solution Blue, Inc.Excellence in Development AwardThis St. Paul-based development firm specializes in sustainable design.  It routinely goes above and beyond stormwater  requirements on projects including its work with the MCWD at St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church and Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and at the Eldridge Subdivision in St. Louis Park.
Minnesota Department of Veterans AffairsInnovation in Government AwardThe MDVA partnered with the MCWD on the installation of underground stormwater chambers and a  paver driveway and parking lot at the Minneapolis Veterans Home to help reduce stormwater runoff that was damaging Minnehaha Falls and the surrounding glen.  The MDVA was collaborative, solution-oriented and helped cover unanticipated costs to help get the job done.
Minnesota WatersOutstanding Partner AwardThis non-profit organization has been an invaluable partner in helping form and organize lake associations, which is the foundation of the District's education and outreach work.  It's also taking a leading statewide role in confronting aquatic  (AIS).
Youth of Pierson Lake Association (APPLE)Youth Naturalist AwardThese young people caught and removed about 35,000 pounds of carp from Pierson Lake, where the District installed barriers as part of a carp management program this summer.
Lake Action AllianceCitizen Engagement AwardThis coalition of three lake associations (Christmas Lake Homeowners Association, the Lake Minnewashta Preservation Association and the Lotus Lake Association) has been a powerful force in the effort to protect its lakes and others against zebra mussels and other AIS.
Bob and Jan HalversonOutstanding Contribution AwardThe Halversons sold their 112-acre farm in Minnetrista to the MCWD this year for less than the appraised value as a gift to the community.  The District plans to conserve and restore most of the land to protect nearby Halsted Bay, which has a  grade that's among the lowest in the District.

2010 Watershed Heroes

Duke RealtyExcellence in DevelopmentFor their innovative runoff-reducing features on the West End development in St. Louis Park to substantially decrease pollutant laden runoff, to improve water quality downstream.
City of MinneapolisInnovation in GovernmentFor their sustainability initiative, linking health, economy and the environment and by targeting key areas and the interdepartmental teams' creative approaches to problem solving. They have demonstrated leadership through aggressive goals and actions.
Tina Plant of Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies and the
Go Blue! Team
Outstanding PartnerFor spearheading the Go Blue! Diamond Lake Community Makeover project, bringing together community, business, and government partners in an effort to improve water quality by providing grant funded clean water project opportunities.
Metro BloomsCitizen EngagementFor strengthening communities through education and technical assistance. They empower citizens to take action for clean water by building raingardens and other clean water landscape features.
Rule Making Task Force
Outstanding ContributionFor this citizen-based group spent considerable time and effort - exceeding the process outlined in the law to shape rule language that provides greater natural resource protection and streamlined regulatory administration in a cost-effective and reasonable way.
Ginny BlackLifetime StewardshipFor her 15 years of service on the Plymouth City Council, supporting sustainable practices at city hall and throughout the community. She promotes clean water, recycling, and green building through increasing community awareness and promoting real change. In addition to her professional career as organics recycling coordinator at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Ginny has served on the MCWD's Rule Making Task Force and is the council liaison to the Plymouth Environmental Quality Committee.

Past Watershed Heroes

This event was held on Friday, October 23, 2009 at the Bayview Events Center in Excelsior.

Stonehenge USAExcellence in Development AwardFor their contribution in responsibly managing rain water run-off to protect downstream water resources.
City of MoundInnovation in Government AwardFor their progressive efforts when redeveloping their downtown to reduce nutrient loading to local lakes. 
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing CompanyOutstanding Partner AwardFor their partnership with MCWD in their "Join Us Out Here" campaign for the 3rd annual Minnehaha Creek clean-up event on July 12, 2009.
The Keep It Clean Kids
Youth Naturalist AwardFor their clean up efforts and education of water issues in Plymouth including a film.
Mike Shouldice,
Victoria, MN
Citizen Engagement AwardFor his efforts in natural resource preservation in and around the City of Victoria. He spearheaded the formation of the Schutz Lake Association, organized a lake clean-up with area citizens, and collected volunteers to plant trees as well as helping engage local citizens in lake protection and improvement activities.
Mary Nolte,
Fulton Neighborhood Association
Outstanding ContributionFor her efforts to promote and support improved rain water management by households in the Fulton Neighborhood. She is the chair of the FNA Environment Committee which sponsored 23 rain gardens in the rainwater management program from 2003 to 2007.
Gabriel Jabbour,
Orono, MN
Lifetime StewardshipFor his work as a community leader and advocate for Lake Minnetonka as a public resource for all generations to freely enjoy.  He coordinated and was involved in several multi-agency partnerships for the creation of public access points to the Lake, public ownership of Big Island, and creation of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail.

September 26, 2008

The Award Ceremony was held at Bayview Events Center on Lake Minnetonka on September 26, 2008.

Methodist HospitalExcellence in DevelopmentFor their use of innovative stormwater management in the re-development of their campus, for their partnership in restoring ecological integrity to Minnehaha Creek, and for increasing access to the creek and associated wetlands.
City of MinnetonkaInnovation in GovernmentFor their land conservation program, and for their commitment to environmental restoration and protection in their development and redevelopment efforts.
Bachman'sOutstanding PartnerFor featuring displays and demonstrations sites that highlight attractive and innovative stormwater management techniques that homeowners can install.
Dave Oltmans & the Friends of Diamond LakeCitizen EngagementFor their efforts to engage citizens to protect and improve waters in Minneapolis, including Diamond Lake.
Sandy Colvin RoyOutstanding ContributionFor her leadership in the City of Minneapolis implement innovative projects that protect and improve the city's lakes and streams, her efforts with the National League of Cities to promote watershed management and for her own advocacy efforts to bring awareness and common-sense solutions to stormwater management issues.
Woody LoveLifetime StewardshipFor overall vision and leadership in protecting and managing water resources at the local government level, and for leadership with various organizations, including MCWD, Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts,and the City of Shorewood.

October 26, 2007

The Award Ceremony a "Blue Tie Gala" was held at the Lafayette Club on Lake Minnetonka on October 26, 2007.

Locust Hills Development, LLCExcellence in DevelopmentFor their use of conservation design and innovative stormwater management, and for their proactive efforts to involve government agencies in the design process.
City of OronoInnovation in GovernmentFor their implementation of the District's first wetland protection ordinance in the 1980's, and their initiative and hard work to form a partnership to acquire the Big Island property.
Minnesota Landscape ArboretumOutstanding PartnerFor partnerships with the MCWD in watershed management and water quality education, including the Spring Peeper Meadow wetland restoration, the Watershed Demonstration Parking Lot, and the Low Impact Development Conference held in 2006.
Gleason Lake Environmental AmbassadorsYouth NaturalistFor their efforts to educate others about environmental issues through their restaurant table tent program and outreach work at community events.
Nokomis East Neighborhood AssociationCitizen EngagementFor their initiative in starting the Blue Water Partnership and for restoring the shoreline of Lake Nokomis and an adjacent prairie.
Raymond HaikOutstanding ContributionFor his role in the initial development of watershed law, which led to the founding of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District forty years ago, and for his early commitment, guidance and counseling of the District through many initial projects.
Richard G. Gray, Sr., P Sc and Richard P. Caldecott, Ph.D.Lifetime StewardshipFor co-founding the Gray Freshwater Biological Institute (GFBI) and their pioneering water quality research.

October 28, 2004

# 6 of the Church of the Good Shepard
# 110 of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church
# 196 of Diamond Lake Lutheran Church
For removing more than 1,100 pounds of waste and debris from a stretch of Minnehaha Creek.

December 19, 2002

Representative Wes Skolglund
Representative Dennis Ozment
Senator Julie Sabo
For helping to protect the water resources of Camp Coldwater Springs through their legislative efforts and leadership on the springs issues.
Victor Gilbertson, local painter and retired architectFor immortalizing the bridges and the natural environment along Minnehaha Creek in book of collected watercolor paintings, Watercolors of Bridges over Minnehaha Creek.

April 26, 2001

Nina Cole, Valley View Middle School
Elizabeth Crist, Valley View Middle School
For their vigilance in discovering a puddle of mercury adjacent to Minnehaha Creek and contacting the Pollution Control agency for emergency containment and removal.