Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New places, new faces, and a river with a fan club

When we moved to the Saint Michael area, Paul Nordell at the Minnesota DNR introduced me to a couple of folks, via email, that he described as avid stewards of the north fork of the Crow River. One of those folks is a gentleman by the name of Curt Oien. In a short exchange of emails, Curt provided me with a bounty of information and history about the Crow. He reflected, with a well-deserved sense of pride, about the numerous clean-ups he has seen and participated in over the past six years. But he also cited a number of different organizations throughout the watershed that have made the Crow River the benefactor of their sweat and effort.

According to Curt, the Saint Michael Area River Team (SMART) has been an amazingly effective group. The team has arranged for specific sites on both sides of the river to stack garbage before it is hauled away… and they enjoy great co-operation from landowners along the Crow. They get help from the City of Saint Michael and the Three Rivers Park District... in hauling away the trash that is collected.

The river also benefits each year from help the National Honor Society and the Environmental Science Teachers at the STMA High School. The Boy Scouts and Cub scouts have been there from the beginning, in addition to many other members of the community. During the cleanup, some of the younger Cub Scouts even mark storm drains to remind people not to dump anything that doesn't belong there. (As I've written before, every storm drain and every roadside ditch is a tributary that eventually leads to a river.) The Thomas Family was involved with cleaning the river long before anyone else in the area was doing it. The past few years, their neighbors have followed their fine example.

But it doesn't stop there. Upstream, the Hanover Area River Team has been staging clean-ups for seven or eight years. And last but not least, Curt mentioned the tremendous effort of Diane Sander, the coordinator for the Crow River Watershed District ( (Diane was the other advocate I was told about by Paul Nordell at the DNR.)

Wow, the Crow River is obviously treasured by her neighbors. And Mr. Oien must certainly be among its’ most passionate stewards.

Curt and I have not yet met in-person, but we have arranged to take a river run this Saturday. We’ll repeat the brief voyage I took last weekend. I told him of the well liner and canoe remains that I’d like to retrieve (see the story below), and between his canoe and my kayak, he thinks we can grab them both. I’m confident we’ll either succeed, or figure out a plan that will.

© 2009 Mike Anderson, Saint Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

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