Heard the buzz about landscaping for clean water?

Landscape Ecology Awards Program (LEAP) winners recognized

The clubhouse at Keller Golf Course was a hive of activity the evening of November 8 as Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District board members, staff, partners and volunteers gathered for our annual recognition dinner. Included in this celebration were people who have made landscaping decisions that directly benefit wildlife and water resources – winners of the Landscape Ecology Awards Program (LEAP).
LEAP celebrates owners of private residences as well as public and commercial properties who use good management practices to benefit water quality and natural resources. The District’s citizen-volunteer LEAP Team manages this program and conducts all judging. We awarded our first group of stewards in 2002. Since then, 98 sites have been celebrated by the program including 70 private residences, five schools, seven businesses, five churches and 11 public properties.
When the LEAP team visited this year’s award-winning sites in August, they all had one thing in common – an abundance of pollinators. There has been a good deal of discussion about the challenges faced by like birds, bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators that help keep our landscapes lush and blooming. Among these problems is a lack of plants providing nectar and pollen. It turns out that many of the land care choices that protect clean water also provide habitat for hungry pollinators – a double win!
Five outstanding properties received the LEAP accolade this year. Our congratulations and thanks go out to the winners. Here’s a peek at what we found in these lovely landscapes!
Karen Eckman – Shoreview


Karen’s project was inspired by the need to address water problems at her home. After one storm, her son’s bedroom flooded with 6 inches of water on the floor. Karen began by installing her first rain garden about 10 years ago. Now most of the runoff from her yard (plus part of the neighbor’s) stays on her property and out of Lake Judy.

L-R: LEAP co-chair Dana Larsen-Ramsay, award recipient Karen Eckman and LEAP co-chair Mark Gernes. Photo by Anita Jader

With the success of the original project, Karen has expanded to include other native plantings. Her yard has an impressive diversity of over 90 species of wildflowers. 
She appreciates that they attract bees, butterflies and birds for lots of photo opportunities. We do, too!

Rob and Elizabeth Reinhart – Roseville

Rob and Elizabeth’s long shoreline on Lake Owasso was eroding and as Rob reports, “not super pretty.” He and Elizabeth wanted something nicer. Although Rob was a bit of a skeptic about native shoreland restoration, the Reinharts decided to try this technique to improve their shore. Working with a contractor, they placed blue flag iris, cardinal flower, joe pyeweed, blazing star and other wildflowers in masses, to incorporate a bit of traditional garden structure into the planting.

LEAP winners Elizabeth and Rob Reinhart. Photo by Anita Jader.

Today, their 110-foot shoreline is stable and attractive, providing color and habitat throughout the season. Rob has been converted and is now an advocate for the multiple benefits shoreline restoration provides. And if you are ever in search of monarch butterflies in Roseville, look no further than the Reinhart’s shoreline.

Janet and Harvey Bartz – White Bear Lake



Janet is a former employee at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency with longstanding interest in environmental issues. She and Harvey knew they wanted to do a shoreline project from the time they first purchased their home on Heiner Pond in White Bear Lake.

L-R: LEAP co-chair Mark Gernes, award recipients Janet and Harvey Bartz, and LEAP co-chair Dana Larsen-Ramsay. Photo by Anita Jader.


With help from a contractor, they began restoration work in 2014. The original plan called for planting part of the shore into native buffer and leaving part as turf grass. After a season of what Janet characterized as “excessive goose visits” to their lawn, they decided to expand the buffer in 2015. Today they appreciate the geese at a comfortable distance, while welcoming visits from songbirds and swallowtail butterflies.


Teresa and Mike Radcliffe – North St. Paul


Mike and Teresa’s North St. Paul home has a yard with a significant slope. When they decided to take on the challenge of infiltrating rainwater on their property, a two-tiered rain garden design was suggested to work with this topography. The final design also included piping the downspouts underground directly to the upper basin.


L-R: LEAP co-chair Dana Larsen-Ramsay, award recipients Teresa and Mike Radcliffe, and LEAP co-chair Mark Gernes. Photo by Anita Jader.

The project is a great success; their lush rain garden now handles all stormwater from half of the roof and yard. In additional to helping to prevent water pollution, the rain garden provides wonderful opportunities for their five children (ages 9 months to 10 years) to learn about nature. This summer the family was able to observe the metamorphosis of monarch caterpillars into butterflies, hosted by the plants they provided! They are now interested in expanding the garden into the other side of the property, and pursuing a joint rain garden project with the next-door neighbors.

Mike and Michele Majeski – Maplewood

When the LEAP team pulled up to the Majeski’s Maplewood home, we let out a collective gasp of admiration. The dramatic slope covered with an abundance of native prairie plants is truly eye-catching. Upon closer inspection, the wooded backyard is equally impressive; a rolling expanse of native trees, shrubs and understory plants like sarsaparilla with an amazing absence of the usual invasive buckthorn and garlic mustard.

L-R: LEAP co-chair Mark Gernes, award recipients Michele and Mike Majeski, and LEAP co-chair Dana Larsen-Ramsay. Photo by Anita Jader.



Mike and Michele began their landscaping project by removing buckthorn from that backyard woodland – two truckloads! They then went to work on the front yard. Step one was removing and replacing the existing ornamental plants and shrubs with native varieties. They continued by removing sections of lawn in subsequent seasons and replacing it with prairie. The latest expansion of the prairie, this spring, was inspired when the family learned that their area is a hot-spot for the endangered rusty patched bumble bee. Although they did not spot any endangered bees in their yard this year, they did collect a whopping 67 Monarch eggs and raise them into butterflies.




In addition to their wonderful color and clean-water friendly nature, another thing these landscapes had in common was the presence of pollinators. Every site boasted an abundance of birds, bees and butterflies during our brief visit. If you are interested in providing a home for these vital wildlife, we can help! Check out our cost-share grant program at www.rwmwd.org/costshare.
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