There were a few moments at Tuesday night’s meeting aboard the Grand Duchess out of Hudson when it was brightly illustrated just how valuable it is to bring together leaders from the communities connected together by the St. Croix River.
What stood out the most were the times that people realized they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, but connected with people facing similar challenges and with fresh ideas.
A few highlights:
- A Scandia city council member asking Afton’s mayor how their city has defined rural character, sparking a discussion about how “rural” means many different things for many different people (but for most, means septic systems and wells and clean water).
- Later, St. Croix County land use specialists sharing their experiences educating people new to rural living about septic systems and wells.
- St. Croix County representatives, getting ready for rapid growth after the new Stillwater bridge is completed, hearing about successes and challenges that Woodbury faced as its population tripled in two decades.
- A watershed district administrator pointing out that Minnesota’s new development standards to protect water are based on four years of input from builders, cities, scientists and conservationists — resulting in good data and workable techniques — and they would be just as effective in reducing harmful runoff in Wisconsin.
- Woodbury’s environmental planner discussing reporting back to his city council how the river is part of what makes their town a great place to live, that its stormwater runoff has an impact on the river, and that they need to do their part to reduce phosphorus by 27 percent.
While the annual workshop is about growing communities and keeping the St. Croix clean, at several points, it was obvious the discussions were as much about preserving ways of life. Afton mayor Richard Bend, whose family has roots in the area since the 1800s, remembered as a boy catching “tiny gar” and countless dime-sized softshell turtles in the river. Today, the turtles are gone, Bend said – it’s up to the kinds of people on the boat Tuesday to make careful decisions and ensure the river remains as clean and healthy as it is.
Of course, it was a gorgeous night on the river. The water is finally down and it seems like a recent long stretch of sunny, dry days has been awarded to us to finally enjoy the St. Croix in all its glory. Boats of many shapes and sizes cruised up and down the river all evening, with lots of people fishing, swimming and smiling.