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Why I (Still) Work at Environmental Initiative

December 13th, 2017

The growing divisions of our times cut both ways for the work of Environmental Initiative. While the demand for collaborative work is greater than ever before, at the same time it has never been more challenging to bring Minnesotans together across differences in politics, in perspective, and in interest. That makes for work that is especially rewarding but also deeply frustrating when those divisions block progress.

Early one morning this past summer, Bill Droessler and I sat outside across the street from our office for our usual weekly check-in on progress, partners, and potential problems. Bill is the longest tenured Environmental Initiative staff member, other than me, and he is the architect of our clean air work, including some of the projects that make me most proud to be associated with this organization, like Project Green Fleet and Project Stove Swap.

I usually start check-in meetings with staff by asking what we need to talk about, but that morning I instead asked Bill “why do you still work here after all of these years?” His answer was surprising to me, but it resonated deeply. I won’t try to capture Bill’s answer here, but I would encourage you to ask him that
question yourself.

Bill then asked the same question of me. Now, I have a standard answer to that question, which is heartfelt, but also well practiced. What I have said for years is that I feel gifted to have had the opportunity to work in an organization that so strongly shares my core values and where my particular talents are so aligned with what the community looks to the organization to provide. It’s a gift that I never take for granted.

But that morning, I said something else. I said that now is not a time to settle or to aim low. No matter how well we have done in the past, what important differences we have already made in the world, it cannot be enough in the face of growing divisions. Where I need to be now is an organization that is constantly stretching and reaching to make a bigger difference, even when it means taking greater personal and professional risk.

In its soul, that’s the kind of organization Environmental Initiative is– one that strives to transcend its own limitations and to take on new challenges that push us into uncharted territory, even when we must do so at the risk of failure. This is exactly what we are doing as we reorient ourselves toward equity and environmental justice, and in the action-oriented work of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition and Clean Air Minnesota, and in our work to build powerful partnerships between farmers, food companies, agricultural retailers and watershed organizations, in so many other projects at this time. At our best, Environmental Initiative is an organization that is driving to new horizons, doubling down and working ever harder for collaboration and common cause, and doing so despite society’s apparent movement in the opposite direction.

Rising to the Challenge

This is why I have stayed at Environmental Initiative all of these years, and why I stay now when the work is harder than ever before. I know that this is also why our members support us even when their own resources are stressed, and why our partners choose to work with us to make their difference in the world. Environmental Initiative’s success is always dependent on how seriously our members and partners engage, and how each of you leans into our work. We are all being challenged to step up our efforts for collaboration in these divided times, and there is no better place to do that work than with Environmental Initiative.

I hope you help us rise to the challenge of these times by contributing to our year-end fundraising campaign. We need your continued support so we can address the next set of environmental challenges we face and to ensure a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and an equitable society. Thanks to the generosity of our current and past Board of Directors, we have a $20,000 match to double your gift between now and December 31st.

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

25 Years of Impact

November 29th, 2017

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Environmental Initiative. For the past quarter-century, we’ve been as successful as we have because of you.

We’ve managed to do incredible things in 25 years, which were enabled by your support, input and encouragement:

  • In 1992, we hosted one of the first Policy Forums on landfills. Conversations from this event continued and led to the 1994 Closed Landfill Act. To date, we’ve hosted nearly 100 Policy Forums on a wide range of topics, including the annual legislative preview.
  • Our first stakeholder convening with the intent of finding policy solutions, the Impaired Waters Stakeholder Process, led to the Clean Water Legacy Act of 2006.
  • Through our 15-year strong partnership, Clean Air Minnesota, we’ve retrofitted over 4,200 diesel engines, changed out hundreds of woodburning stoves and helped dozens of small businesses reduce emissions in Minnesota. As a result, particulate matter pollution has been reduced by the equivalent of removing 1.3 million cars from the road each year.

Support the next 25 years of Powerful Partnerships

However, we realize the pressing issues facing our environment aren’t getting any easier as we move into the next 25 years. We need your continued support so we can address the next set of environmental challenges we face and to ensure a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and an equitable society.

Thanks to the generosity of our current and past Board of Directors, we have a $20,000 match to double your gift between now and December 31st.

Will you support the next 25 years? www.en-in.org/membership-giving

 

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

Andersen Corporation: Member of the Month

November 15th, 2017

Andersen Corporation, a longtime supporter and partner of Environmental Initiative, is our Member of the Month for November. This year, at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards, Andersen’s Eliza Clark was honored as an Emerging Leader— the very first recipient of the award. Clark is the Director of Sustainability and Environmental at Andersen Corporation, a founding member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, and the Vice Chair of Super Bowl LII’s Sustainability Committee. She’s a standout in corporate sustainability, and known for unifying others. You can learn more below about Andersen Corporation’s environmental leadership below.

 

1. What drew you to be a board member of Environmental Initiative?

Andersen Corporation has been one of Environmental Initiative’s longest and most enthusiastic supporters. We believe in the power of unconventional partnerships to solve tough problems, which is at the core of Environmental Initiative’s mission. I am proud and humbled to have the opportunity to serve on the board of an organization that is both convening and leading some of the most innovative and effective environmental programs in our region.

2. What makes Environmental Initiative such a hub for successful environmental collaborations?

I believe Environmental Initiative’s success is largely due to its outstanding staff who have consistently demonstrated not only technical acumen, but also authenticity, empathy, and inclusiveness over the organization’s 25-year history. Leaders across our region have come to trust Environmental Initiative to help bridge challenging barriers to build understanding, focus, and momentum.

3. How does Environmental Initiative support your goals and mission as Director of Sustainability at Andersen Corporation?

We have bold goals at Andersen to advance environmental responsibility outside our four walls. Environmental Initiative provides a key platform to work with other companies, NGOs, and public sector partners to assess and tackle systemic problems and opportunities.

4. Andersen Corporation has sponsored Environmental Initiative’s Business and the Environment Series for over a decade. Why?

The Business and the Environment Series (fondly known as “BES” to its regulars) has consistently delivered quality educational content and best practice sharing among environmental practitioners across Minnesota. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to foster, support and grow this network of collaborators who share the belief that our society benefits when we share knowledge and resources.

5. You were the 2017 recipient of Environmental Initiative’s Emerging Leader award. What did receiving the award mean to you?

This year’s Environmental Initiative Awards had a special dynamism tied to the organization’s 25th anniversary. It was amazing to feel the energy and shared resolve in the room that evening. As I stated in my remarks, I feel incredibly lucky to be working in the field of sustainability within the best environmental community anywhere– much of which is tied to Environmental Initiative’s leadership and history.

6. As we look to the future, what role do you see Environmental Initiative playing in advancing sustainability in our region?

With programs like the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, Environmental Initiative is on the cusp of an exciting new chapter in its history– one the is propelled by its extensive network and credibility as an effective convener. I am very excited for the work ahead of the organization and look forward to celebrating many measurable wins and partnerships over the next 25 years!


Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

Julie Blackburn– A Champion For Impact Through Partnership

November 7th, 2017

Julie Blackburn has been a longtime supporter and member of Environmental Initiative. In her prior role as Assistant Director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources, Julie was a key partner on the Land and Water Policy Project led by Environmental Initiative nearly ten years ago, which resulted in recommendations to streamline and better coordinate state and local resource planning efforts.

Now Julie leads the Minnesota regional office for RESPEC Consulting and Services and is a member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC). Made up of 12 individuals representing state legislators and public appointees, the LSOHC is responsible for making annual funding recommendations to the state legislature for projects funded by the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and provides approximately $80 million in annual funding for projects that restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife across Minnesota.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund Outcomes Project

In early 2017, the LSOHC contracted with Environmental Initiative to design and manage a process to define intended outcomes and impacts for the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The first phase of this endeavor concluded in July 2017 with a report that synthesizes outcome and indicator recommendations from stakeholders representing thought leaders and experts in conservation from various sectors and perspectives. The stakeholder work group for this process was tasked with developing recommended outcome metrics for the Outdoor Heritage Fund to demonstrate public benefit resulting from fund investments and provide accountability to the Legislature and to taxpayers for the use of public money invested via the fund.

Our short process resulted in recommended outcome statements related to fish habitat, wildlife/game habitat, outdoor recreation, and secondary benefits to people resulting from Outdoor Heritage Fund investments. Furthermore, the group identified specific indicators that could be used to measure progress toward these intended outcomes. Further work to explore potential data sources and measurement methods to evaluate the outcomes is anticipated in the near future. You can read more about the process and project results here »

Leadership & Shared Values

Throughout our organization, but especially in our policy work, our processes are highly focused on outcomes, accountability, and open exchange of ideas. In the Outdoor Heritage Fund project specifically, I got to see Julie also exhibit and apply these values. On topics like habitat conservation, where many people are extremely knowledgeable and passionate, it’s difficult to pull up out of the weeds of the technical details to focus on partnership and collaboration. But, Julie was an early advocate and important partner throughout this project and we are grateful for her leadership and willingness to advocate for transparency, accountability, and the ultimate impacts resulting from this important resource for Minnesota’s conservation legacy.

Ultimately, Julie’s dedication and willingness to put in the hard work and perseverance that partnership requires made the process successful. As an organization, we’re thankful to have people like Julie—who showcase a true, collaborative spirit and bring it to their work—in our corner and in our community.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th anniversary, members of our staff will take turns throughout the year highlighting the organization’s most influential and effective collaborators. We want to say thank you to the amazing people who help us achieve all we do. 

Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Program Director

Minnesota Power: A Champion of Regional Success

July 20th, 2017

As we head out into these bright summer mornings, many of our thoughts turn north—toward cabins, lakes, forests, fishing, boats and hammocks. Much of my work at Environmental Initiative takes place in northern Minnesota, so as my thoughts go north, I am also grateful for those who champion clean air in that part of the state, like Minnesota Power.

Minnesota Power is a founding member of Clean Air Minnesota and its support has been critical to not only our air work as a whole, but Project Stove Swap and Project Green Fleet  specifically.

A PARTNER FROM THE BEGINNING

"Schoo Bus"At the beginning of Project Green Fleet, Minnesota Power was one of our first partners to help us work with a private school bus fleet. Right after the project was announced, Mike Cashin and Margaret Hodnik, now retired, of Minnesota Power offered their offices and arranged meetings with bus companies. Again and again, Mike and his colleagues were willing and eager to put their influence to work in support of the project to reduce bus emissions.

That local connection was key. After a meeting with Voyageur Bus Co. arranged by Minnesota Power, we got to work retrofitting buses in the Duluth area that summer, starting with the Voyageur fleet– the first private fleet to work with us. It would not have happened had our friends at Minnesota Power not been willing to take a risk and stick their necks out on our behalf.

TODAY: PROMOTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA

Fast forward to today, and Minnesota Power’s steadfast, open-minded support continues. For years, partners in Clean Air Minnesota have known that wood stove swap-outs are a highly cost-effective means to reduce a variety of air pollutants. The only barrier has been a lack of funding to run a large-scale project in Minnesota. While these projects have taken place in many other states, they tend to be relatively short-term efforts that fade once the initial funds are expended.

Minnesota Power worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to improve the way wood stove change-out programs could work, mirroring a long-term, public-private model. Minnesota Power worked with us to suggest that these programs could have more impact if they were constructed to run a bit longer and focus more on community building, thus providing an opportunity to leverage additional public and private resources to do even more work.

With Minnesota Power’s help, we convinced the federal agencies to take a chance on our model, now a full-scale wood stove change-out effort called Project Stove Swap. I’ve been spending quite a bit of my time on this for the last year and a half and the results have been promising, from the well-covered launch to the preliminary results. In just four months of running at scale, the project has already reduced more than 10 tons of particulate matter annually, the equivalent of taking over 180,000 cars off of the road every year.

THANK YOU

We wouldn’t have seen any of these results without Mike Cashin, Josh Goutermont, Nancy Norr, Randi Nyholm and others at Minnesota Power who were willing to listen to our ideas and stick with us in talking to agencies. Undoubtedly, this made their lives more complicated. But the reward for their commitment and their company’s support is a project that will produce economic, health and environmental benefits for years to come.


A note from Environmental Initiative:

In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th anniversary, members of our staff will take turns throughout the year highlighting the organization’s most influential and effective collaborators. We want to say thank you to the amazing people who help us achieve all we do.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

Member of the Month: CenterPoint Energy

July 6th, 2017

CenterPoint Energy is honored to be the July featured member of the month. We value our membership with Environmental Initiative and the important message it promotes about collaborating to improve the environment. CenterPoint Energy is passionate about contributing to a cleaner environment. We work to increase energy efficiency to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs for our customers through our Conservation Improvement Program offerings. Our company has operated in Minnesota for more than 150 years, providing safe, reliable natural gas and related services. CenterPoint Energy currently serves over 840,000 customers in more than 300 communities.

CenterPoint Energy has been offering conservation programs for nearly 30 years. We work with residential, commercial, and industrial customers to help them upgrade equipment, improve building envelopes, pursue efficient building designs and change customer behavior to reduce natural gas usage.

CenterPoint Energy’s conservation program energy savings surpassed the company’s savings goal last year by nearly 30 percent. In 2016, 2,006,014 dekatherms (dth) of natural gas was saved, the equivalent of removing about 23,185 passenger vehicles from the road for one year. The company’s energy conservation efforts have been highly successful and continue to exceed our energy conservation goals. These efforts not only improve the environment, but also provide a valuable service to our customers, allowing them to reduce their energy bills.

The success of our conservation program is due largely to a number of strategic partnerships with other utilities, cities, business associations, and non-profit organizations. “More people working collaboratively towards a similar goal is a great way to maximize potential.” said CenterPoint Energy director of energy efficiency, Todd Berreman.

One example of collaboration that helps make our conservation program successful is the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP), a one-of-a-kind collaboration between CenterPoint Energy, the City of Minneapolis and Xcel Energy. This partnership between the City and its electric and natural gas utility providers was established to help Minneapolis reach its goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and increase participation and energy savings through utility conservation programs in the City. In 2016, the CEP was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the unique and cutting edge collaborative approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

CenterPoint Energy looks forward to many more years of membership with Environmental Initiative as we collaborate to achieve a cleaner environment.


Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Brad Tutunjian

POSTED BY:

Vice President of Gas Operations, CenterPoint Energy

Member of the Month: Wenck

June 5th, 2017

Wenck is excited and honored to be featured as Environmental Initiative’s member of the month for June, and it is our pleasure to congratulate Environmental Initiative on its 25th Anniversary. Having just celebrated 30 years in the business ourselves, we understand how meaningful a milestone like 25 years is.

Throughout the years, Wenck has and continues to make a significant investment sponsoring Environmental Initiative. Why? Because Environmental Initiative is about delivering positive outcomes through collaboration and partnership which directly resonates with our core values. Both Wenck and Environmental Initiative are outcome-oriented organizations which focus on providing solutions that benefit the environment, the organizations we serve, as well as the communities we serve in. This alignment of values and outcomes is significantly enhanced through the connectedness that Environmental Initiative fosters like no other.

Wenck is proud to be a sponsor of Environmental Initiative’s Policy Forum Series, the Business and Environment Series, as well as a founding member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition.  All three platforms are rooted within Environmental Initiative, and together, and separately, help to educate, ideate, connect, and deliver positive and sustaining benefits to the region.

Congratulations again on 25 amazing years. On behalf of all of us at Wenck, we look forward to another 25 years of partnership, collaboration, and delivery of exceptional outcomes.


Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Bill Brown

POSTED BY:

Vice President, Wenck

Sitting Down with an Emerging Leader: Eliza Clark

May 10th, 2017

In honor of our 25th anniversary, we’re taking the time to honor those who’ve been essential and influential in Minnesota’s environmental community. In addition to celebrating outstanding projects, we’re also recognizing the leaders that have helped us get to this point, and those that will continue to improve our community.

Eliza Clark is the Director of Sustainability and Environmental at Andersen Corporation and this year’s Emerging Leader Award recipient. In her role, she’s responsible for developing and advancing programs that measurably reduce environmental impacts across the company’s value chain.

Eliza Clark (pictured right) and Andersen sustainability team members

However, she also believes that there are some problems organizations can’t solve by themselves, which has led her to seek groundbreaking solutions. Known for reaching outside of her organization’s four walls, she has also served as a founding member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, acting Vice Chair of Super Bowl LII’s Sustainability Committee, an Environmental Initiative board member, and co-founder of the Sustainability Practitioner’s Roundtable. You can read more about her here »

As part of the festivities, I got to sit down with Eliza and talk about her career, her team, and her advice for those currently working on environmental issues.

SITTING DOWN WITH ELIZA CLARK

What excites you about the environmental community, sector, or movement in Minnesota?

One thing that I’m excited about right now is that we are starting to work across all sectors. We haven’t always had the best cross-sector, public-private dialogue or cross pollination, and I think that sometimes causes misunderstandings. Working with a diverse set of businesses, government entities, NGOs and academics really could be the “secret sauce” to solving our most complex problems.

In the private sector, though, organizations committed to sustainability have been meeting, sharing, and collaborating on work and best practices for many years. We have a really robust network of people that genuinely like each other and are willing to be very honest about challenges. I think it’s fun to see all of us come together and be more action-oriented, which really was the genesis of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition. We have a strong foundation of people helping each other and working together, and now poignantly understand that there are problems that we can’t solve as individual organizations. I think that nexus of energy and influence is really powerful.

I also think that there is actually a lot of optimism right now. It was a very difficult election season with a lot of negativity and divisiveness, but in the end, we all feel like there are some important economic factors that are driving things like better access to renewable energy or more energy-efficient technology for manufacturing. It feels like we’re on the cusp of being able to do some transformational things.

What does partnership or collaboration mean to you? Why is it necessary?

I think collaboration is really the reason I want to get up in the morning and do the work that I do! All day every day, I’m basically trying to convince people to change the way they do things, often making their lives harder. I think the primary reason that it’s fun—because it is fun—is that I get to build relationships and work through challenges collaboratively. I think a core part of the human experience is that nothing feels better than solving a tough problem or achieving some kind of landmark that you really had to struggle to get to. A lot of my work is like that. Once you get to the mountain with a group of people, it feels that much more rewarding. I’m really grateful for the work that I get to do within my company and outside of it.

Partnership and consensus isn’t always easy. What lessons have you learned so far?

What I’ve learned at this point in my career is that collaborative problem solving is not all about making everybody happy. Truly difficult environmental problems have tradeoffs, and so that depth and intersection is incredibly challenging to “solve.”

My style of partnering has really changed to not just go directly to a solution, which is tempting, and instead to spend more time on the front-end. I work with stakeholders to understand the history of the problem and why people want something to be a certain way, and then taking that heart and those passions to have an open and candid dialogue with all parties about what they might lose or gain by making big choices.

Notably, I’m not positioning that process as having one, perfect solution. How most of those problems are solved is through compromise and through an honest assessment of tradeoffs. We have to collaboratively agree on accepting or not accepting those conditions.

What successes are you most proud of in your career?

I was very proud to help my company declare its first set of public sustainability goals and to announce its signing of the Ceres Climate Declaration. I’m also very proud to have led Andersen to sign up to up to 19 megawatts of community solar subscriptions, which is a pretty significant amount of renewable energy. That feels very meaningful to me at a national level.

But honestly, for me, it’s the journey and not the various outcomes. I’m just proud of the work that my team and my peers do every day because most of it is not glamorous—it’s just chugging through it! Making sure things get done and then measuring what’s happening… it’s more just the fact that we remain committed to the mission and the environment, and that we want to keep going together.

What advice would you give your peers working in the environmental sector? What advice do you give to young women working on environmental issues?

Generally, I think we all need to do a better job of understanding social, financial, and human implications of potential projects and really how human behavior affects what we’re trying to achieve. We need to have that holistic understanding of the problem and then identify key working partners and other leaders that can help advance solutions.

Speaking about young women, sometimes we aren’t bold enough. I think sometimes we decide ahead of time what we can and cannot achieve. I recently spoke at the Women in Green Power Breakfast (a program by the U.S Green Building Council) and my primary message was to ‘fail forward.’ We have a lot of capacity within us, and if you know your stuff and the broader implications of what you’re advocating for, then don’t be afraid to be a champion regardless of our role in the hierarchy.

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

A walk down memory lane with Environmental Initiative

May 4th, 2017

We here at Environmental Initiative like to gather people—it’s what we do! And what better way to celebrate our 25th Anniversary then to host a series of gatherings bringing together some of our strongest advocates, past and present project partners, and maybe those just getting to know us?

We’re calling these get-togethers “Champions Gatherings,” and we’re having a series of them this year to hear from folks like you about our work, your work, and the environmental community.

The topics for these Champions Gatherings include:

  • The history of Environmental Initiative
  • A cross-generational conversation with Critical Collaborators and Emerging Leaders
  • Keeping Minnesota’s air clean: where we’ve been and where we’re going
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Environmental Initiative’s future work

We had our first gathering last Wednesday, bringing some of the Environmental Initiative founders back together to chat history and reconnect with one another.

The group shared why and how we were formed, which was very interesting because we learned not much has changed in 25 years. Well, we’ve changed, but maybe the art of collaboration hasn’t. Partnership and working together is hard, after all. Our community still butts heads all the time, so for us, we’re just as needed now as we were back then. Collaboration and bringing people together is why we were formed and what we still do today. We have not varied much from our founding values!

We also learned that our work is a slow process. Yes, we do get some immediate results, but the biggest impact we have had over the years is from people taking the ideas that we started in work groups or at events and continuing to expand them on their own. Some examples of this are having a sister organization in Wisconsin, other non-profits coming into existence because of our work, and cleaning up school buses and other diesel engines. The list goes on and on!

It was so great to hear about our founding and to see how proud our founders looked as they talked about the organization. I am so happy we could bring this group of people back together and I cannot wait to celebrate with them at the Environmental Initiative Awards celebration on May 25.

A big thank you to all the people that have made Environmental Initiative what it is today. We wouldn’t be here if it were not for all of you.

If you are interested in joining an upcoming gathering, shoot me a note at sseymour@en-in.org, and I would love to send you an invitation.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

Rice Creek Commons is Common Sense— Meet the Natural Resource Winners

April 25th, 2017

The Natural Resources category award is given to collaborative efforts that implement sustainable solutions to preserve, protect, or restore Minnesota’s land, water, biological diversity, and other natural resources.

In the land of 10,000 lakes, you can see why recognizing efforts to restore waterways and landscapes is so important.

Ramsey County, the City of Arden Hills, Wenck Associates, Inc. and many other partners are currently working to restore a piece of polluted land that has been around since World War II: The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.

AMMUNITION PLANT TO  VIBRANT COMMUNITY

 

 

Four years ago, Ramsey County purchased a contaminated parcel of land in Arden Hills with the goal of making it a community asset. The land once held the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, built to manufacture small arms ammunition during World War II, and had sat dormant for nearly four decades. Partnering with the City of Arden Hills, the county began redeveloping the brownfield into a livable space for homes and businesses.

Over a 32-month period, existing buildings were demolished, and the soil was remediated to residential standards. We removed hazardous waste and recycled or reused materials like concrete and asphalt. This past summer, the county collaborated with the Rice Creek Watershed District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to transform Rice Creek, which runs through the site, back to its original, meandering path and stabilize it with surrounding trees and plants.

With the site demolished and soil restored to residential standards, infrastructure construction is set to begin this year. Soon Rice Creek Commons (named after the site’s stream) will be a walkable, vibrant commercial and residential development, creating economic and social opportunity for Arden Hills and the region.

FROM THE PROJECT PARTNERS

“When the county purchased the land, it was the largest superfund site in Minnesota. The large cost and difficulty associated with cleaning up the site had discouraged previous developers for many years. Because the property presented unique challenges, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners recognized the land would probably stay polluted and empty for many more years unless they took action.

The project is also unique in that Ramsey County is a fully developed county. With few opportunities to grow and increase the area’s tax base, developments like Rice Creek Commons present an important opportunity for economic development.” – Heather Worthington, Deputy County Manager

“I’m proud that this project respects the history of the site and what was there before. Redeveloping the area is about honoring its past and making it a safe, economic engine once again.” – Heather Worthington, Deputy County Manager

Read the Pioneer Press piece: A cheer for Rice Creek Commons »

CELEBRATE THIS EFFORT

Join us on Thursday, May 25 to congratulate and celebrate these project partners, their positive environmental outcomes, and the lasting benefit of collaboration. To shake things up, we’re also honoring three individuals in honor of our 25th anniversary, so it’s sure to be a night of reflection and festivities for Minnesota’s environmental community. Purchase your tickets or tables here »

 


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th Anniversary, four organizational and two individual awards will be presented on May 25, 2017 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Get your tickets before they’re gone »

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

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