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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.




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.


“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 »


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


Communications Director

Emission Reduction Successes and New Study Build Support for Ongoing Efforts to Improve Minnesota’s Air Quality

July 16th, 2015

As we complete preparations for the next phase of Clean Air Minnesota – the state’s ongoing public and private partnership on air quality, this is a good time to take stock of our recent accomplishments. At the June Clean Air Minnesota meeting, each of the project teams presented their activities and associated emissions reductions, education gains, and plans for the future.

Air Alert Education and Outreach Team

  • Launched BeAirAware website which is a resource for residents, communities, and businesses concerned about how air quality affects health.
  • Increased the number of people and organizations receiving air pollution health alerts on poor air quality days.

Gas Can Exchange Team

  • Exchanged 1,500 spill-proof gas cans in Washington and Ramsey Counties.
  • Established a successful model exchange and education program, bringing in hundreds of first-time visitors, which increases public awareness of air quality and health.

Mobile Source Team

  • Completed all eligible school bus retrofits and supported another 21 heavy-duty diesel engine improvement projects.
  • Updating plans for additional diesel fleet recruitment and collecting and analyzing fleet survey information for future emission reduction projects.

Community Forestry Team

  • Hennepin County installed a gravel-bed nursery to provide replacement trees for ones soon to be destroyed by emerald ash borer; a cost effective way for the county to replace trees on county property.
  • Successful LCCMR grant proposal to build volunteer base and maintain trees.
  • Completed health impact assessment related to community forestry issues and legislative funding proposals were introduced; all of which helps promote the many values of large-scale community forestry efforts.

Wood Smoke Team

  • Education activities to raise awareness on the health effects of woodsmoke and smarter ways to burn wood through the Minnesota State Fair Eco-Experience and American Lung Association in Minnesota’s recent public outreach efforts.
  • A Minnesota Power supported wood stove change-out project for Northeast Minnesota is in final preparation stages.

Area Source Team

  • The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and City of Minneapolis programs achieved multiple tons of emission reductions and both programs are hoping to expand in 2016. Read more »
  • Outreach, education, and funding efforts continued through Environmental Initiative and the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program.


Bill Droessler


Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Ramsey/Washington Gas Can Exchange

April 15th, 2015

Starting April 21, residents of Ramsey and Washington counties will be able to exchange their old portable gas can for a new, safer one. This limited-time program is free and part of a larger initiative to keep Minnesota’s air clean. It’s sponsored by the Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project in partnership with Clean Air Minnesota.no spill gas can

Conventional gas cans, like those used to fuel your lawn mower or boat, release vapors that pollute our air. Air pollution harms everyone, especially children and people with respiratory issues. Spills are common with conventional gas cans, allowing gasoline to contaminate our water. Newer gas cans, on the other hand, are designed to automatically seal after use and remain tightly closed. This simple design change can reduce pollution by up to 75 percent!

The counties’ free gas can exchange will take place at the following locations, while supplies last. You must bring in an old gas can in order to receive a new one. Limit one can per household.

Ramsey County Year-Round Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site
5 Empire Drive
Saint Paul, MN 55103
Tuesday – Friday 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Washington County Environmental Center
4039 Cottage Grove Drive
Woodbury, MN 55129
Tuesday 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

In addition to the gas can exchange, you can recycle gasoline, motor oil and filters, antifreeze, paint, aerosol cans and other types of household hazardous waste for free at these locations.

To learn more, contact Ramsey County at 651-633-EASY (3279) or Washington County at 651-430-6655.

Kaia Johnson


Health Educator, Saint Paul – Ramsey County Public Health

Building Partnerships, Building Success: Project for Pride in Living’s Hamline Station

April 2nd, 2013

Artist’s rendering of PPL’s Mixed-Use DevelopmentFor most brownfield projects, the act of building begins long before any foundations are laid or soils are prepared. A successful brownfield project begins with building relationships and partnerships.

Such was the case for a project my team at American Engineering Testing and I recently worked on: Project for Pride in Living’s (PPL’s) workforce housing development at the Hamline Station site in Saint Paul, which is located along University Avenue from Hamline Avenue to Syndicate Street.  PPL works with lower-income individuals and families to achieve greater self-sufficiency through housing, employment training, support services, and education. We worked with PPL and the developer, Excelsior Bay Partners, to help obtain funding for the project.

As a consulting firm, we often help clients prepare grant applications and develop funding strategies for brownfield sites. While preparing a compelling grant application is critical, over the years I’ve seen it time and time again: developing relationships—partnering with municipalities, funding agencies, and project stakeholders—is what helps projects obtain the funding they need. This project happens to be a prime example of how partnerships can lead to project success.

Gail Cederberg


Principal, Environmental Services - American Engineering Testing
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