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Rochester Master Naturalists to Restore City Park Environment

Quarry Hill Park and the adjacent Silver Creek form a critical and frequently visited urban green corridor in Rochester, Minnesota. Through a non-profit neighborhood resource center, this parcel of nature recently received a $111,900 grant from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) thanks to the skills and commitment of the Rochester chapter of Minnesota Master Naturalists.

When complete the Quarry Hill Park project will restore sections of stream banks within the city limits to form greenways extending from the rural areas of Olmsted County to the Zumbro River. This project will also enhance the prairies, savannas and woodlands of Quarry Hill; a large city park well known for its natural environments and busy educational nature center.

The Quarry Hill/Silver Creek restoration proposal was initiated and prepared by volunteer Master Naturalists to address ecological damage caused by common buckthorn, non-native honeysuckles and garlic mustard. The application for LCCMR funds was approved in September by the City of Rochester Park's Board as well as the fiscal agent RNeighbors. The funds will be used by the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to reduce invasive species such as buckthorn and Asian honeysuckle over the next three years.

Buckthorn, one of several non-native species infesting Quarry Hill Park, grows quickly and out-competes native flowers and tree seedlings. Left unchecked, it can create a dense monoculture in the landscape.

Rochester’s Master Naturalists connected with city and neighborhood associations to raise the $11,000 match required for a LCCMR grant of this size. They also garnered support from state, local sponsors, and community partners such as the Zumbro River Audubon Society, Silver Creek Housing, Olmsted County Youth Commission, Quarry Hill Nature Center, Nurse Practitioners, Friends of Indian Heights Neighborhood Association, Prairie Smoke of Minnesota, City of Rochester Parks and Recreation, DNR Scientific and Natural Areas, and a commitment of 475 hours of volunteer time by the Rochester Area Chapter of Master Naturalists led by Terri Dugan.

Master Naturalist volunteers work to remove invasive species.

Local Master Naturalists are excited about the ripple effects of a grant of this size to help restore the landscape and enhance wildlife (and human) habitat. Two years ago, a smaller LCCMR grant for a nearby city park restored several habitats so that visitors, after many years of absence, now enjoy the new appearances of a Red-headed woodpecker, frilly puccoon (a flowering native plant), and beautiful native orchids called Nodding ladies’ tresses. Nodding ladies’ tresses have not been seen before in Olmsted County. The Bell Museum is excited by this find and a specimen has been requested for the University of Minnesota Herbarium.

Environmental leadership, project planning and volunteer commitment is an extension of Rochester Master Naturalists’ passion to protect, teach about and conserve Minnesota’s extensive biodiversity.
Visit the University of Minnesota Extension Master Naturalist website to learn more about the program. For more information about this project, contact Dawn Littleton, Extension Invasive Plants Coordinator. 

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