Woodbury resident Stephanie Wang grew up in Southern California, where “drought was a way of life,” she recalls. As a girl, Wang watched her mother landscape their yard with drought-tolerant plants. Wang, a retired chemical engineer who has lived in Woodbury since the early '90s, has revived her interest in water conservation by participating in the Freshwater Society's Master Water Stewards program, and a number of beneficial projects.
A statewide nonprofit based in St. Paul, Freshwater Society developed the Master Water Stewards program in 2013 to equip citizens with the knowledge and skills needed to help improve water quality at the grassroots level, according to program manager Deirdre Coleman. Stewards are certified by participating in a training curriculum led by experts in the fields of hydrology, storm water management, water policy, community-based social marketing, landscape assessment and installation of clean water practices. They must complete a capstone project that captures rainfall and allows more water to soak into the ground, and lead a community outreach event. Stewards then become a point of knowledge and influence in their communities.
Since the Society developed the Master Water Stewards program in 2013, 340 trained stewards have been certified and are volunteering their time for watershed districts, cities and environmental groups; participating on city and local government boards; influencing policy; and improving the health of our waters.
As part of her work, Wang also contacted her local watershed district (the Ramsey-Washington Metro District) and obtained cost-sharing funds to install a rain garden in her yard, using native plants. After she installed her rain garden, Wang got more involved with the watershed district. She says, “They are very innovative and do some interesting things. One of the cool things about working with the Master Water Stewards program is that you receive some free education about freshwater issues and find links to projects you can work on.”
Wang and some of her Woodbury neighbors have “adopted” the Tamarack Nature Preserve, a rare wetland in the metro area because it is the southernmost stand of tamarack trees in Minnesota. In recent years, they’ve brought local Scout troops to clear burdock, held an informational tour and enlisted Woodbury high school ROTC participants, and a girls soccer team, to remove more than 200 pounds of trash from the area.
Wang is also “working on some stuff upstream,” engaging the community in rain garden cleanup at Trinity Presbyterian Church; its storm water flows into the Tamarack Preserve.
“The wonderful part about this program is that people come from all walks of life, all drawn to it for different reasons,” Wang says. “The primary reason is to do something for freshwater. In the land of 10,000 lakes, that might seem like a funny thing to be concerned about. But it's an opportunity to leave Minnesota a bit better off for future generations and work with some pretty amazing people.”
To learn more about the Master Water Stewards program, visit freshwater.org.