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The Unsung Heroes of 401 W. Wilkins Street: Scout Troop 162 Steps Up

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

On September 30, 2023, the rain garden at 401 W. Wilkins Street experienced a rebirth. This renewal was powered not by the residents along the street, but by an extraordinary group. The dedicated youth and advisors of Scout Troop 162, based out of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1600 W. Olive Street, united with a mission. Many years ago Troop 162 adopted not just one rain garden but three. They stepped up to maintain 3 communities of native plants in these gardens, learning their names and what the “little people in the food web” (think insects) benefitted by having these host plants thriving along busy Wilkins Street.

Over time an invasive weed, reed canary grass, as well as multiple volunteer saplings began to take over one of the scout’s gardens. A house fire at that property contributed to the decline of the garden based there. Brett Stolpestad, Senior Landscape Restoration Technician with Washington County Watershed Management District, recommended to Ruth Alliband that it might be better to start over with this particular garden. Brett recommended close mowing of the grass on that property followed by covering the entire surface with a tarp for an entire year, depriving everything beneath the tarp of sunlight and rainwater.

A curious neighbor who lives 3 blocks north of Wilkins, Bob Anderson, was co-opted to bring his lawn mower down and shave the grass and rain garden plants at 401 W. Willard to the ground. Following this, Ruth and her assistant Derek Jemelka, blanketed the garden with a tarp in July of 2022. Fifteen months later members of Scout Troop 162 pulled back the tarp, planned, and then installed the new plantings, consisting of 6 species of plants provided by the Washington County Watershed Management District. Parents, advisors, and Ms. Alliband stayed in the background while the scouts took center stage in each phase of the installation. Their finished garden is superior to the previous installation, according to Ms. Alliband. Ruth says she feels that when Troop 162 returns to Wilkins Street for future planned maintenance events they will have a special pride in this garden, which they created.

The Heart of the Garden: Ruth Alliband

Ruth Alliband is the Rain Garden Maintenance Coordinator for the 86 oldest rain gardens installed in Stillwater on public property. Ruth works alongside rain garden volunteers and homeowners, providing assistance with weeding, mulching, and plant identification. Ruth believes her role as a local expert on rain gardens, backed by a team of Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, and proficient garden enthusiasts, strengthens the bond between homeowners and garden caretakers. Through their routine assessments of each rain garden under Ruth’s supervision, they not only offer praise and encouragement but also provide valuable feedback for enhancements.

Ruth says the garden owners and adopters in this cluster of rain gardens are extremely grateful to Washington County Watershed Management District for the supplies of shredded bark mulch they received upon request this year and for WCWMD’s scheduled removal of the chemical-laden grit that gardeners excavate from the street drains that enter the rain gardens and then store until it can be taken to the hazardous waste depot. WCWMD’s maintenance crew, which covers the entire county, comes by at certain times to remove large unwanted volunteer saplings in the rain gardens. The volunteer saplings compete with the gardens’ installed plants and degrade the appearance of the rain gardens. It is inevitable that some tree seeds will filter in and sprout unnoticed. This maintenance is a valuable service.

Lend A Hand: Volunteer for Rain Garden Maintenance

Maintaining the rain gardens scattered across Stillwater isn't just a one-person job. It’s a collective effort that requires the commitment of the entire community. If you're someone with a passion for nature, an appreciation for community spirit, or just looking for a way to give back, here’s a golden opportunity. Every effort counts. Below is the current list of Stillwater rain gardens awaiting your love and care.

  • 4th and Willard, NE corner. Locust Street comes through at an angle, so the garden is known as the Locust Triangle

  • 426 S. Owens

  • 504 S. Owens was an adopted garden in the past. There is a new owner who may need mentoring

  • 1112 N. Williams

Interested? Don't wait any longer. Get in touch with Ruth Alliband and be a part of this incredible journey to keep Stillwater beautiful and sustainable.

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