Tag Archives: Kevin Reich

Native prairie plantings thrive in Northeast Minneapolis

Decades ago Lady Bird Johnson transformed the highways of the nation with her intrepid support of wildflowers, the perky blooms that continue to beautify the terrain and eliminate costly grooming of the land.  The spirit of Lady Bird lives on in Northeast Minneapolis.

Wednesday, June 26, marked a major event in development of the Blooming Prairie on Central, installation of a prairie landscaping project on the Central Avenue medium.  City Council member Kevin Reich who has spearheaded the project was on hand, along with representatives of the partners including the City, Parks and Rec, neighborhood greenthumbers, the Green Council at Edison High School and Prairie Restoration, Inc., source of the prairie plantings.    Though this busy stretch of Minnesota Highway 65 may be an unexpected site for prairie plantings, the collaboration and the possibilities hold great promise for the community.

The original planted islands were installed in 2004 as part of the Central Avenue reconstruction project.  These first plantings weren’t prepared to stand up to the harsh environment of the street and failed to prosper.  Funds were allocated in 2011 to replace the plantings with a more durable landscape design.

During the fall of 2011 a steering committee from surrounding neighborhoods met to weigh options and select a prairie style landscape for the replacement.  Prairie Restoration began installing the new landscaping in the arid summer of 2012.

Rob Brown of Prairie Restorations is quick to remind the novice that prairie-style plantings need to be established in stages for an optimal final result.   Still, the result is a sturdy landscape that requires minimal care and tending on an ongoing basis.  The 15,000 native plantings of Indian Grass, Golden Alexander and Yellow Coneflower being planted this summer are hyper local plants grown within 200 miles of their new home, becoming what Brown refers to enthusiastically as “remnant prairie.”  Preservation of the urban prairie will involve some controlled burning during the months to come.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has also planted trees along stretches of Central as part of the overall landscaping upgrade.

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Pillsbury School Readers “Targetted”

Later this week several hundred members of the American Association of School Librarians will be gathering for their annual conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  The program covers the rapidly expanding outpouring of books that depict and reflect the diversity in the schools, improving reading skills, all manner of technology, information literacy and the inexplicable joy of reading and learning.  I hope to spend some time learning myself.

Even more, I wish I could organize a contingent of these learning librarians to visit my nearest school library media center at Pillsbury School, 2250 Garfield Northeast in Windom Park.  Pillsbury is a K-5 school in which some 650 emerging scholars are just becoming acquainted with the richness of their school library media center, recently rehabbed and restocked through the generous financial contribution of Target Corporation, the redesign of a national partner organization, Heart of America,  and the contributed services of scores of Target employees.

In a 2010 talk to Grantmakers in Education Reba Dominski, Target’s Director of Community Relations Education Initiatives, describes her corporation’s broad commitment to reading and literacy, the commitment that led to the grant to Pillsbury.  School Principal Laura Cavender saw a need to revamp the twenty-plus year old library – and she saw the possibility of Pillsbury applying to Target Corporation for funding.

The result was a $200,000 grant that spiffed up the media center and added 21st Century technology including IPads and computers, new furniture and redesigned reading nooks, and a school-wide buzz about what was happening in the school media center.  Most important, the library collection was the focus of the make-over;  over 2000 new books reflect the time and the student population.

I was fortunate to be on hand September 28 for the Grand Reopening of the Library Media Center – and I was not alone!  Some 175 Target employees who had worked on the project were there to enjoy the fruits of their labors.  Mayor Rybak, Councilman Kevin Reich and Senator Amy Klobuchar stood out in the overwhelming mass of parents and siblings, Pillsbury students, neighbors, teachers and red-shirted Target workers.

One of the most touching aspects of that day was the fact that every child, Pillsbury student or sibling, received a generous stack of age appropriate books – and a canvas bag in which to tote their treasures.  Families in need were also invited to share a plentiful bounty of good food.  These same families will continue to receive food, including fresh produce, throughout the school year.

There were cheers and tears, beaming teachers, proud Target employees and above all young folks reading, showing off their new digs to their friends and families.  This was a day to remember – I replay the event and the idea every time I pass the school.

If the librarians visiting from around the nation – and the readers of this post – don’t have the chance to visit Pillsbury, this video snippet:  http://www.kare11.com/news/article/940125/26/Big-library-makeover-for-Minneapolis-school]

captured by television KARE 11 offers an honest and informative overview of the project, their spirit and energy of the students and volunteers,  and its long term impact on a much deserving school.

Sarah Muench, Pillsbury School librarian, also found time to snap some great photos of appreciative young learners exploring their new media center.