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Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom gets $218,000 for cleanup, education

A project to restore the native prairie of the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom, which is an 18-acre forest and land area within the century-old Como Park in St. Paul, starts this week with a $218,000 grant from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.  

Conservation Corps Minnesota volunteers are being trained to use tools for removing nonnative and invasive species. The effort will span several months.  

Brad Meyer, a spokesperson for St. Paul, explains, "If you go back 100 years you wouldn't see a lot of development that's happened in Como Park," he says. "You'd see a lot of prairie grass, open space and native plants."    

The grant will also help extend educational opportunities within the open-air classroom.

He says the woodland classroom has a curriculum related to the plants, birds and trails. People can actually reserve the open-air "classroom" to do bird surveys or learn about invasive species, for instance. "It's more than just going into the woods and teaching a class."

Como Park Senior High School is one of the primary users of the program that started in 2006. The high school had wanted to teach environmental education within a natural setting.  

The project is a collaboration of community volunteers, local schools, and City of St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation, according to project information posted online. They formed a committee that got to work on developing a vision and mission, along with a master plan for the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom.

"It's a great thing, with such a sense of ownership for residents in the park," Meyer says, adding that the group has done much of the legwork to make the plan a reality. The grant will go "to make the park what it could be," or "one big stop for outdoor environmental education in St. Paul."    

Source: Brad Meyer, spokesperson for city of St. Paul  
Writer: Anna Pratt
 

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