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