Today’s guest blog is provided by Angie Hong, one of our Blue Thumb colleagues. You can read her bio at the end of this post.
“National Geographic just called,” read the email subject line from Rice Creek Watershed District educator Dawn Pape, “and I’m so excited I could Scream!” Reading her email, I began my own little chair boogie and immediately interrupted the two colleagues I was meeting with to share the news. It’s not every day that we Minnesotans brush with fame and when Pape first picked up the phone, she was understandably skeptical. “I almost hung up on him, thinking he was a telemarketer!” she exclaimed, “Then when he said why he was calling, I was like ‘Wait! Tell me more.’” As she soon learned, National Geographic’s Blue Legacy team was planning their Expedition Blue Planet 2010 and they had selected Minnesota as the first step on their itinerary.
Expedition Blue Planet is an innovative 138-day, 14,500-mile exploration of water issues across the U.S. and Canada, led by Alexandra Cousteau, the granddaughter of legendary French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Combining live production of stories in the field with social media engagement, a coordinated local and national press tour, curriculum-aligned classroom materials, and a significant catalog of online information, the 2010 Expedition hopes to engage a mainstream audience in a meaningful discussion on critical water issues. The expedition is also connecting with local community events along the tour route and helping to organize celebrity performances, fundraisers for local watershed projects and opportunities for families to get involved in restoring and protecting watersheds.
With their giant biodiesel tour bus pointed north to Minnesota, the Blue Planet folks began calling around to learn what new and innovative efforts might be underway to protect watersheds in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Time and again the expedition team was referred to Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water, a regional partnership started by Rice Creek Watershed District that promotes the use of native plants, raingardens, and shoreline plantings to prevent stormwater runoff from polluting lakes, rivers and streams. There are nearly 60 Blue Thumb partner organizations in and around Minnesota, including local governmental units, non-profit and community organizations, and nursery and landscape professionals, and in just three years, the partnership has launched thousands of individual and community projects.
Blue Thumb partners leapt at the opportunity to join Expedition Blue Planet, and three weeks later, the big blue bus arrived at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, just in time for the 4th of July festivities. This “blue team” worked together to distribute 3000 native plants to event attendees, coordinate fun and educational children’s activities and talk to area residents about preventing stormwater pollution with water-friendly landscaping. They also showcased the efforts of one Blue Thumb partner, Metro Blooms, a non-profit organization working with community members to install 100 – 150 raingardens as part of an effort to improve water quality in Powderhorn Lake (http://metroblooms.org/neighborhood-of-gardens.php).
The next day, while the scent of fireworks still hung in the air, the Blue Planet Expedition team started up their bus with a hum and headed west to Colorado, the next stop on their tour. Although, our brush with fame was fleeting, this National Geographic moment has energized local Blue Thumb partners and we feel honored to be a part of such a big time event. If you are interested in following the expedition team as they continue on their journey, go to www.nationalgeographic.com/water. An image gallery and video blog will feature footage from their stop in Minnesota and there is also a Twitter feed to keep followers up to date. To find a Blue Thumb partner near you, visit www.BlueThumb.org.
Angie Hong is an educator for the East Metro Water Resource Education Program, which includes Brown’s Creek, Carnelian Marine – St. Croix, Comfort Lake – Forest Lake, Middle St. Croix, Ramsey Washington-Metro, Rice Creek, South Washington and Valley Branch Watersheds, Cottage Grove, Dellwood, Forest Lake, Lake Elmo, Stillwater, West Lakeland and Willernie, Washington County and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-275-1136 x.35 or email@example.com.
Hedberg is proud to be a Blue Thumb Partner, providing native plants at Hedberg Nursery in Stillwater and other raingarden materials, such as mulch, rock, edging and drainage products at Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies locations throughout the metro. Hedberg supports sustainable landscaping and planting for clean water.