MN Nature Connects Youth and Community with Green Space in St Paul

Press release: Danielle Przetycki (MPCA)

This summer, MN Nature partnered with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to bring 14 youth from Minneapolis Public Schools to learn about the 35e bike trail improvements in the Little Bohemia Neighborhood of St Paul.

The students are part of Fast Track Scholars, a 6-week summer school program which intends to ease the transition for students entering high school. The course provides classroom science instruction, two weeks of science immersion at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, and paid internship experience in the environmental field.  The Internship experiences are supported through the Minneapolis youth job program, STEP-UP, and include opportunities at the MPCA, Wilderness Inquiry and Conservation Corps.

The 35e bike trail improvements align with the MPCA’s mission to improve air quality, manage storm water, and support the use of alternative transportation. It was a natural fit for the MPCA to expose students to their collaborative work with local community groups like ours.

MN Nature is an organization that strives to connect people with nature. We did just that when we linked the Little Bohemia neighborhood to the MnDOT Community Roadside Landscape Partnership program and transformed a piece of neglected land into a safe community space and bike trail. The project brought the community together with Saint Paul Public Works, Saint Paul Forestry, MPCA, MnDOT, Minnesota Tree Care Advocates, Minnesota Naturalists, local bike groups and many more organizations, businesses, and neighbors. It was the perfect environmental project that the students could learn from and experience firsthand.

The bike trail and adjoining green spaces will offer ongoing opportunities for people to learn about the benefits of tree canopy, pollinator plants, and community green spaces. Overall, it’s a model that we would like to see repeated in communities across the state.

At the MPCA, students also learned about the Agency’s work to monitor and protect air and water quality. Students got the chance to witness a demonstration on how the MPCA uses geographic information system (GIS) software to map contaminated groundwater, experiment with air quality monitoring equipment, receive a tour of the air lab, and eat lunch with a staff member.